As interview season comes to an end, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on them!
- WHAT TO WEAR: Remember to dress your best – this means a suit. Most folks wear conservative colors/styles (dark blues/grays/blacks). I know of a few people who had olive green and purple – I think that shows your personality as well – it all depends on how much of a risk taker you are! Try to wear good walking shoes (I know someone who had a pair of flats in her purse and just switched out her heels for the tour) as many of your interviews will include a tour.
- WHAT TO BRING: You can take a nice purse with you (I constantly ran into the issue of where to put my keys/phone without one), a portfolio pad, and a pen. Take a lint remover if your suit needs it (hotels might be able to help you with this in case you forget it, they did for me)! I’d also recommend to have in your car: pins, sewing kit (my blouse ripped during one of my interviews), hair tie, comb, pads/tampons, wet wipes, protein bars, and anything else in case of emergency.
- INTERVIEW STRUCTURE: Interviews vary, but the ones I went on were mostly structured as full or half day interviews with tours, lunch or breakfast (or both) provided, and a residency program presentation by program director and/or a resident. Some have you sit in on sign out as well.
- Individual interviews were often done one-on-one or 2-3 faculty/PD/residents with you. Only one interview I went on had the applicant in front of 30+ people for a 15 minute interview.
- DINNERS WITH THE RESIDENTS: You are often invited to a dinner hosted by residents. This can be out at a restaurant or at one of the residents’ homes. Highly recommend that you attend! You can ask questions, get a feel for how the residents interact with each other, and have some friendly faces you’ll recognize at the interview! I was told to dress up (business casual, no jeans), but I’ve been to events were applicants wore jeans and were super casual. Remember, if you have the option of scheduling the dinner, go to one BEFORE your interview – this way, you’ll have a good feel for things and have some familiar faces before your big day (which is way more formal!).
- PREP: Make sure you know where to go, when, and whom to contact if you are late (get a phone number!). Go to the location the night before if you can so that things go smoothly the morning of. Get there AT LEAST 15-30 min early! Check the weather, pack appropriately. You can Uber/Lyft places, but remember that sometimes this can backfire as you don’t know if your ride will be on time. I almost always rented a car (yes, more expensive, but I liked the security of knowing I was independent and had transportation at my fingertips).
- BUDGET: Interviews are ridiculously expensive-think about plane fare, renting a car for anywhere from 1-3 or more days, hotel rooms, food, and other unexpected miscellaneous costs. Being the gullible person I am, I would often listen to the rental car people and pay the insurance or extra fees they talked me into – look into these things and see if they are really necessary beforehand. Check the weather – do you need a bigger car? Or can you take the smallest (cheapest) model and still be safe to drive it? Use websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, etc. Also, use miles! I had to fly to Virginia on super short notice and the tickets would have been over $1,000 round trip! I was able to use my miles and (even though I had to take three flights there and three flights back), my total flight cost was brought down to $250.
- SCHEDULING: I know a few people who took time off just for interviews. If you are staying primarily at your base hospital and it’s easy to schedule your rotations, I think you can safely take some time off here and there for interviews. Honestly, if you are doing a ton of auditions and scheduling rotations on your own, this is challenging. I scheduled all my rotations close to home (not at my base hospital) and really didn’t have much leeway in scheduling them, so I’d ask for time off for my interviews. Most places were super gracious about this. They understand you need to take time off, but it always helps to say that you’re willing to come in on weekends to make it up!
- Also try to schedule your interviews wisely – schedule the programs you are most interested in in the middle of your interview trail – I didn’t do this and had my top program interviews at the very beginning and it was super stressful. You get better and less nervous with time, but don’t put your top interviews at the very end either, people (including the interviewers!) tend to get more tired!
- PRACTICE QUESTIONS! Know what you’re going to say! Do research on the program, specialty, and on typical questions. I was asked things like:
- Why are you interested in our specialty?
- Why our program?
- Why should we pick you?
- Define ‘hard work’? ‘team work’?
- Behavioral / Scenario questions
- What draws you to this location?
- TELL STORIES: for each question, I had a story to tell. I think people remember you much better when they can associate you with an awesome story (they’ll remember a thrilling tale much better than an applicant giving a generic answer). I’ve noticed that programs are trending towards behavioral questions – where all you have to do is give an example of time when you did ____ and the consequences of your actions. Be prepared for this!
- DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD: If a question throws you for a loop. Take a moment, you can even ask for a second to think, collect your thoughts and start talking. There were times I didn’t know where I was going with what I was saying, but I just tried to appear collected! Hopefully that’s what the interviewers thought too!
- GETTING INTERVIEWS: Sometimes you may not hear back from a program (after you submit your ERAS) you really wanted. You can send an email to the program coordinator or call them and tell them you’re super interested in their program. This may not help, but I got one interview this way – by expressing interest!
- DOING AUDITIONS: In the DO/ osteopathic world, this is CRUCIAL. You NEED to do auditions to get interviews. It actually works quite differently – DO programs are looking for candidates they know well. Also, DO programs tend to schedule multiple student auditioners at the same time (which can make things really difficult in terms of standing out). MD programs don’t tend to do this – you’re often the only SUB-I there, so you can really shine – but this also means that there are fewer spots to audition! So make a great impression during your rotation there! Some MD programs take this into account as well and will give you an interview simply because you did an audition. Others won’t give you a courtesy interview even if you’ve spent a month with them.
Well, this is what I could come up with! Please feel free to add!