The growing consensus regarding residency interview thank you notes is that most program directors (PDs) won’t respond to your thank you letter. Many might not even have the chance–or time–to open them. During the 2019 Emergency Medicine Residency Association (EMRA) Resident forum, some program directors admitted that the pile of ‘Thank Your envelopes tends to grow neglected over the season. Emails, while more accessible, are similar in response. Some program directors may respond to your ‘thank you,’ but most will not.
That said, do ‘thank you’ letters matter in applicant decisions? In general, not really, but a 2019 study about “Post-interview Thank You Communications” in Western Journal of Emergency Medicine seems to say otherwise. In this study, anonymous surveys were sent to EM program directors nationwide. Of the 99/163 PDs who responded, 22.6% reported that an applicant could be moved up their program’s rank list and 10.8% reported that an applicant could move down a program’s rank list based on their thank-you communications, or lack thereof.
The validity of this study is debatable, as PD responses could be qualified by availability and recall bias. However, it is interesting to note that more than half of the PD’s who incorporated thank you letters in their rank decisions considered specific content of the ‘thank you’ communication to be important.
So what does this mean?
I believe your residency interview thank you letter serves a purpose: it acknowledges the complex nuances of the interviewing process, and offers a token of appreciation for the people who will soon become your peers, faculty, and mentors. Furthermore, these followup emails are a good way to follow up on fun topics that you may have discussed or had in common, such as providing book recommendations, food recipes, points of connection that humanized you during the interview. As such, I think it is worth sending thank you letters to individuals and programs that you’d like to remain in touch with.
My Approach to Medical School & Residency Interview Thank You Letters
As I’ve written before in another blog post, writing is thinking, and thinking is hard, especially after interviews, when you’ve put yourself out there all day and maintained your best image.
As such, I have optimized a way to simplify my residency interview thank you letter process: I create “smartphrases” and input them into my iPhone, which syncs with my MacBook and iPad.
Create a “smartphrase” residency interview thank you email and you’ll have done 90% of the work. Staring at a blank page gives me stress. Starting any writing from scratch is difficult, but editing is easy. It’s easier for me to tailor a basic email than to start one from scratch.
- Open System Preferences on your Macbook/ iPad / iPhone
- Select “Keyboard”
- Select the “Text” column. You can now access the “Replace/With” function.
- Insert your email smartphrase on the “Replace” column
- Insert your thank you email draft text under the “With” column.
- Now, whenever you type your smartphrase on your device, it will automatically populate your email draft. Syncing will access this shortcut across all your devices.
The medical school and residency interview thank you letter examples that follow are my attempt at alleviating that decision fatigue and cognitive burden. Be advised, my intention is to provide a format for you, the reader, to mold into your own style, in your own voice. I’ll provide the body of each thank you letter. You must provide its heart.
Sample Post-Interview Thank You Letters
Sample residency interview thank you note to the program director
Program Directors are one of the busiest faculty members during this interview process, and, as I’ve discussed above, many may not have the time to respond to your thank you letter. However, unless they specifically ask not to sending any correspondence, sending them a letter won’t hurt. You could consider it as a composite of different aspects from the other thank you letters, but take the time to talk specifically about what that program means to you.
Hello Dr. [NAME],
Thank you for your time and consideration. I wish you the best of luck with the rest of the interview season, and look forward to hearing back from you!
Warm Wishes,[Your Name]
Sample residency interview thank you letter to faculty interviewers
You might interview with associate faculty with similar subspecialty interests, like toxicology, ultrasound, wilderness medicine, etc. Feel free to send them a thank you email for their time. If you have further questions about the program, or their subspecialty, do so in the letter. If you do end up matching in that program, then you’ve established a potential avenue for mentorship down the road.
Below is a sample thank you note I would write to a faculty interviewer. I’m very interested in ultrasound (in fact, I might pursue a fellowship in it). I enjoyed meeting ultrasound faculty, and am very curious about the field.
Hello Dr. [NAME],
It was great meeting you on Thursday. I’m really excited about the numerous opportunities for medical ultrasound in your program. Ultrasound is a skill I’ve been proactive about acquiring in med school, and it’s something I’d like to further develop in my residency training.
I had a couple of questions about the ultrasound program:
- Are there opportunities to teach medical students basic ultrasound skills?
- Are there any plans for TEE in cardiac resuscitations or in the ICU?
- How many US scans does the typical resident graduate with?
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you!
All the best,[Your Name]
Residency interview thank you email to Program Coordinators
Program coordinators are the true MVPs of the program, the ones working behind the scenes, the “glue that holds this place together” as mentioned at three separate programs I’ve interviewed at. Honestly, the coordinators are awesome people. They spent days facilitating your arrival. Send them a thank you!
Dear [NAME OF PROGRAM COORDINATOR],
Thank you for an amazing day at ***. I had an exceptional time getting to learn more about the program and meeting the residents, and I appreciate all your hard work ensuring that the day ran smoothly and meaningfully.
All the best,[Your Name]
P.S. The lunchtime sandwiches were AMAZING 🙂
Residency interview thank you email to resident tour guides
Send a quick thank you to the residents who (a) hosted a dinner (b) led a guided tour, or (c) answered questions / hung out during an interview lunch. These residents took time out of their busy schedules to contribute to a meaningful impression of the program. A small thank you will go a long way, if not to just acknowledge their assistance!
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to give us a tour through the [emergency department, surgical suite, ICU, etc]! I really appreciated your willingness to answer my questions about [resident hours, off-service rotations, etc]. Your enthusiasm really speaks a lot about the program/medical school, and I look forward to ***.
All the best,[Your Name]
Followup emails to other applicants
Along the trail, you’ll meet fellow applicants who are awesome individuals in their own right. Take the opportunity to correspond with them – they may provide insights on different programs that you may be interviewing, or may even end up becoming your classmates!
Hey [NAME OF FRIEND],
It was great meeting you at ***! Thanks for your advice about ***. I wish you the best of luck, and hope to see you again on the trail!
‘Thank you’ letters are an increasingly prevalent part of the residency process. While at times, they can be intimidating to write, I’ve found that they’re easier to convey when you genuinely have an appreciation for the recipient and/or the program. With the sample letters above, I hope to ease the stress and work in post-interview communications.
Blog post written by Kevin Li and Dr. Rachel Rizal