What do you need to know before applying to residency? In this post, I’m going to give you my top six residency interview tips that should help you do well on your residency application cycle.
I now want to share with you the top tips that I’ve learned throughout the cycle as well as tips that I’ve gathered through my peers.
I wanted to give these to those who would a one day be on the application cycle for applying to residency after medical school.
Before we jump into this post, if you want more help with residency or the end of med school, check out these posts:
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Without further ado, let’s get into the tips!
Six Residency Interview Tips
These six tips are what you need to know before you start applying to residency.
Some of these are things that you can do before even applying, while some others are things that you can do throughout your actual application cycle.
Tip #1: Step 1 Score Is Critical
Your Step 1 score is much more important than you think.
This is not really a tip but more of notice for anyone that hasn’t taken Step 1 yet.
By talking to my peers with various specialties back and forth, I realized that Step 1 is a very important test which we should all try to do well on.
When you actually get to the residency cycle, you’ll realize that sometimes it’s just a matter of scores. That’s especially true amongst two applicants who have pretty similar applications but different Step 1 scores!
If you want to set yourself up nicely, I urge you to work as hard as you can to make sure that that score is as high as possible.
A few more points can work on your favor. It can make the difference of getting a few more eyeballs into your direction and opening more doors of opportunity.
If you haven’t taken Step 1 yet, do take it seriously! You’d soon realize how important it is when you start to get residency offers that you may not have expected or that you really want.
You don’t want a number to be in your way!
That’s not only a piece of advice from my own experience, but that’s also coming from a lot of my classmates. Thus, take it as seriously as possible and do as best as you can.
But if you have already taken the test, but got a grade that is not on your favor, I promise you, it is not going to harm you completely!
You are still going to have your doors of opportunity! So, just keep your chin up and discover ways to improve your application.
Again, the first among my six residency interview tips is to understand that Step 1 score is much more important than you think.
Tip #2: Use The 10-Experience Method For Residency Interviews
Tip number two is one that I like to give as it can allow you to crush the whole interview process!
Do you struggle with selling yourself and finding a good balance between being humble and being too cocky?
Do you think that sometimes you’re too scripted? Do you sometimes have no idea how to answer questions?
This method, which I call The 10 Experience Method, is going to work very well for you!
This is how it works…
Before you go on your residency interviews, or even if you’re still a pre-med student, come up with 10 different experiences that you want to talk about or that you can turn to.
This is how I like to break them down….
Assuming that you’re already medical students:
The first three are going to be experiences that you had with a patient. These can be things that are memorable and things that you’ve learned.
Usually, we can find at least three patient experiences that really spoke to us and from which we learn.
The next two would be patient experiences or interactions with a colleague or an attending that you struggled with, but from which you learned something.
You may have considered it as a setback and not a success. This is something you can go to when an interviewer asks you to talk about a hard time you had with a patient.
The next two are experiences that you can give as good examples of what you want to do in the future.
If the question asks why you want to become an orthopedic surgeon, have at least two examples of why that’s the direction for you and your future.
If you have those experiences already in the back of your mind, it’s easy to answer that question.
Finally, the last three will be experiences that can speak to your character.
If the interviewers ask you what are you proudest of, have at least two to three experiences that you can talk about.
To summarize, you’re going to have:
- Three patient experiences that went well
- Two experiences that may have not started well but you overcame
- Two experiences that can speak to your future goals
- Three experiences that can speak to your strength while being humble.
If the interviewer asks you about your strengths, you can talk about how a great listener you are. Then, elaborate on your patient experience and finish the story.
Have your 10 experiences ready, write them down and give them some thought.
Regardless of what the question is, you can usually go back to at least one of those and speak to them.
It’s a great way to not seem scripted and still have a great sense of direction. You can always have them as fallbacks.
Try out the 10 Experience Method if you feel like you struggle on your interviews.
Tip #3: Learn To Save Your Money
Among the most important residency interview tips on how to save money.
Residency interviews are expensive!
They can be anywhere from hundreds of dollars, if not thousands when you account for all the travel as well as application fees.
You need to know where you can start saving some dollars here and there. Ideally, more than a couple of bucks.
One great way is to make sure you start acquiring some points on a credit card if you have good credit and if you’re responsible with your money.
When I started medical school, I opened up a credit card called the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
It basically allows you to get a few round trip tickets just for signing up and using some of the typical expenses that you would on a card.
I got this card when I was a second-year med student. It came with 50,000 points because I put three months of expenses on it.
That was about two to three round trip tickets!
Then every semester, I would put very expensive things that I had to buy anyways for school (tuition and rent included). I was lucky enough that my school didn’t charge me any percentage of fees for using a credit card.
