Residency Interviews: Lessons and Advice

23 September 2016

Hey everyone!

I thought I would compile a list of tips and tricks for residency interviews, which I learned from others, and my own experiences last year. Enjoy!

  Suit: Pick something you're comfortable in. All my pieces were from different brands, but together they made me feel myself. I know a ton of people say 'don't wear anything that will stand out!' and I didn't go with the intention of doing that, but somehow I still got nice compliments on my shoes and dress shirts. I didn't think they were anything spectacular, but people seemed to love them and I would get a boost of confidence wearing my outfit. If you're wondering, my shoes were black patent leather, pointed, and in the style of men's dress shoes but for females. (I didn't wear heels because I wanted to keep up with the tours and not limp in heels). My shirt was just a polka-dot one from Banana Republic.

Scheduling: I made sure to have at least one day in between each interview. It didn't work out for a few of them because the programs have their own interview schedule, but you learn to deal with it. The 'one day' rule saved my butt a few times so I recommend it!

Flights: BIG LESSON ALERT- try to get them as direct flights. I got delayed twice and missed my connecting flights. Luckily, I scheduled most interviews with a day in between, so I didn't miss anything. However, sleeping in an airport, or getting shipped around to different hotels is incredibly tiring, and being a sleep-deprived zombie at a dinner is not cute. If you can book your flights early and save money, do that too. I always left mine until late, because I wasn't sure if I would have to adjust my schedule as new invites came in. In retrospect, just risk it and book the flights. The likelihood of you completely readjusting is low, there are always other dates to choose from.

Interview prep: I did a bunch of questions on a word document, and had a mock interview at my school. I typically enjoy doing interviews, and interview pretty well. Only one day threw me for a loop with 12 interviews back to back (10-12 mins each), and I somehow managed it in one piece.

Tips: Carry some granola bars and tea bags with you. They can get past security, and there's always something for you to snack on, or to have on hand at the hotel. Also, bring an empty water bottle in your personal bag. Tons of refilling stations in airports. Oh, and a huge blanket scarf so you can stay warm on the plane.
These are Express suits. I can't vouch for their quality or fit because I've never bought anything from them. However, I am fond of the styling.

During (Hotel arrival to departure for next interview)
   Suit: Take it out asap, hang it up. If it has some wrinkles, make sure you have a [BIG LESSON ALERT] compact steamer. The irons at the hotels are all different brands, and I scorched two suit pants after a few interviews (yes I thought my more expensive J. Crew Ryder pants [the 2nd set] could handle a quick iron as per the directions on the tag - I was wrong). I had to buy a 3rd pair to finish my last 3 interviews. Just save yourself the hassle and buy a small steamer! My look was similar to the one on the left - all black, shirt was white or blue with white polka dots, skinny pant (I'm not fond of flares) and menswear-inspired patent leather shoes. I loved it! I also had a back-up skirt suit in navy, and extra black blazers in different styles.
   Pre-Interview Dinner Apparel: I just wore black pants, cute flats and a blouse. Either the blouse would be patterned and I'd wear black shoes, or the shoes would be more trendy, and I'd have a simple blouse.
   Pre-Interview Dinner: Be yourself, unless you're super quiet and antisocial... it's important to connect with the residents (for some programs, resident input is crucial). Smile, be amiable, and chatty. Ask what they think about the program, what they do on their spare time, and just genuinely take the time to learn about them. These are going to be your potential colleagues next year! Oh, and get back to the program coordinator if you can't make it to the dinner and it's mandatory. There were some programs that didn't track whether you were going to attend and just gave an address, while others took down names and any dietary preferences. Be nice, and contact the latter!

   Interview day: You've prepped a bunch of times, so try to calm down the jitters. You're ready! Again, be nice to everybody (I hate that I have to say this, but there were RUDE applicants on the trail), and take time to know the faculty and the other residents who are present. They'll be joining you for breakfast/lunch and tours. Don't forget to smile, get to know the other applicants, and pay attention to the introductory presentations. There's info on there that won't be in your folders or online. Write it down and refer to that when you're making your rank list.

   Hotel & Transport: I would leave my luggage at the hotel, and pick it up after the interview. Many hotels have airport shuttles, so you save money just going back to the hotel and getting a free ride to the airport. Uber is great, but make sure you look for flat rates on taxis. I found a few taxis that were cheaper than the uber.

   Downtime: The moment you have 5 minutes free, be it on the ride to the airport or in the air... write down everything you feel after the interview. For me it was my connection to the residents, how I felt about research/fellowship opportunities, and my impression of the interviewers I had and how they answered my questions. I referred to all of these tiny blurbs while doing the rank list.
residency trail, the match, interview outfits
A wardrobe like this one would be excellent for the interview trail. Here is a link to Alex's youtube account.

     Travel: Go home and recuperate, or fly off to your next interview. I was doing full-time research, plus online courses, so if I had to repeat this I would definitely just use my vacation time. When I got home, Netflix was my best friend, as was iBooks (I read 9 novels).

   Thank you's: I would send an e-mail 5-14 days after the interview. Most ranking is done right after you leave the hospital/university, so your e-mail does little to change their mind. I heard this speech from many program directors as well, and there will be programs who want ZERO contact with you after interview day. For the ones I did send out, I added a few anecdotes regarding our convos in hopes of jogging their memory. Then I sent them off and prayed a Hail Mary!

    Rank List Time: I went with my gut and also location. If I liked 2-3 programs equally, I chose whichever program was closer to Toronto or Chicago. Since I'm on a visa in the USA, I also kept an eye on which visas were offered by which programs, as that is important for fellowship opportunities and whether you want to practice in the USA or go back home. This is a huge topic, for another day. If you're interested, you can shoot me an e-mail regarding being an international student who is an American Medical Graduate (I have very little knowledge of the International Medical Graduate experience, so I will be of no use in that department). There are always extra hoops to jump through, but do not despair it's all about the proper preparation!

Those are all my tips and tricks for ya! I tried not to repeat too much of what was already on the internet. Believe in yourself, have fun and don't overthink!


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Thanks for stopping by. À plus mes belles!

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