How Should I Prepare for Residency Interviews?

Megan L. Fix, MD


November 12, 2013


I just submitted my ERAS application and now I'm getting ready for interviews. What should I do to prepare?

Response from Megan L. Fix, MD
Associate Residency Director, Emergency Medicine, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City

It's a wonderful time of the year: You have completed your Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application and hit the submit button, and now you are getting invitations to interview and making travel arrangements. First, take a deep breath and feel good about yourself! You have worked very hard, and the "interview trail," though stressful, should be enjoyed and experienced to the fullest.

Let's talk about preparation. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Schedule wisely: Start interviewing at programs that you feel somewhat ambiguous about to get a few practice interviews under your belt without becoming overly fatigued. Then move on to the programs that you really want. Schedule interviews with programs at the very bottom of your list at the end, so that you can cancel them if you're certain that you have enough good options already. Note: If you do cancel an interview, be very courteous, apologize about any inconvenience, and give at least 2 weeks' notice.

  • Do your homework: Read as much as you can about the programs from their Websites, and prepare questions in advance. Interviewers hate to feel like you are disinterested or don't know anything about their program. If you know in advance who the interviewer will be, learn as much as possible about that individual. For example, note where they went to medical school, what their research interests are, and where they grew up. Separately, investigate the program director and associate program director, even if they are not the primary interviewers. Asking questions about them when solicited can create a personal connection with the interviewers.

  • Review questions, questions, questions: Prepare responses in advance for the most common questions, and prepare your own list of questions about the program. Some interviewers ask tons of questions, whereas others prefer to let you lead the dialogue. Be prepared either way. A good reference is provided by the Emergency Medicine Residents' Association, which covers more than 100 sample questions. Finally, never say "no" when an interviewer asks, "Do you have any questions?"


  • Be prepared to discuss everything on your application: This includes the rat research that you did in college. If it is on your application, it's fair game.

When the time comes to travel to an interview, remember these tips as well:

  • Be respectful, courteous, and thankful to everyone you meet: This includes the resident who hosts you and the resident's significant other or spouse, the faculty, the tour guides, the nurses, etc -- and most importantly, the residency coordinator. You not only want to make a good impression; these people may ultimately be a part of your "team" in residency, so you want to start off strong in building healthy relationships.

  • Be confident but not arrogant: It's important to strike a balance between being engaging and knowledgeable while avoiding being boastful or "too good to be true." My best advice is to practice interviewing with someone you trust, such as a resident or faculty member at your home institution, and asking that person specifically, "How do I come across?"

  • Have fun: This is a great opportunity to travel, see old friends in different cities, meet new friends, and get excited about the next step in your professional career. Try to attend the preinterview socials and engage with as many people as you can.

Best wishes for all of you on the "interview trail." It is definitely a unique experience, and if you prepare appropriately, it should be associated with minimal stress and maximal gains.


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