Match Day 2023: Residency Interview Tips

Residency interview tips

Match Day 2023 is quickly approaching, and though many anticipate the big day, there is plenty of work to be done to set yourself up for success when the moment comes for you to be matched. 

After applications are submitted, the next step is to prepare for your interviews. Interview invitations can be sent out as early as mid-September, with interviews beginning in mid-October and extending through February.

If you’re not sure of the best way to prepare, we are here to share our tips and tricks for a successful interview season. As someone who has both interviewed residents and interviewed for residency myself, I wanted to present some basic information for you.

What to expect in residency interviews

The switch to virtual residency program interviews happened at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Association of American Medical Colleges has provided guidance to continue this format through the upcoming residency cycle. 

Interview processes vary from program to program, but the four most common interview structures are as follows:

  • Virtual interview days allow you to meet multiple faculty members and residents over the course over several hours.
  • Pre-recorded interviews require you to record yourself responding to provided questions.
  • Asynchronous video interviews are discussions with representatives from a single program over many different days and times.
  • Second-look interviews allow programs and interviewees to have a follow-up discussion before the end of interview season.

Research the program and faculty ahead of time

Before heading into your interviews, you should be knowledgeable about the program you will be speaking with. You may also benefit from reviewing faculty members’ interests or the current residents in the program to find commonalities that will make your interactions more personable. The more aligned you are with the program , the happier you may be there as recent research suggests.

Beyond benefitting your approach to the discussion, doing this research will especially help you when it is your turn to ask questions. Your knowledge will allow you to avoid asking basic questions that are readily accessible on their website. Higher quality questions will make a good impression on the interviewers and give you a clearer sense of the program culture and feel.

Prepare for common questions

Residency interview questions vary by program, but we recommend you practice some of the common questions you are likely to encounter. Requests like “Tell me about yourself,” can be deceptively difficult. Without a clear plan for questions like these, you may find yourself rambling instead of providing a well-thought-out, concise answer.

Other common questions include: 

  • What made you want to become a doctor?
  • Why did you choose this specialty?
  • Why did you apply for our program?
  • What challenges have you overcome during your education?

IMG Prep has a list of 50 of the most common residency interview questions to help you prepare. 

Practice your answers

Beyond preparing for common questions, we recommend rehearsing your answers aloud. Actually voicing your answers will help you determine what parts of your answers are valuable and how to make them sound natural.

You may want to videotape yourself to see how your answers flow. You can then edit areas that are too wordy, and remove any filler words like “um” or “like.”

Receiving feedback should also help in your preparation. Your school may offer mock interview services, or faculty members or peers may be willing to listen to your responses. These individuals can help you improve any weaknesses within your answers or delivery. 

Ask questions about the program

The residency interview is a two way street! It is normal for the interviewer to ask “do you have any questions about our program.” Genuine questions not only are helpful to you but also show a more authentic interest in the program and potentially have a more positive vibe to the interview.

Some examples of questions you could ask during the interview are:

  • Are there any retirement benefits or matching contributions by the academic system?
  • Are there any potential relocation stipends available?
  • Where do most residents live? What is the cost of living like for the residents?
  • What is the typical clinical volume seen? 
  • What is the typical call schedule?

These are only a few of the questions you may want to consider to find out how the “fit” of the program is going to be with your priorities. This “fit” can sometimes be hard to measure but may lead to better satisfaction with the program and could protect from burnout. 

Think through the logistics

Because interviews will be virtual again this year, you won’t have to worry about travel arrangements, but you likely need to put some thought into the logistics of your interviews. During residency interview season, be sure to have adequate time off that is dedicated to your interviews. 

Additionally, you should carefully prepare your environment. Your interview space should have adequate light, a clean background and a stationary chair to ensure you aren’t moving too much while on camera. If your home doesn’t have speedy internet, we recommend finding a private meeting room in a library to prevent any delays or glitchiness. You could also take advantage of the virtual format by creating cheat sheets of your program-specific questions.

Post-interview practices

Between balancing clinical rotations and residency preparations, your interviews may run together by the time you need to rank your programs. After each interview, reflect on your impressions of the program and jot down notes that will allow you remember your initial thoughts when it comes time to rank. I even recorded voice memos in my phone directly after the interview and if I had a hard time figuring out the rank order, I would listen to the recordings to see what my initial impression was of the program.

Should I send a follow up or thank you note? 

If you are considering following up with the program you interviewed with, you should check if post-interview communication is acceptable. Many programs neither encourage nor discourage follow-up notes, but some specifically ask that you do not follow up. 

If the program you are applying for accepts thank you notes, you can send a short email thanking those who met with you for their time. You could do this the same day as the interview. But please, before you send, triple-check you have spelled each individual’s name correctly.

Time to interview

You have prepared and are ready to take on your first interview. Calm your nerves and remember that this moment is just a step on your journey to accomplishing your goal of becoming a doctor. Be confident in your knowledge and preparation. We believe in you!

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