Congratulations. You have mastered college or medical school. Your CV was impressive enough to grant you an interview – either for a job or medical residency position. What is next? Here is a 2-part series on rocking your interview and securing the all-important job. We will focus on preparation before the interview day, appropriate dress-code and things to consider on the day of travel. In the second part of this, the focus will be on interview questions, including a large sample of more than 50 common and not so-common questions obtained from current program directors and employers.
Let Your Personality Shine
Unlike the application portion, where your grades and background matter more, an interview is where you show your emotional intelligence. In the 15-20 minute interview, you will be evaluated on your personality traits and suitability for the position. As an employer, we have hired some candidates with average to good CV instead of a candidate with an excellent CV but poor interpersonal skills. It may not be possible to revamp your personality overnight, but here are some ideas to consider.
While no two interviews are alike, many interviews follow the same general concept. Master these interview skills and be successful!
I ran into the interview briefing session, completely drenched. Having not realize how cold and wet it could be in New York in January, I was ill-prepared. I wore a dress suit with flats, had on a warm but not waterproof jacket. Despite making arrangements to get to my residency interview 30 minutes early, I ended up being 15 minutes late. I did not realize the bus services are highly unreliable in the city, especially during rush hour. Also, my ballet flats which are pretty and comfortable in warm, dry weather, did not hold up well in the snow and sleet. Despite the hiccup, I calmed my nerves enough to secure a position as a medical resident in that particular program – my 2nd choice in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) ranking.
All You Need to Know About Interview Preparation
Once you are offered an interview slot, it is time to spend some time travel planning and research on the company and your interviewees. Potential employers normally pay all costs associated with job interviews, for physician recruitment. If they do not, remember to save your receipts as job hunting expenses are tax deductible in some circumstances under current IRS rules. If you are scheduling job interviews close-by, be forthright with the recruiter. Potential employers appreciate your honesty and it will save you time to schedule your interview during the same trip. Plus, the employers can split the travel costs between them, so it is a win-win situation for all.
For those attending residency interviews, travel expenses are borne by the candidate. Travel is expensive and exhausting. Check out my post on Best of Medicine Residency Interview Tips and Costs for ideas about money saving tips for travel and accommodation. Group interviews in the same geographical location together to save on travel expense. Sometimes, it can be a waiting game to decide on when to confirm an interview date vs waiting to be offered another interview.
Be kind and professional to the program coordinator or recruiter. It is okay to ask questions beforehand. Sometimes, they can offer cheaper accommodations if you ask. If you need to check out of your hotel on the day of the interview, you may need to bring your luggage along. Ask the coordinator beforehand if that is okay. If not, many hotels can store your bags for no charge even if you have checked-out for the day.
When you interview for a job, you would sometimes get a list of who are your interviewees are. It is always helpful to know more about the company structure, and basic background information on your interviewees. While an interview is not a written exam, you better believe this an important test. Prepare for the interview like you have prepared for medical school exams and USMLE examination. After long hours of studying and hard work to secure an interview, this is the last hurdle. Put your best foot forward.
Best Shoes for Interview
Talking about feet, do not make the mistake I did. Travel with an extra pair of shoes – in case the weather turns bad, or if your shoes fall apart during travel, you have a spare pair. No 3″ heels unless you are a pro at running to a code with those shoes on and maintain a professional outlook. Flats or low heels shoes, smart ankle-length boots in bad weather, may be more practical. During the interviews, there is often a lot of walking: visiting various parts of the hospital, walking up and down stairs.
I remember walking almost a mile to visit the resident housing apartments during one of my residency interviews. For guys, please wear a clean pair of smart business shoes. When in doubt, dress up, not down. We had an interview candidate strolling in with sandals and a business suit. Another wore a pair of mud-splattered leather shoes. Neither got the job.
Neutral Suit, Well Fitting, Appropriate Length Skirts
Regardless of gender, consider a well-fitting neutral colored suit – black, grey, navy, brown of beige works best. Often, what you wear for an interview is different from how you dress for work once you get the job. For example, many physicians, including surgeons, dress to the nines on the East Coast. Neckties for men, high heels and dress-suits when rounding – is the norm. Almost all the physicians where I practice dress in smart casual pants and shirt, no neckties, or even scrubs when rounding on my patients. You do not need a pricey designer suit for the interview. Personally, I have not spent above $100 for any formal interview attire.
If you are on a tight budget, consider visiting Goodwill or a discount outlet for your interview suit. What matters more is a suit that is comfortable and fits well. Wearing a pair of pants or skirt with a tight waistband that makes it hard to talk and walk. Avoid anything too tight or sheer, you do not want to share inappropriate parts of your anatomy during a job interview. On the other hand, skirts that are too long may make it difficult to walk. Clothing should be neat and pressed – most hotels will provide one if you ask, even if it is not available in each hotel room.
Grooming and Hygiene Matters
For men, remember to shave on the morning of your interview, even if you do not do it daily. If you keep a beard or mustache, keep it trimmed neatly. Take a shower on the morning of the interview and use less overpowering deodorant. Strong perfume smell can be off-putting especially in a small interview room. Brush your teeth and try not to eat anything that may give you a bad breath after. Carry breath mints or gum, dental floss or toothpicks, especially if lunch or dinner is included as part of your interview.
Calm Your Nerves, Speak Clearly
Smile, ask the interviewer to repeat herself/himself if you did not understand their question. Put your cell phone away, turn off the ringer. Even placing it on the table conveys the message that you are not 100% focused on the interview. By all means, do not text as you are being interviewed. This may sound shocking to you but I have sat through an interview with an otherwise impeccably dressed candidate with an equally impressive CV.
You are who you are. Be proud of your accent. Even within America, people from different regions speak with different accent. If you grew up abroad like I did, you may speak with a different accent than what your interviewer may be accustomed to. For those whose native language is not English, practice ahead of time, preferably with someone whose native language is English. Human Resource professionals even recommend recording yourself on a webcam to practice.
Slow down if you are worried the interviewer may not understand you. Enunciate clearly and think before replying. It is common to be nervous at interviews. By preparing ahead of time, you will be ready.
Do you have any other suggestions on the job interview process? What is the most interesting question you have asked or been asked at a job interview? Comment below to help me enhance my post.
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