After all the time spent on traveling and preparing for the interview, today is Interview Day – the day for you to shine. I would recommend bringing a small folder with business cards, copies of your CV, a notepad and pen. Remember all the preparations ahead of time including interview attire mentioned in Part 1 of this series.
Remember, the interview process for residency or a job is somewhat of a courtship process. The program have reviewed your paper qualifications – and you have passed the muster! They are now trying to recruit you for a job.
They Want You – As Much As You Want Them!
In general, this part of the process is less of a pimping session than a professional meet and greet. This an opportunity for your potential employers to get to know you better. Are you someone who will be easy to interact with and work with daily?
They are looking for a reliable person who is also compassionate to fill the position. Think about why you are the perfect candidate for the job, and bring that to the table. In certain cultures, it is frowned upon to boost of one’s accomplishment. While interviewing in the United States, it is important to talk about yourself and let the employer now what you can bring to the table, and what sets you apart from the other candidates. It is important to practice sounding confident without being boastful. It would be ideal to find another person to practice with. In person is best, so you can get real-time feedback. If not, you can try recording yourself on a webcam and see how you present yourself on camera. Maintain eye contact when answering questions. If you are in a group/panel interview, make sure you take turns looking at everyone.
Types of Questions: General Questions
These are common general questions posed at job interviews:
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strength/weaknesses?
What are your future plans?
- are you interested in this job/specialty?
- are you interested in this program?
- should we choose you? (above other candidates)
Know your CV well. If you had highlighted certain achievements on your CV, learn to talk about it naturally. Talk about your life: both in and outside of medicine. Be sincere about your ultimate goals: the majority of physicians do no work in research or academic setting.
Although many programs/prospective employers may have copies available for interviewers, some may not. Bring a few extra copies if possible.
Elaborate on details when answering the questions. Don’t undersell your abilities. Practice so your answers are memorable, relevant and sets you apart from other candidates.
I have sat through several interviews where the prospective employee kept answering the questions with yes/no responses. Those were painful sessions to sit through!
Harder Questions, Repeating an Exam:
You may be queried on certain “red marks” in you CV. Examples include poor grades, lack of experience or extended time off from medicine. Do not get defensive. Know your weaknesses and be prepared to answer questions on them. Use this as an opportunity to put a positive spin on the negative experience.
Here are some ways to respond:
“I am still learning how to delegate work to others. It takes me a little longer because I would rather finish the work than to burden my colleague.” If there is mention in your letter of reference you need work as a leader/efficiency.
“I am a little slower at work than others, but I am very detail-oriented. With spending a lot of on my notes and with my patients, it takes me a little longer to complete my work day. However, I am already learning how to be more efficient.” If there are concerns about your efficiency.
“I learned a lot from failing this exam. I realize now I was getting involved in too many different things. For example, when I was a first year medical student, I helped set up the medical student volunteer program at our community clinic. I was also the secretary for the student union. Despite my many interests I have learned I could not pursue everything as a medical student. After studying harder, I repeated the exam and obtained a score in the 90th percentile. None of my grades after that were under 80th percent.” If you experienced failure in an exam or had to repeat a course at school.
There are laws in United States that prohibits discrimination. Questions pertaining to sexual orientation, gender (i.e. pregnancy questions), religion, age (you look too young to be a surgeon) and disability are not allowed. You can choose not to answer such questions. On the other hand, you can choose to respond in a neutral manner. Here are some phrases to use:
“My residency application is my main goal in life right now.”
“I am most interested in career advancement now.” “However, I have always been able to multi-task and do well.”
“My spouse is very supportive of my choice.”
“I have managed my disability well and passed all my medical school exam and clinical rotation without special accommodations.”
Questions Not Related to Your Profession
Tech companies such as Microsoft and Google are known to pose somewhat outlandish questions – Why are manhole covers round? How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?
More common but still unusual questions posed include:
- Tell me about your favorite fiction book and why?
- Carve an ear out of a bar of soap (at ENT residency interview)
- If you were a cookie, what cookie will you be and why?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Often times, many of these questions are used to see how creative and quick-thinking a candidate may be. Showing a sense of humor would be a definite plus!
These are definitely questions with answers you can think of ahead of time. Some interviewers use these questions to test on your compassion. These may include:
- Tell me about a patient experience with a poor outcome despite your best efforts. How did you deal with it?
- What types of patients are considered difficult patients to you?
Questions You Should Ask During the Interview
Part of your interview preparation should include a review of the program’s website and emails sent by the program coordinator/recruiter. It is often helpful to quote information or statistic you have read on their website. Here are some questions you should consider asking during the interview process:
- Where do graduates of your program practice?
- Are there opportunities for teaching/research?
- Please tell me how long have your visa waiver candidates remain after completing their waiver requirements.
- Do you anticipate any major changes in your hospital/office structure in the next 3-5 years?
- How is time-off scheduled in your program? Do residents/employees take turns to get the major holidays off?
After Your Interview
You often meet many people during the interview process. It is often helpful to bring a small notebook to write their contact information and small details you have picked-up during your interview. For example, Dr John Dole – likes to travel, visited Thailand last month, enjoyed the Grand Palace. Send a thank you note via email or regular mail to the program coordinators, your interviewers or anyone who helped with the interview process.
After attending many interviews simultaneously, I find it difficult to remember exact details of each location. I try to jot down quick notes on each program or job the same day I am done with the interview. Here are some examples of what I wrote in the past:
Hospital in Tacoma – decent pay, 1 night call per month, candidates leaving after visa – why?, poor subspecialty support.
Job in Fresno – no reimbursement for calls, doctors seem overworked, CME time-off.
I hope the information provided has been helpful towards your interview preparation. If you are interested in a list of current questions asked by various US residency programs and employers in the US, please click on the link below to subscribe to my newsletter. Good luck with your interview and I wish you success in your endeavors.