Your residency interview is your chance to show your target programs that you’ve got what it takes to join their team.
Everything in your application, including your medical student performance evaluation (MSPE) and evaluations, is fair game for interviewers. These are some of the most common questions you’ll hear:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you want to become a doctor?
- Why did you choose this specialty?
- Why do you want to do your training here?
You’re also likely to be asked about your undergraduate and medical school research, clinical experiences you’ve had, and experiences you’ve had working with teams (especially conflict situations).
Practice your answers to these questions ahead of time so you can create coherent answers and avoid rambling. Your answers should be long enough to be conversational but not so long that you lose your listener by providing too much detail.
Practice, practice, and then practice some more!
Remember that you want your interview to feel conversational, engaging, and unrehearsed. That’s a tall order when you’re feeling nervous and maybe even a little desperate. Practice is the only thing that will help you feel comfortable and able to act naturally.
There are many ways you can practice:
Talk to yourself.
This is by far the most useful way of practicing your stories. Talk when you’re driving in your car, when you’re showering, when you’re washing dishes – any time you’re alone. I really like this method, because it helps you get comfortable talking about yourself, without having to set aside designated “practice time.” You don’t even have to answer a specific question; just talk about aspects of your life and medical experiences thus far as though you were talking to a friend, or talk about something you really wish you could improve on.
Record or film yourself.
I don’t recommend that you record yourself every time you practice, because it can take you away from the informal storytelling that naturally occurs when you talk to yourself and that really helps you feel comfortable talking about yourself. But definitely record/film yourself at least once so you can understand how you sound to others. Perhaps you speak in a monotone, for instance, or overuse filler words such as “like” and “actually.”
Recording will also help you detect any nonverbal cues. Check to see whether you tend to lean forward when answering questions or draw back defensively, for example. Or maybe you repeatedly do a really annoying thing with your hand!
If you record/film yourself in the early stages of your practice, it will help you uncover problem areas while you still have time to improve. YouTube is chock-full of videos from speech coaches addressing every issue imaginable, so consider searching for and using some of these to help yourself sound clear and confident.
Some interviewers like to pose ethical or philosophical questions. Most of these questions have no right or wrong answer – the interviewers just want to know that you understand your chosen specialty and are able to think about challenging topics. That’s where this method comes in. Pick a controversial topic in your field of medicine and argue both sides. Presenting different (and especially, opposing) viewpoints will ensure that you really understand them and enable you to make a coherent argument for or against either side of an issue.
Practice with other people.
Find people who are willing to practice interviewing with you, such as classmates, friends, and family members. Give them a list of questions that they can ask you. Most importantly, be sure to ask for honest feedback so you can improve!
Do you want to ace your residency interviews? Take advantage of experienced, professional interview prep before your residency interview. Make your mistakes with us, and then be ready to shine on the big day.
Since 2001, Cydney Foote has advised hundreds of successful applicants for medical and dental education, residency and fellowship training, and other health-related degrees. Admissions consulting combines her many years of creating marketing content with five years on fellowship and research selection committees at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She’s also shared her strategy for impressing interviewers in a popular webinar and written three books and numerous articles on the admissions process. Want Cydney to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!