A successful residency interview requires careful planning and follow-up. It is a process that begins before - and continues well after - the interview day. Here are some simple tips for a successful interview experience:
Interview season takes place primarily during November, December, and January, so try to schedule clinical clerkships to accommodate interview days. Many applicants wonder if the interview date helps to determine selection by a program, but a paper authored by L. Martin-Lee and colleagues suggests that interview date does not correlate to match list position in the EM Match (see Acad Emerg Med 2000 Sep;7(9):1022-6). However, some applicants might find it helpful to schedule interviews at the programs where they are most interested after they feel more comfortable with the process. When scheduling interviews, be courteous and promptly reply to invitations to interview. If you decide to turn down an interview invitation or cancel an interview, do so promptly so that another applicant can accept the interview slot. While it is best to cancel an interview with adequate notice, canceling even the day before is better than simply not showing up. Never, never, never “no-show” to an interview. This cannot be stressed enough; EM is a small community, and word will get around.
Well before the interview day, research the program and know the basics. At the very least, you should be aware of the departmental leadership and some of the unique characteristics of the program, such as areas of research expertise or clinical excellence. Most programs have websites with a wealth of valuable information about the program and the institution(s) where residents train. This information is critical to the conversations that you will have on interview day, and is the best way to determine how the program fits your goals and interests.
Remember, the first impression is everything. Professional dress and appearance, as well as body language and speech, are all ways that you can communicate about who you are as a person and as a candidate. The interview is your opportunity to prove to the residency program that you are the best candidate for the job. When possible, attend and participate in events scheduled for applicants.
You should have a copy of your curriculum vitae with you during your interview. Be prepared to answer questions about your application and curriculum vitae and to discuss any works you have cited as your own. The interview allows you to elaborate on what makes you an excellent EM candidate. It also allows you to discuss the parts of your application that require improvement in the future. Most importantly, however, you should be prepared to be yourself so that the program becomes acquainted with you, and not simply with your application. It is advisable to have specific questions to ask that help you to learn something about the program that is important to you.
Send thank you cards or emails within one week of each interview
Thank you notes are a common courtesy to show appreciation to interviewers and are also a great way to show your interest in a program. Whether written thank-you notes or email thank you notes are preferable depends on the applicant and the program. However, some type of thank you note is a necessity.
Follow-up and keep in touch
Post-interview e-mails or typed letters restating your interest in the program are essential. Let the program directors know of your continued and sincere interest in their program. Some programs might also be willing to have you return for a follow-up visit after your interview.
It is your responsibility to take control of the interviewing process and make it a positive and beneficial one. Remember, you are interviewing the program as well. The key to success is preparation, courtesy, follow-up, and confidence in yourself and your capabilities.
Initially distributed November 18, 2002 by Norma Laurel, MSIV (2002-03 MSC Regional Coordinator), Texas A&M College of Medicine
Chadd K. Kraus, MPH, MSIII
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Editor, Medical Student Governing Council