Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Residency Interview Tips, Part 2: Preparation

The thrill of receiving a medical residency interview invitation is quite a rush. It represents the culmination of 4 years of hard work and study. However, between scheduling the residency interview and actually talking to your interviewer, you still have some work to do! Yes, just like most of medicine, the work never ends, but the work isn't too bad here and the payoffs make it more than worthwhile. Remember, like any interview, whether it is for an ultrasound technician position or for a bariatric surgery assistant to a medical residency position, the key to success is to make the best impression possible.

U.S. Army Medical Badge, 1902

Many resources are available to read about in general how to prepare for an interview. For residency programs, books like Iserson's Getting Into a Residency: A Guide for Medical Students or First Aid for the Match are helpful. I found Iserson's particularly helpful as he walks through many scenarios you may encounter, in particular questions that are 'off limits' per the Match NRMP rules and what to do when faced with one. However, do note that the book was written a few years back and some of the information may be a bit dated (for example, you do not really need to bring extra photos of yourself to the interview).

How To Prepare For Your Residency Interview
The first step is to gather background information about your program. Possible sources of information include classmates who have interview there, friends already at the program or from prior years that may have interview there, and mentors/advisors in the field. You can also consult bulletin boards online where many applicants routinely post about their experiences (like studentdoc.com, auntminnie.com for radiology, or uncleharvey.com for neurosurgery). Lastly, consider the programs themselves. They are great resources about technical details such as the structure of rotations or board pass rates. However, take non-objective information they provide with a grain of salt because they have an obvious strong bias to present themselves in a favorable light.

After learning about the program in general, try to find out more about your interviewers. You may politely inquire with the program coordinator, but not all programs release interviewer names ahead of time. If you find out their names, try doing a search on the program site to find out more about their areas of interest. Also look them up on PubMed to find out what their research interests are. Focusing on areas of common interest can help you stand out during the interview season. Another good resource is looking up the interviewer's CV - you may find out that you share a love for comedic movies or archery or ultrasonography!

Lastly, ask around! Word-of-mouth about interviewers and interview days can be the best gauge of what to expect not only from the day but from the program as a whole. Be especially mindful of programs where the program director is about to leave or has just changed. The PD can significantly affect the culture and structure of a program so try to find out more about the new PD's philosophy on resident education.

Ultimately, knowledge is power, so the more you know about the program, the more confident you can be going into your interview. And remember, just like Obama's grandfather told him, the key to success in life is confidence! So be confident and prepare well for your residency interview!

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