Preparing Residents for Fellowship: A Novel Mock Interview Program

Reena H. Hemrajani, MD; Karen L. Law, MD; Tiffany A. Walker, MD; Danielle Jones, MD


South Med J. 2022;115(7):395-399. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Objectives: Although high-stakes interviews are critically important for residents to obtain competitive fellowships, few formalized programs targeting interviewing skills exist. Previous studies demonstrate that mock interviews increase medical students' and healthcare professionals' confidence and improve match rates, but little research has been conducted among medical residents. The objective of our study was to increase trainees' confidence entering fellowship interviews and prepare them for commonly encountered questions via a mock interview program.

Methods: Emory Internal Medicine residency leaders designed a voluntary mock interview program focused on 103 residents (64% of the overall cohort) pursuing fellowship training (median 36, range 30–37/year) from 2018 to 2020. Administrative staff scheduled eight associate program director interviewers for 75 hours of interviews for 3 years (mean 3.6 hours per interviewer per year), ensuring program feasibility. Interviewers underwent faculty development and used a standardized tool with commonly asked interview questions to conduct mock interviews. Interviewers provided feedback on verbal communication, nonverbal communication, professionalism, and, given recent shifts to virtual interviews, camera readiness. We conducted resident surveys to understand their perceptions of mock interview program experiences.

Results: Ninety-nine residents pursuing fellowship (96%) enrolled. Fifty (51%) completed the survey (median 20, range 14–22/year); 46 (92%) reported that the mock interviews were helpful or increased their confidence for interview season.

Conclusions: Residents perceived that this high-fidelity mock interview program successfully prepared them at a critical career juncture. This program is feasible, sustainable, adaptable, and scalable, and may be adopted to benefit trainees in any graduate medical education program.


Although residency is a formative time in a physician's career, it is intended to be a transition path to an eventual career destination. For residents seeking fellowships, the match process is highly competitive: 2021 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) data show that only 74% of applicants match, and only 39% match their first-choice fellowship across the internal medicine specialties.[1] High-stakes interviews are an important component of the fellowship application process, but best practices to prepare residents do not yet exist.[2–4] Residency leadership and senior faculty often are well versed in the pearls and pitfalls of interviews, but few programs have formalized curricula to equip residents with these critical skills.[2,5]

Evidence suggests that mock interviews are effective.[6–9] Several studies of pharmacy students have shown increased confidence entering residency interviews or increased match rates for those who have mock interviewed compared with those who did not.[10–13] In addition, the American Medical Association has noted the importance of mock interviewing in the medical residency application process.[14] Little data, however, have been reported regarding internal medicine residents applying to fellowships.[2,5] There is significant potential for graduate medical education programs to adopt formalized programs to launch residents into successful specialty matches and careers.

To address this curricular gap, we implemented a comprehensive program for interview preparation in our Internal Medicine training program during 2018–2020. The primary objectives of this program were to increase trainees' confidence entering fellowship interviews and to prepare them for commonly encountered interview questions. Through this mock interview program, we also aimed to create a cohort of trained faculty who use standardized criteria and tools to evaluate and deliver feedback, optimizing the utility of guidance provided to trainees.