The Residency Interview: How to Succeed?

For some, the residency interview is the most frightening part of the application. However, interviews are not designed to be scary, especially if you've prepared thoroughly.

Well, the residency interview is somewhat different from the medical school interview. Because you have now nearly graduated from medical school and no one is trying to assess your commitment to medicine, but they are specifically evaluating your commitment to the specialty to which you are applying. They also are evaluating your ability to perform well as a resident and if you will be a good fit for their program. This article will provide some tips to help you succeed, whether you are applying to residency this interview season or in the future.

Get Ready for the Residency Interview

First of all, make a short list of your strengths, accomplishments, and abilities. Use this list as a baseline for all the interview questions. This will help you to present yourself in a consistent way. Review your application, personal statement and curriculum vitae and prepare yourself to discuss anything that you’ve mentioned on them.

Prepare Your Answers On Commonly Asked Questions During Interview:

  1. Why did you choose this specialty?
  2. Why are you interested in this program?
  3. What are your goals?
  4. Tell me about yourself?
  5. What did you do before medicine? (To an older student)
  6. Why should we pick you?
  7. What are your strengths?
  8. What are your weaknesses?
  9. Where else have you applied?
  10. Are you interested in academic or in clinical medicine?
  11. Do you want to do research?
  12. Where will you rank us?
  13. What was the most interesting case that you have been involved in?
  14. Present a case that you handled during medical school.
  15. Do you plan to do a fellowship?
  16. What could you offer this program?
  17. How do you rank in your class?
  18. Do you see any problems managing a professional and a personal life?
  19. Are you prepared for the rigors of residency?
  20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Research The Residency Program

Research the program as much as possible before you go so that you will be able to target your questions for that program, rather than doing a generic interview. Do some research on the latest developments in the specialty that you’re interested in, including what types of people they’re looking for. Different specialty programs may have different priorities - leadership, community involvement, research, or clinical abilities. 
Residency program directors must be convinced that you have a genuine interest in the specialty and a clear understanding of what it means to practice in that specialty. They also want to know that you are motivated and that you will work hard to become an outstanding clinician.

During The Interview

Stay relaxed. Don't fear your interviewers—they're probably just as nervous to give the interview as you are to be interviewed.

Be friendly. Maintain eye contact and don't forget to smile. Interviews are often designed so that the interviewers could see themselves working with you. Showing that you are friendly will help them see that you'll be a good face to have around everyday.

Be engaged and open. Look interested. Show your enthusiasm and interest by staying engaged throughout the interview. Be open to answering any questions thrown your way, and don't be afraid to ask your own questions!

Avoid being awkward. In general, don't fidget, chew gum, or pick at your shirt. Don't crack inappropriate jokes or check your watch constantly.

Show your enthusiasm and interest by staying engaged throughout the interview. Be open to answering any questions thrown your way, and don't be afraid to ask your own questions!

Have no idea of what to ask during your interview? Here are samples of perfect questions: 
  1. What is the scope of experience I can expect?
  2. What is the program like (in the sub-specialty I’m interested in)?
  3. Where are the graduates of the program now?
  4. How much elective time is there and how is it usually used?
  5. What percentage of graduates enter fellowships?
  6. How is the training divided?
  7. What are the weaknesses of the program?
  8. How available are the attendings (including nights and weekends)?
  9. Are there any joint residency activities?
  10. What is the patient mix? Does it reflect the community demographics?
  11. What do you look for in a candidate?
  12. How do your residents perform on boards?
  13. What is this program most respected for?
  14. What is the ownership of this institution?
  15. Do the residents socialize as a group?
  16. Is there an Office of Minority Affairs? What is its role?
  17. How many residents are there?
  18. What is call schedule like?
  19. What happens if someone is sick?
  20. Do you offer health, life, disability insurance?
  21. What is the salary?
  22. What kind of vacation time do you offer?
  23. Do you have sick days?
  24. Does the curriculum include training in cultural competence?
  25. Is the program or hospital involved in any projects to help the undeserved?


Remember that most residency interviews are directed and conversational. Depending on the program and the specialty, you will have at least two interviews but may have up to five or six. Usually, the more interviews you have, the shorter each individual interview will be. On average, though, an interview will last 20 minutes. This brevity makes it important to have a clear idea of what you would like to talk about on interview day. Also be prepared to talk about the same topics repeatedly since most interviewers are trying to ascertain the same general information.

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