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Residency Interviews

What will interviews look like for residency?

I can only speak to my own experience with applying to general surgery residency, but there are a lot of general questions that are asked in most interviews. I googled residency interview questions and read articles that led me to various lists. I believe brainstorming and allowing myself to mull over some of these questions enabled me to do my best on interview day. 

Why _____?

I received "Why surgery?" more times than I can count. The programs want to know you know yourself, understand what you're getting yourself into, that you can articulate what you think will be difficult, as well as to assess your dedication to the field. 

The get to know you questions

Don't be ill-prepared for these opportunities to give them 5 qualities you want them to walk away from the interview with - these are often vague open ended questions, so you get to direct the conversation.

  • Tell me about yourself
  • As your advocate on the board, what would you want me to get across to them?
  • What could you offer this program/what makes you unique
  • What are your biggest strengths & weaknesses
  • Tell me something about you that isn't on your CV
  • How do you handle stress
  • What are your hobbies outside of work
  • If you weren't in medicine, what would be your fantasy job
  • What balance support system do you have in place to be a successful resident

Getting to know how you deal with difficult situations

How you keep your composure under pressure and whether or not you're a person who can walk through fire with them. They want real examples or dilemmas and what you did, so brainstorm. It's a little concerning if you don't have any experiences to talk about, then you either come off as not being helpful in/avoiding those situations, or someone who is oblivious.

  • What challenges do you anticipate to overcome when starting residency
  • Describe an ethical dilemma you faced
  • Tell me about a difficult case you dealt with when you were a medical student. How did you handle it
  • Describe a difficult time in your life and how you dealt with it
  • What kind of personality traits do you find most difficult to deal with in coworkers?
  • Describe a situation in which you made a mistake, and what you did to remedy the situation

Getting to know your aspirations

This shows them that you've thought about it - so think about it. Keep an open mind, and it's okay to say you're not sure yet.

  • What do you want in a ____ program
  • What are the 3 most important qualities in a great resident
  • Why do you want to come to city X and why this program?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?

Random questions

  • Teach me something
  • Tell me a joke
  • What surgical equipment would you be, and why
  • If your house caught on fire, what 3 things would you save
  • What's your perfect weekend

Questions for the program

They will always ask you for questions - have at least a few on hand. This is your opportunity to really understand what kind of program it is, and will help you with ranking later on.

  • How often is feedback provided and in what ways
  • What type of board prep do you offer students, or do you encourage independent studying
  • Is the program changing in the next few years and why
  • Is there funding/time off for education and conferences
  • How much elective time is there and what do the residents usually do
  • What percentage of graduates enter fellowships
  • What do you look for in a candidate/ideal candidate
  • How many people do you interview, and how many do you rank

Questions to ask the residents (specifically)

There will be a time, whether it's a dinner the night before interviews, or during the interview day, where you will be alone with the residents. If there is no such time, be wary - it's a red flag. Here are some questions I would ask the residents specifically. Basically - all residents will be overworked, tired, and underpaid, but do they like their program?

  • How much didactics are there, and who leads/teaches (residents vs attendings)
  • How would you describe the program
  • Now that you are a resident, do you feel the interview day reflected the expectations
  • How procedures/OR time are assigned
  • Interactions with attendings, mentors, students
  • Resident life in general
  • What are 2 weaknesses you see in the program
  • Where do most residents live
  • What do residents do for fun
  • Are you happy and would you choose this program again
  • Vacation time
  • Fitness facilities
  • Resident pool - married, single, kids, etc

Questions you shouldn't ask - because you should research yourself

  • Curriculum
  • Clinical sites you will be doing rotations with
  • Faculty and their specialties/backgrounds
  • Current chair, program director, and significant faculty: google & pubmed search those who will be interviewing you
  • Website - program philosophy, values, goals, unique training opportunities, research, etc
  • General location / population you would be serving

Things to review before interviews

  • Program & faculty details
  • Your own application - questions will be asked
  • Interview questions & brainstormed bullet points
  • Directions & where to meet on interview day

Preparing for interviews

  • Invest in a good suit & portfolio to keep a copy of your CV and some notes in
  • Bring something other than your phone to read - you look inattentive and not social/rude if you're on your phone
  • Girls: no bright makeup or clothing, no stiletto heels, only use small purses 
  • My advice is to not schedule interviews end of Dec - Jan due to weather. A lot of friends were snowed out and didn't make it to some, and it would be terrible to miss your top choice. The interviews were not re-scheduled
  • I scheduled most of my interviews from Sept - Nov, with one last one in mid Jan (which wasn't in a snowing state). It was exhausting and during auditions, but it a) gave me a breather from the intense audition schedule for a couple days and b) allowed me to spread them out but clump them together by region so I would be pretty much finished by Dec (end of auditions - cue burnt out and lay on the couch time)
On Doubt

On Doubt

Mourning in Medicine.