Residency application season is here! It is a time of great excitement, but also the source of a considerable amount of anxiety among applicants. Particularly, for International Medical Graduates (IMGs), preparing for residency interviews presents additional logistical and cultural challenges- with having not had primary medical education in the US. So while it is key to make a memorable impression, you also have to sell your ability to thrive in a system that is new to you. Your interview is your opportunity to show the programs that you are even more impressive in person than you are on your application. After all, your application is what got you the interview, so there must have been things they liked about you from your personal statement and curriculum vitae! You are interviewing to illustrate how you are a hard-worker, resilient, dependable and a great future resident to work with, train and deliver great care to their patient population. Here are foundational methods for IMGs to interview well for residency positions.
- DRESS APPROPRIATELY
You must dress appropriately for the interview. In choosing your interview attire, please be conservative. Below are gender-specific recommendations, but overall understand that this is not the time for experimenting with a new look. You want to be memorable, just not for the wrong reasons! For Women: Choose suits that are black or blue ideally, with a solid colored professional blouse underneath. Whether you choose to wear a skirt suit or pants suit is at your discretion. It is unlikely that you will be judged negatively for wearing pants. You can also choose to wear a dress suit that is accompanied with a suit jacket. You can wear heels or flats, however, you should keep your heels no taller than 2- 3 inches, with 2 inches or less being the best measure. Please do not choose this time to wear heels if you normally don’t. If you normally wear makeup, then wear makeup, however, make sure that it is more of a natural look- no dramatic, stage-worthy looks. If you do not normally wear makeup, now is not the time to start. Unless you plan to have your makeup applied professionally by a makeup artist with the clear specification that this is for a professional job interview. This is probably not a feasible option, considering that your interview day typically starts at 8am. For Men: Choose suits that are black or dark blue, with a collared dress shirt underneath and a conservative tie. Your shoes should be business dress shoes that compliment your suit.
- KNOW EVERYTHING IN YOUR APPLICATION
This is incredibly important! I know that some candidates choose to use “consultants” and/or “personal statement writing services” to write their personal statements. If you are not a strong writer, I understand the motivation to make that choice. If that is an approach you choose to employ, know that it is extremely important for you to know every inch of your personal statement like the back of your hand! If it is in there, it is fair game for us to ask you about. So please do not put anything in your personal statement that you cannot address fully and accurately! You should be able to explain any conditions that you mention (the patient I had once with Schinzel-Giedion syndrome), because if you thought it was significant enough to include in your personal statement, then you should have thought it was significant enough to learn the disease process well enough to have a basic discussion about it. If you have any research listed, please be prepared to discuss the research at-length! One candidate was being interviewed by THE research guru in our department and failed miserably at explaining his own work.
- DON’T TRY TO BEFRIEND THE INTERVIEWER
Don’t try to be friends with the interviewer. You should be pleasant, easy to talk to, and personable, but we don’t need to be friends. This is a professional job interview at all times. Yes- we may discuss great recipes if you mention a culinary hobby, yes-we may discuss the recent trades and lineup drama if you are a sports fan, but either way, no, I do not want to see pictures of your dogs, or kids, or hang out after the interview. It’s inappropriate. Oftentimes, programs will have a candidate/resident meet and greet the night before your interview day. Even if the event is at a bar and/or there is alcohol available, please remember that these are not your colleagues…yet! Drink in moderation, do NOT ask anyone on a date, or make any sexually charged, flirtatious innuendos. Often, the chief resident or more senior resident will make their contact information available. If another resident offers you their contact information, feel free to take it, but please do not interpret this as a doorway to a date. All of these incidents are brought up when discussing candidates during the recruitment/ranking meetings and you do not want any unfavorable statements associated with your name.
- DON’T BE WEIRD
Don’t be weird. While this is an important time to highlight some of your unique qualities because you want to be remembered, please make sure that it is positive, pleasant, good-work-ethic memories that you are trying to leave behind. This is a great time to highlight your hobbies of photography, love for a particular sport, or your culinary genius. You want to appear as a well-rounded person and trust me, all of the “I volunteer in an orphanage for fun” comes off as disingenuous- we are all doctors and we love medicine, but we do other things to unwind- don’t act as if you don’t!
- ALWAYS PROFESSIONAL!!!
Some programs offer an informal meet-and-greet with the current residents the evening prior to the interview day. Definitely plan to attend if you can! This is a valuable opportunity to truly see how well the residents interact with each other and get honest answers about the culture of the program. These may be the people you will be working with in a few months, so you get an idea if there is any “professional chemistry” that is present. Residency is a grueling process and you will spend more high-intensity, emotionally charged experiences with these people than your own family during the duration of your residency, so it is important to be able to connect with at least a few of your fellow residents. You can use this opportunity to find out what their daily routine is like, what are the strengths of the program, as well as its weaknesses. Also, observe your fellow interview candidates, it is possible that you may end up in the same program as 1 or 2 of them that you’ve met on the interview trail. However, still remember that this is a professional event and part of your interview! There may be alcohol available depending on the venue.
It is probably best not to drink alcohol, however if you choose to please DO NOT GET INTOXICATED! Do not make any inappropriate comments or statements! DO NOT make any sexual advances, comments or flirtations with any of the residents (or fellow candidates)! These things are ALWAYS reported back to the committee. One candidate asked a resident for her telephone number at one of these events and one of the residents relayed it back to the program director and the recruitment committee and he was not considered for the rank list.
Remember, your interview is your opportunity for us to get to know you, as well as for you to get to know our program. We are all interviewing to see if the candidate is a good fit for our program. You need to also assess if the program is a good fit for you!