I put on my credit card things that didn’t charge me a fee and then pay off immediately.
So, I started racking up points. Fast forward to my fourth year in medical school, I had so many points that I didn’t have to pay for a single flight!
Recently, I went to Colorado with my fiancé for both an interview as well as a vacation. We were able to pay for both of our flights via my points.
If you start planning early, doing these little things and racking up points, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars. That’s one way to save some money.
Another thing is to collaborate with your friends regarding your expenses.
If you have friends in a nearby area, ask if you can stay with them, borrow cars, or rent a cheap one.
Avoid doing common things such as staying at hotels or paying for Uber’s if you don’t have to!
Make sure you’re trying to save as much money as possible during your residency cycle.
It may be worth the money to apply to the places you’re interested in, but if you don’t need to apply to 70 programs, then don’t!
A lot can go into saving money, but just make sure you understand that it’s important to save a few dollars and there are some great ways to do it if you start planning early.
Tip #4: Be Grateful and Thankful
Now, we’re down to the last three residency interview tips. Tip number four is to be thankful and grateful.
I cannot tell you how many times on my residency interview trails I have seen students that just made me scratch my head on what they were thinking.
I’ve seen students who were texting while the program director is giving a presentation. I’ve seen people fall asleep during their lecture.
I’ve seen people who talk a bit too much about their school in front of the residents and the faculty.
You want to be humble!
Remember that they want you to potentially come to their residency program. So, be thankful, be grateful, and don’t be a jerk!
That sounds like common sense, but I’ve seen countless examples in almost all of my interviews of someone misbehaving.
Make sure that’s not you because it gets around. Make sure you’re nice to the residents, the administrative staff as well as to the faculty that interviews you.
Be Gracious. Consider this as a potential home for you and act like this is actually a place you want to go even if there’s a place that you prefer even more.
They’d given a spot just to talk to you, so give them respect for that time that they’re providing.
Tip #5: Keep Track Of Your Impressions
The fifth among my six residency interview tips is to make sure you are keeping notes.
As you go through the residency interviews, regardless of what specialty you’re in, you’ll realize that most programs start to blend together.
You can’t really remember which program you liked for what reason. A lot of them will have similar hospitals, call schedules, and other things that may be important to you.
So, you want to make sure that you capture your first impression shortly after your interview.
A simple thing that I like to do is to create an excel sheet and every column is something that I hold important. That may be the location, call schedule, residents that I talked to, or opportunities for future career goals.
Have a column for each of those and then give them a score. It can be 1 through 5, 1 through 10, or anything that you prefer.
Have the schools on the left-hand side, so each row would be a school. This way, you’re able to give a number for each thing that’s important to you and see what the total sum is.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a program that you want to go to, you can see how your numbers tell you which programs you prefer.
Make sure you keep track shortly after each of your interviews and just keep updating it after each one.
If you go to more than ten interviews, the programs really start to jumble together in your heads. So, you want to have a nice way of understanding which programs you really enjoyed shortly after each interview.
Again, make sure you’re keeping track of each of your interviews and interview days.
Tip #6: Enjoy The Process
To end this residency interview tips with a little bit of motivation, the final tip is to enjoy the process.
Residency interviews can on the surface be very stressful. We get it!
After all, we’re applying for a job and you want them to want you as much as you want them. All of those feelings can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety.
But on the surface, understand that any interviews that you get are basically them telling you they consider you to be a potential resident of their program.
They could see you thriving at their program, so enjoy that process!
When you go to a new city, enjoy it! Explore, ask questions about the residency program, and make sure you’re getting to know the goods and the bads and just enjoy it!
You’re going to be fine. You’re going to go to a place that’s going to be your future home, so don’t dread about being at a specific program.
We all have our aspirations and goals, but make sure that the whole process is not leading you to dread your future.
You want to enjoy this. You want to see the potential of where you could be and meet some of your potential future colleagues and your future interns.
I enjoyed it. I went to 10 interviews this cycle and they’re all great!
I enjoyed all the programs that I went to and meeting the people. I can remember it in a good light.
I didn’t feel that stressful aura that comes from the atmosphere of applying to residency.
So, make sure that you enjoy the process from start to finish. When the match day comes, regardless of what that envelope says, you’re going to be happy with that decision.
Those were my six residency interview tips. Hopefully, they could help you do well on your residency application cycle.
I learned a ton throughout this experience!
Hopefully, at least one of the tips resonated with just one of you reading this post and makes your residency application cycle a little bit less stressful.
If you enjoyed this post, I’m sure you will like the following posts as well. Check them out!
Until next time my friend…