It has been a few weeks since all of you medical student rockstars hit “submit” on your ERAS online application – congratulations! It’s just a big waiting game after that, so here’s a post to help you get ready for the next step: interviews.
The interview emails will come rolling in soon depending on the specialty you’re applying in. Urology and ophtho operate on a completely different schedule from the rest of us, so I won’t address them specifically here. I applied into internal medicine intern years (preliminary year) and dermatology so I’m most familiar with the interviews in these fields, but I think the questions are pretty standard across all areas. Since dermatology interviews take place later in December and January, I will write a post more specific to the derm interview process closer to that date.
SETTING UP FOR SUCCESS
- First of all, if you are applying in dermatology, know ahead of time that interview invitations are sent out starting in November and continue until even January. Most of your classmates applying in other fields will get invites in September to October but don’t stress. Yours will come in due time, just slower than everyone else.
- Set up an alert on your phone so you know the instant a program emails you with an interview invite. This is especially important in a field like dermatology where most programs only interview on one or two dates. There’s lots of conflict and overlap between different program dates so you have to respond asap to invites to get the dates you want. I didn’t want to be flooded with notifications from my usual inbox so I created a special separate email account just for ERAS communications.
- It’s hard to know which dates to request for interviews because you don’t know what other invitations you’re going to get. I found this calendar of past derm interview dates pretty useful to get a ballpark idea of what programs interview when. If you know there’s a program you definitely want to interview at, try to schedule around that pending availability.
- If there’s a program that you really have your heart set on, let them know. You don’t have to say that this program is your number one choice (I would caution against that at this point actually) but it wouldn’t hurt to email the program director of your extreme interest and a few sentences about your personal ties to that program or city.
- If you find that the program you have your heart set on has already sent out invites and you didn’t get one, don’t panic. I would still write an email to the PD and express your strong interest and I would also recommend reaching out to your mentor as well to see if they can put in a good word for you. It’s a very small world in small fields so for better or for worse, a personal recommendation from a trusted mentor can go a long way. Interviewees sometimes cancel further down the line because of conflicting travel plans or overlapping interviews so you can still score an interview further down the line.
ONCE YOUR INTERVIEWS ARE SCHEDULED
- Plan your travel itinerary and have all your boarding passes, hotel information, transportation, etc. easily accessible. This is already a stressful process; you don’t need any extra travel stress!
- Tailor your suit, pick your shoes, shop for some tops and cute coats! I am planning a whole post on nailing the interview outfit so stay tuned for that.
- Bring a portable phone charger! I always had my iPhone charger with me but you’re not always near an outlet since you’re constantly on the move. Kate Spade makes a cute one here and some more affordable options in the $15-$25 range here and here.
- Research the program well and have some specific reasons why you want to go there. If there’s a particular professor you really want to work with or if there’s a certain clinic you want to get exposure to, share this. Be thoughtful in your answers because that’s what’s going to set you apart from all of the other applicants.
- Prepare answers for the questions you know you’re going to get asked. Have some good stories ready for scenario questions such as “Tell me about an interesting patient case” and definitely have a great answer for “Why field X?” See more of my sample questions below.
- Review papers you have published or research projects you have worked on in case your interviewer wants to discuss the details. Remember, everything you put on your application is fair game.
ON THE BIG DAY
- If you have any personal ties to the city or the school, do not hesitate to mention them. For ex. if you have family in the area or your significant other has a job in that city, share that info! Many interviewers saw that all my schooling has been at Stanford and wanted to hear that I was ready to move somewhere new outside of California.
- Make an effort to remember the current residents’ names and ask them questions. They’re the ones who will give you the real picture of what life as a resident is like in that program. Ask them the hard questions like what would you change about the program? How is the work-life balance? Is there good mentorship?
- This obviously goes without saying but be sociable and nice to everyone, from administrative staff to other applicants. A lot of the interview day is the program trying to see if you’d be a good fit not only academically but also socially. If anyone gets rubbed the wrong way, that’s a reason to drop you from the list.
- Make sure you have a mailing address to send a thank you card (see below).
- Tell me about yourself. (Yes, this is not a question and yes, this is so difficult to answer because what exactly do you want to cover in 2-3 minutes? Practice beforehand and have a short intro about yourself that you can say if faced with this. I had a few interviews where this was the first thing the interviewer asked me.)
- Why do you want to come to school X?
- Why choose field X? (Use this question to tie together your extracurricular activities and your passions into a cohesive story)
- Tell me about this [ insert activity, research project, etc.]. Why are you interested in this topic and how do you want to apply this to your field?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- Conflict resolution role play ie if you are the chief resident and one of your residents consistently comes in late, how will you handle that situation?
- What are your interests outside of medicine?
- What do you think Of Obamacare? What changes would you make?
- What do you consider the biggest problems facing healthcare today?
- Tell me about a situation in which your ethics were challenged.
- If you weren’t a doctor what other profession would you consider?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What would your enemies say about you?
- Tell me about the last book that you read?
- I see you are engaged/married. Does your significant other have flexibility in moving with you to city X?
- Where do you hope to practice in the long run?
- How do you feel [field X] will change in the next decade?
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
- Jot down some notes about the program. I had a few general categories that I liked to take note of such as schedule, didactics, resident happiness level, potential for global health opportunities, career potential, location, etc. After a few interviews the program specifics will start to blur so write down notes while the experience is still fresh in your head.
- For schools I really liked, I sent a handwritten thank you card to the Program Director. This may not actually matter that much since most programs rank directly after the interview day but it doesn’t hurt.
- If you still have questions about the program, see if you can reach out to a current resident there that you met during the interview. I really enjoyed chatting with my resident interviewer at NYU and she was kind enough to talk through things with me on the phone after the interview date as well.
You have done all the hard work already; the interview is actually the easy part. Good luck!