Interview Tips for Trainees From a Program Director

Updated: Aug 23

Disclaimer: This post was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the interview information may not be relevant during the 2020-2021 & 2021-2022 academic years.

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It was Malcolm Gladwell who proclaimed that practicing anything for more than 10,000 hours allows one to become an expert.  If that is true, then I am a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to reviewing applications and conducting interviews for those applying to graduate medical education programs (residency and fellowship).  In the thirteen years I have been on faculty, I have served on the recruitment committees for the GI fellowship program for 8 years and Internal Medicine for 10 years. I am going into my sixth recruitment reason in the role of the Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency program at my institution, where I personally review approximately 3000 applications per season, and meet one-on-one with nearly 500 interviewees each year.  The far majority of applications are extremely well done, due to the meticulous work of the medical students who spend countless hours reviewing and re-reviewing their application for errors. Similarly, most interview experiences are incredibly positive, due to the underlying principle that most people can keep it together on an interview without much effort.

In recent days, medical students from around the world have launched their application into the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).  And now they must play the waiting game. As if trainees are not already glued to their electronic devices, in the days ahead, it becomes an obsession…checking one’s email for the desired interview invite.  Then begins the scramble of arranging travel, securing a hotel room, determining how to get from point A to point B, reviewing the where and when of interview dinners, and finally, picking out the interview outfit.  There is a lot do to in the next month before interviews begin, so hopefully these tips will help avoid some pitfalls that others have fallen into! You never want to be the example of “what not do to.” Why are these important things to consider?  Because studies have shown that once you have been selected for an interview, the interview itself becomes one of the most important factors in determining your position on the rank list. So let’s get started…