Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Residency Interview Tips, Part 5: The Follow Up

So, you made it to the residency interview. You fit in well at the dinner and impressed on the interviews. Now you're walking out the door, back to your car, or to the airport, and off to your next interview. You're finished with this program til you place it on your rank list, right? Wrong! Now is the time to really seal the deal. Think about it: you were just granted this wonderful opportunity to interview for an actual job in a down economy. Not everyone is so lucky, whether they are trying to find jobs in allied health or pursuing careers in other professions like business or trying to get into law school.

There are a lot of myths out there about how to communicate with the residency program after the interview, and frankly, a lot of times, the answer is: it depends. But, there are some things you should do regardless, and here they are:

Write Thank You Notes To Your Residency Interviewers
This seemingly no-brainer move tends to the bane of the medical student after the interview. Writing thank you notes is tedious, time-consuming, and does not offer any guarantee of advantage in ranking let alone any guarantee that your interview will receive your note! Still, while this is not sufficient to gain any advantage, you should view it as necessary to avoid being at any disadvantage. The steps are simple:

  • Make sure to get contact information from each interviewer at the interview
  • Use a basic template to speed things up for yourself
  • Add in something unique that came up from each interview to trigger a positive memory of you when read
  • Do not be too verbose - keep it short and sweet
  • Put your contact information beneath your signature in case the interviewer wants to be in touch
One 'modern' question about the ritual: should the thank you note be handwritten or emailed? 
The answer is not so simple. Handwritten notes show more of an effort and seem more personal; however, they are harder for the interviewer to respond to and more likely to go unanswered / unacknowledged. One strategy is to write a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview and immediately mail it off. Then, a week later, send a one line email stating that you hoped the interviewer received your note and that you look forward to further discussing your interest in their field in the future. 

Another issue: should I thank the program director if I did not interview with them? The program coordinator?
Again, no straightforward answer, but remember that ultimately the PD is likely the one selecting residents and would be your future boss, so can't hurt to make a favorable impression there. Similarly, the program coordinator can have a huge influence on ranking decisions. Sending one or both a one-line thank you email cannot be anything but beneficial. 

The Penny Black: World's First Postage Stamp

Between Interviews and Rank Lists
Some programs begin interviewing as early as October. However, rank lists are formed in February. How do you keep yourself at the top of the list over 4 months of interviews and committee meetings? Make sure to keep in touch with the PD and PC as the months progress. Keep a list of questions that come up about programs in general (things such as health care benefits or how time off is given for board exams tend to become more pressing as interviews progress) and email the qs to each program director about once a month. That way, you not only gain more specific information about each program but also keep yourself fresh on their minds as time passes.

Should I do a second look visit to a residency program?
Again, it depends. You should really do it for your own informational benefit. While some programs view such visits favorably, others are neutral, and still others view them as intrusions into the workday of active residents. You also risk reversing the favorable impression generated on interview day. Lastly, there is the cost of visiting a program a second time. One approach is to inquire discreetly with the program coordinator about the feasibility of such a visit as well as ask around to see how such visits are viewed within the program of interest. 


  1. Thank you for this great article! I am going to use some of these tips during my med school interviews. :)

  2. Things we take for granted, but forget along the way ... Thanks :)



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