How Should I Prepare for an Interview?

Daniel J. Egan, MD


August 23, 2010


I’m looking ahead to my residency interviews and was wondering: What should I be doing now to prepare for them?

Response from Daniel J. Egan, MD
Associate Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY

Preparing for an interview is different for each individual. Much of what takes place in interviews involves information you provided in your application, so if you have blemishes on your record, you will need to work out explanations of those elements. On the other hand, if you are a stellar student, you will be able to focus more on your achievements.

In general, the most important goal of preparation is to actually be prepared. Here are some basics:

  1. Learn as much as possible about the program to which you are applying. An unprepared applicant who does not know obvious details about a program would stand out to me as someone who did not do his or her homework. Your questions about the program can focus on elements not included on their Website (or perhaps on more recent events if the Website is outdated).

  2. Prepare responses to basic, common questions. Know your strengths and weaknesses; be prepared to discuss your choice of a specialty; prepare a concise explanation of your research; know why you would want to live in that program's city and train at that institution. Many interviewers ask all applicants similar questions. Talk to your friends and find out what they were asked.

  3. Prepare your own questions. Some interviewers prefer not to ask questions and would rather have the applicant take the lead in the conversation. Try to engage the interviewer.

  4. Give off a good vibe. Ultimately, interviewing is about finding a fit between a program and an applicant. Avoid coming across as aggressive or overconfident (but also not too shy).

  5. Be knowledgeable, but avoid being overly rehearsed or boring in your responses.

Finally, it is probably worth practicing your interview. Many medical schools hold mock interviews with older students or faculty members playing the role of interviewer. You can get good advice from more senior students who have recently been through the process. A mentor in your specialty may also be willing to practice an interview with you. Compare notes with your friends who are going on interviews to review their prepared questions and "rehearsed" answers. If you are very nervous and think you need more formal advice, you may want to hire a consultant.

At the end of the day, this is your chance to explore a program and to let them see you as an individual. The more conversational the experience you have, the better.


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