‘Tis the season … for residency interviews

November 12, 2015

Fourth year medical students everywhere are now fully immersed in interview season as part of their preparations to enter their preferred residency programs. This means a large portion of IU School of Medicine students—and faculty—are focused on meeting new people and making a good impression.

For fourth year medical students, residency interview season is now in full swing. | Photo By Liz Kaye

IU School of Medicine’s interview period for residencies kicked off in mid-October and will continue through January. The IUSM residency program includes more than 25 residency programs; it received the maximum five-year continuing institutional accreditation from ACGME; and placement is very competitive. Outstanding performance in an interview is crucial.

To prepare for interview season, medical students typically identify desired programs about which they want to learn more, and eventually construct a ranking of options with hopes of receiving an offer from one of their top choices. The motivation behind their choices could be based on personal experiences with a specialty, a desire to study at top academic centers, the program’s geographic location, or the availability of unique programs like Global Health experiences or high-level research support.

After setting up interviews, students travel the country, visiting multiple residency programs and participating in long interview days. The process can become exhausting, but each interview is just as important as the last. Students must find ways to avoid burnout and stand out (in a positive way!) among their fellow applicants.

For IUSM MS4 student Chad Tuchek (applying to neurosurgery programs), making a positive impression includes knowing the details of your application. “Be prepared to tell a short story about each hobby/activity you put on your application,” he suggests. “And memorize the story you want to tell for the two most common questions: ‘Tell me about yourself’ and ‘Why <chosen specialty>?’”

Tuchek’s other advice: “Don't leave your clothes to chance. Wear your clothes for dinner on the flight AND pack an extra set in your bag; you never know when your coffee will end up on your shirt. Avoid lost luggage by packing only carry-on baggage.”

Students also need to make sure a program of interest is, in fact, a good fit for them. To do this, IUSM MS4 student Alan Hyslop (pursuing internal medicine), suggests spending a couple days exploring the area, if possible. “I want to soak up the atmosphere to see if I could see myself living there,” he explains. He also attends pre-interview dinners to meet the program’s current residents and get a sense of their outlook and overall happiness.

“Fine details make the difference, especially when a lot of programs come off as being very similar in terms of curriculum,” Hyslop says. “So I recommend remembering why we got into medicine—to take care of patients!”

Find more help with residency interview preparation, including tips, advice and Q&As at Dr. Michael McKenna’s blog: http://blogs.medicine.iu.edu/mckenna. Resources about the residency interview process are also available on the AAMC website.