Sunday, January 16, 2011
Residency Interview Tips, Part 4: The Interview
Okay, the big moment has arrived: the interview. You're on! But, don't worry - this isn't Larry King and this isn't nationally televised. You should view the interview as a chance to burnish your credentials for a residency program as well as gather more information about the program itself. The interview has four main components: the first impression & introductions, interview's questions, your questions, and conclusion. We break down the interview by each part:
The Residency Interview First Impression
While many interviews run late, make sure to be early to yours. Ask the program coordinator for detailed instructions on how to find the location if it is distant from the program office. Confirm the time and location. Ask people along the way if you feel unsure. There's no worse first impression than being late.
Since you should already be wearing standard interview clothes, that shouldn't be an issue. When you enter, smile - the interview should be fun for both you *and* the interviewer! Shake the interviewer's hand firmly while saying your name slowly and clearly. Take your seat promptly and place your items next to or below you. Sit up straight but don't lean forward too much. Make sure both feet are on the ground and your arms are relaxed by your side. Basically, your posture should convey quiet confidence. And keep smiling!
Hopefully, your interviewer is mirroring your actions. As you start in on the pleasantries, take a moment to note the office. Sometimes, you can introduce mementos on the wall in order to broaden the discussion as well as show that you are perceptive. However, be careful in this regard as sometimes interviews are conducted in borrowed offices. There are many other similar interview tricks you can employ in order to relate to your interviewer.
The Interviewer's Questions
After the introductions are complete, you can expect a short blurb from the interviewer about who they are and perhaps a bit about the program. Eventually, they will segue into the actual interview questions. Typical questions are covered in many places, and mildly vary by specialty. The key here is to be clear and straightforward in your answers. You should not spend more than 2 minutes answering any particular question. Avoid rambling. Stick to your points. Don't worry if you take a momentary pause to answer a question - it shows that you are actually thinking about your response versus just spitting out whatever comes to mind or whatever you have memorized. As interviews progress, you will find that most questions revolve around "Tell us about yourself," "Why did you pick this specialty?" and "What do you find attractive about our program?" so be prepared to handle those adeptly.
Your Residency Program Interview Questions
After about 10-15 minutes, most interviewers will wrap up their questioning and ask you if you have any questions. You HAVE to ask something here, even if you have no real interest or question. Obviously, if you are curious about something the interviewer said during their portion, ask about that. Otherwise, you can go in one of two directions. First, ask questions about the structure of the program, whether it be rotations or what the interviewer views as strengths / areas that need improvement for the program. It is also helpful to ask about the future, with regards to fellowships or career prospects, or just where they feel the field is headed in general. The other line of questioning is to ask about factors outside work, such as how it is living in that city or neighborhood, or how the culture of the program is. This line of questioning is bigger risk / bigger reward. Some interviewers will view this as showing you lack seriousness, but for others, this is a good way to forging a bond that lasts beyond the interview. Judge how the interview has gone thus far before deciding to engage in this line of peripheral questioning.
Residency Interview Conclusion
Take about 5-10 minutes to ask your questions. Don't pepper / aggressively question the interviewer. If you have tough questions about say, accreditation or board pass rates, save those for the program coordinator or program director. Not every interviewer is up to speed about every aspect of the residency program. As the questions wrap up, try to leave the same way you came in, exuding a quiet confidence. Smile and shake hands firmly. Make sure to ask for a business card or note down contact information in order to send correspondence once you are done with the interview. You can frame it as wanting a way to communicate in case you have further questions. Some programs are more upfront about providing contact information, but you have to solicit it yourself in many places. Walk out the door with your head held high and move on to your interview.
By the end of the day, and certainly after several interviews, you will be a pro. Congratulations! You're basically done with all the heavy lifting of attaining a position as a resident physician!