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SheMD Interview Tips Part 4: Interview Questions to Ask the Program Director

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.

This is part 4 of a 4-part series on residency interview strategies. If you’re just joining us, make sure to go back and read the previous posts (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) to learn about interview basics, questions you may be asked on the big day, and questions to ask the residents.

Welcome back for the final post of our interview series! I’m hoping that the first three parts have put you more at ease when it comes to interview season, but I know there’s one last looming question that you probably have – what the heck do I ask the program director?

This seems to be a medical student’s nightmare. You think the interview is going well and then the program director asks you what questions you have, and you go silent. You think everyone has explained the program down to the last detail before this time, and you can’t think of anything. Well, have no fear, below are a few questions to get you through this last part of interview day and prove to them that you have a concerted interest in becoming their next resident.

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1. What are you looking for in a resident?

  • This is one of my favorites because it flips the switch and requires them to describe their ideal candidate. Often program directors aren’t expecting this, and it takes them a second to think about what they actually want.

BONUS TIP: Write down their answers. You may be able to use their descriptions in your follow-up e-mail around ranking time to state why you think you’re qualified to be a resident there.

2. How are the residents evaluated?

  • What different aspects are the residents being evaluated on?

  • How often are you evaluated? Similar to medical school, you should be receiving an evaluation by an attending on each rotation.

  • At what point do you have access to reading the evaluation(s)? This shows that you are interested in receiving feedback and are motivated to make yourself a better physician.

  • How often does the program director sit down with each resident to check-in, review the monthly evaluations, and provide feedback? This usually varies from quarterly to semi-annually.

3. For those wanting to pursue fellowship,

  • What percent of graduates enter fellowship?

  • What sub-specialties did graduates go into?

    • Sometimes it’s about who you know. You may be able to contact a former graduate of your residency program who can become a mentor during your training and provide you with advice for matching in your desired field.

4. How many positions are available?

  • This can change year to year for a multitude of reasons, and often the websites are not updated. For example, if a current resident decided to switch specialties, then the program may open an additional position during your application cycle to fill that gap.

5. How open is the program to resident concerns, and have there been any recent changes that have occurred due to resident feedback?

  • At one program, the residents realized that their CCU rotation was not up to the standards they wanted. The program then changed their rotation to another hospital where they received the training they desired.

6. What is your board pass rate?

  • You’re definitely going to want to know this if it isn’t listed on their website. This is often a reflection of how well their board preparation is during the course of the program.

  • This is also a good time to ask them about their board review and how involved the faculty is with assisting residents with their training.

BONUS TIP: For those who are not great test-takers, this may be a time you ask about how much board scores play in decision-making.

7. What sets your program apart from others?

  • Similar to the first question, this turns the tables on them. As much as you’re getting compared to other interviewees for a residency spot, these programs are competing with each other too. You need to figure out which program should be at the top of your rank list and this question will help address that.

I know this entire process can be overwhelming, nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time, but at this point, I hope these posts have built your confidence so that you can go out and put your best self forward with each interview you have. The journey to Match Day can seem like a long one, but you’re so close!

On behalf of myself and SheMD, we wish you all the best of luck!

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