Interview season is here! In my last post, I went through interview tips including prep questions and ways to plan ahead. The other aspect of interviews that I remember stressing out (unnecessarily, might I add) over was finding the perfect interview outfit. Let me be honest here: in the end, as long as you look professional, presentable, and not sloppy, your outfit is not going to make that big of a difference. We are in academic medicine here – we’re not fashion editors! That being said, you will be nervous enough on your interview day that you don’t want to have to worry about looking good. Here are some of my tips to nailing your interview outfit for residency. (Note: this post is for the ladies; men, you’re lucky you just need to find a nice suit and you’re all set!)
First, plan ahead. I actually already had a tailored suit from medical school interviews, so if you’re in that boat, congratulations, you’re already almost done! For those of you who are looking for a new suit, start looking early like in July or August. This will give you plenty of time to try on a number of suits and to get it tailored to your body. Use this time to also find the shoes you’ll wear to interviews so you can tailor the suit to the right length. Don’t forget to bring your interview shoes to all your fittings (more on shoes below)!
I remember there was a big question of whether ladies should wear a skirt or pants suit. There is a rumor that more old school and formal programs, say, on the East Coast, prefer ladies to wear traditional skirt suits. However, most interviews take place in the winter and I was cold even in a pants suit! I say wear whichever one you like, which looks good on you and what makes you feel comfortable! I personally do not think it makes a difference in how you are perceived. Find a good tailor and make it fitted but obviously not too tight. Skirt suits should end around the knees in general, but for petite ladies like myself, having the hem an inch or two above the knee would make the suit look more proportional.
Here are a number of budget-friendly suit sets from Nordstrom and some fun and colorful tops from there and Ann Taylor to wear under your suit jacket. I wore regular button up blouses on top but that gets boring after so many repeat wears; I wish I had a few tops on rotation! Try to buy tops that don’t need to be ironed as well, because you may be on the road for a week or more on a long interview stretch and you might not stay at a place with an iron handy. Also, in terms of suit color, I had a black pants suit, but practically everyone has a black suit! If I could do it again, I would choose a different color to stand out a bit, such as a dark gray or dark navy blue.
Mix of skirt and pants suits:
Tops (all Ann Taylor tops are 40% off currently):
Shoes are definitely an aspect of the outfit you want to plan and try out beforehand. You walk quite a bit on interviews, especially during the tours, so keep that in mind when choosing shoes. Wear the shoes out on errands or around the house to make sure they’re comfortable. I remember on my NYU derm interview we walked to a few different hospitals spanning ten blocks and a few avenues, and there are always a ton of stairs! I wore a pants suit that was tailored a little long on me so I could wear short heels during the interview and then brought a spare pair of short wedges for the walking. Some ladies brought flats to wear for longer tours as well.
Here are some options for shoes. I personally found Naturalizer and Cole Haan to be quite comfortable to walk in, not only for interviews but also in clinic and around the hospital as well. I like wedges for the stability; if you’re a heels kind of person, aim for a low heel. I wouldn’t go above 1.5 to 2 inches for ease of walking.
If you’re going to the East Coast for interviews, make sure to bring a heavy coat! To all East Coasters out there, this goes without saying but to my dear California/West Coast medical students (I was one of you!), look up the weather beforehand and make sure you dress warmly for your travels. I interviewed on the East Coast during the Polar Vortex 2014 and man, just thinking about that time sends a chill down my spine. I wore thick tights underneath my suit pants, a medium weight sweater underneath my suit jacket, and brought a heavy down coat. Make use of layers because if you wear something too heavy inside your suit, you may be sweating all throughout your interview!
Last tip about a good bag to bring to carry all of your stuff. I suggest finding a roomy dark-colored bag that can store:
• an extra pair of shoes for walking
• a notepad or padfolio (Stanford gave medical students one when we started school, but this is not an absolute necessity)
• a pen or two
• bottle of water
• iphone charger or portable phone charger (refer to my previous post for recommendations!)
• Emergency pack should you need it: hair ties, gum, band aid (especially with long walking tours!), tampon/pad, hand sanitizer, aspirin, lip balm or lipstick.
Find a bag with a zipper on top as well. With all the traveling on the interview day and the multiple plane rides in between, you don’t want to risk anything falling out or getting stolen.
Good luck with all of your travels and hope this guide helps in keeping you warm, comfortable, and stylishly dressed to rock your interviews!