Getting To The Residency Program Interview Dinner
As stated above, this "dinner" could really be a very laid-back happy hour, or it could be fine dining at a four star restaurant. Regardless, to partake, you have to get there first! We are presuming here that you have already used Kayak or Orbitz to find a flight to your residency program interview. Once you have checked into your hotel though, your main priority should be local transportation to the dinner. Ideally, you would have looked into this beforehand, but if you have not, here are some options to consider:
- Take a taxi - the quickest most reliable way in most cities to get to where you are going, but often the most expensive, especially the further West you go, where cabs are less commonly used
- Use local transportation - again, better on the East Coast. You may not have much of an issue getting there, but sometimes the dinner may run long and getting back would be a hassle or even unsafe in certain cities in the Midwest, South and West.
- Find a friend - if the hotel is commonly used by interviewees, you may be able to share transportation with them to save money as well as have a more enjoyable ride over. Plus, two minds are better than one when it comes to navigation
- Navigate - if you have rented a car, it may come equipped with a GPS system in which case you can simply punch in the address and drive. If the GPS is optional, I would highly recommend taking it. Better yet, simply buy your own GPS machine and bring it with you! You can use the GPS in your own car once the interview is over. Personally, I found the Garmin Nuvi systems to be quite good. Make sure to get voice navigation too.
- Ask the program - sometimes, the program coordinator can arrange for one of the hosting residents to give you a ride to and from your overnight location.
Looking Your Best At Your Residency Program Interview Dinner
A lot of the advice for the interview dinner is the typical interview advice one sees dispensed in general. However, despite the ubiquity of such advice, medical student interviewees are at a relative disadvantage. We do not generally interview as much as people going into traditional jobs nor do we receive specific advice as part of our formal medical curriculum (although many schools do offer mock interviews and the like). Keep in mind the following points:
- Dress For Success - Even if the interview is "casual" such as a happy hour, dress nice. Do not show up in something you would wear at the beach or to a house party. Although the phrase is used in many ways, this really is an occasion where at a minimum you should dress "business casual."
- Act The Part - You are an interviewee. Even if the residents are behaving casually or speaking without minding their p's and q's does not mean you should follow suit. Do not be lulled into a false sense of comfort - order food & drink tactfully, avoid alcohol, use proper language. Don't eat or drink so much that people think you need to have lap band surgery for weight loss or join alcoholics anonymous. Some residents may seem like your friend, but they may actually be taking notes on your behavior during the dinner which can make up part of your evaluation during the interview. Don't let a lax moment at dinner jeopardize your future job chances.
- Be Forgetably Memorable - While paradoxical sounding, the point of this tip is that you want to make a good impression such that everyone has a generally nice impression of you without forming any specific memory. Avoid divisive topics like politics or religion. Even if you argue eloquently or are right about something, nobody cares. The residents want to know that you are someone they can work with. Conversely, you are there to learn about the culture of the program not win debates
- Gather Information - the dinner is a good time to ask about interview day specifics, such as who the likely interviewers are and what types of questions they may ask. Most residents are more than happy to volunteer such information.
Transportation To Your Residency Interview
This is even more important than getting to the dinner. Make sure you have a reliable method for getting to the interview, which is often located miles away from the dinner site and possibly even in the opposite direction. If you have a rental car, do a dry run the night before if you have time to make sure you avoid any unexpected construction or road closures. Be aware that traffic patterns may be vastly different in the morning. If cabbing it, call ahead to schedule a pickup time. I'd suggest planning on getting to your interview 30 minutes before the scheduled start to give yourself a healthy cushion. There's nothing like being late to make a bad first impression.
The Residency Interview Orientation
Most interview days begin with a light breakfast and an orientation. You should be relaxed but also be aware that you are "on stage" already. Treat everyone from the program coordinator's assistant to the program director with the utmost respect. At some programs, the non-interviewing staff have a voice in the selection process. About a 1/3 of the programs I interviewed with had the program coordinator actually conduct one of the interviews. As for the other interviewees, keep the conversation light and avoid talking about the interview itself. You don't want to the person badmouthing another program director right when the PD walks in - you never know, but they may have been med school classmates or co-residents back in the day. Assume that everyone at the site will hear every word you say during the day. A healthy dose of paranoia never hurt =P That being said, this piece is meant to remind you to be smart during your interview. Be relaxed and confident and you should have no problems acing your interview!