5 Residency Interview Tips to Rock Interview Day
How you perform on residency interviews is absolutely crucial to matching into your top residency choices. In this blog post, medical school student Andrew Park shares his insights about the residency interview trail as well as residency interview tips. If you have questions or need to improve your residency interview skills, contact the Cracking Med School Admissions team with questions or to schedule a mock interview!
An Introvert’s Insights on an Extrovertive Process
Written By Andrew Park
I’m more than halfway finished with my residency interview trail and as I’m waiting here in the airport for my next flight to my next residency interview, I wanted to share some reflections and residency interview tips. If you’re like me, interviewing is not a natural skill, and more than that, I’m a natural introvert.
Disclaimers: Defining Introversion vs. Extroversion
There’s a common misconception that introversion equals shyness, or extroversion equals prime sociability. While there is some correlation to this concept, a more accurate depiction is the relationship introversion and extroversion have with energy: introverts derive their social energy from the time they create for themselves and spend this energy with others. Extroverts feed off the energy in social settings and burn the energy when alone.
Basically, introverts engage in a complex photosynthesis of personality, creating energy from nothing. Extroverts are carnivores.
Another misconception is that people are strictly divided into introverts or extroverts. Like dogs, there are different breeds along the spectrum: introverted extroverts, extroverted introverts, pure ‘verts, labradoodles, etc. Knowing where you lie in the spectrum is the first step in identifying how you can efficiently map out your interview day and not hate everyone by the end of it. With that, here the hacks:
5 Residency Interview Hacks
Residency Interview Hack #1: Master the Mona Lisa Smile
I have the worst RBF: Resting Brooding Face. Whenever I’m studying at a coffee shop, engrossed in deep thought, or concentrated on a task, I tend to frown, scowl, look not-at-all approachable or friendly. While this has its advantages when I want to study without interruptions, it’s less-than-ideal during interview day. Picture this: if I were the program director leading a presentation at 8am in the morning and I were making eye contact with 10-20 hopeful applicants, would I be more attuned to the applicant with the smile, or the applicant with the frown?
I’ll like the applicant with the smile.
Don’t get me wrong – I hate to be the person who tells people to smile more; I’ve had that happen to me, and it’s hurtful that my resting brooding face is offensive to strangers. But if we’re being honest, first impressions matter. A study shows that the first few minutes of an interview will strengthen someone’s impression of you.
In her book Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes, psychologist Maria Konnikova highlights the Correspondence Bias: We assume that what a person says is what that person actually believes.
Interviewers tend to make up their minds about a candidate within the first few minutes – and sometimes less – of meeting them. And if the candidate’s subsequent behavior paints a different picture, they are still unlikely to alter their opinion – no matter how damning the evidence may be. p. 45
Malcolm Gladwell writes that people make snap judgments and posits that human beings have a “prerational ability for making searching judgments about others.”
Says Gladwell, “the first impression becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: we [the interviewer] hear what we expect to hear.”
Do program directors see what they expect to see?
If you want every possible advantage, I’m inclined to believe so.
Practice the mona lisa smile:
- In the back of your uber
- In the bathroom
- On an airplane when you’re sandwiched between two people, one of whom won’t respect your rights to the armrest.
Practice in the mirror. Have a friend take a picture of you when you’re studying, or reading. Assess your default setting, and make small adjustments. We have * facial muscles, and * of them are used for smiling. I personally do the corner lift tilt. Gives me a small smile that offsets my internal anxiety. Practice this so it becomes second nature. Don’t fall into the fallacy that you’ll instinctively smile on the day of the interview. When you’re stressed and preoccupied, you don’t rise to the occasion; you fall back on your default setting. The key is to adjust your default setting, even with smallest improvements.
Special Notes and References:
 Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
Gladwell, M. The New boy Network: What do Job interviews really tell us? in What the Dog Saw
Residency School Interview Hack #2: Avoid Pitfalls of the guided tour- Learn to third space well!
Residency interview days are generally a disruptive process for the hospital. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the emergency department.
Place yourself in the perspective of an ED RN: It’s not even the middle of your shift, three of your patients require your constant attention, and your fourth needs to be transferred to the ICU STAT on their hospital bed.
Now imagine, to your chagrin, a human thrombus of applicants blocking the hallway as an ED tour stops to a halt around the doctor’s pod. Sounds inconvenient, right?
Like a clot in the bloodstream, the roving crowd of applicants is an embolus in the hallways. As a future physician (possibly even an emergency physician), practice your spatial awareness and proprioception. Be cognizant of where you stand during the tour. Be like the hidden accumulation of abdominal fluid in the patient in Bed 32 and third space well! If the tour guide stops by the doctor’s pod, plant yourself along the wall. Don’t take up the entire hallway as you amble from the ED to the trauma bay: single or double file is optimal. It will save you frustrated glances and sighs. The resident guide might not take notice, but you’ll certainly avoid the death stare and icy “excuse me” of a busy nurse.
Residency Interview Hack #3: Know what questions you want to ask and WHO to ask
In my opinion, the tour guide is the best person to ask questions about the program. Resident guides are happy to answer any logistical questions about the program, including those you were too nervous to ask during the program presentation.
Contrarily, if you feel that these questions were answered sufficiently during your resident dinner/social or over your tour, don’t feel compelled to ask them during your interview. Steer away from asking questions that could be answered from an internet search on the program website. Here are my residency interview tips after going through the interview trail.
Questions you DON’t want to ask:
- Umm, this is the *** program, right?
- Did I mention my fah-thur trained here?
- Who did you vote for in the 2016 election?
- What kind of swag does the program give out today?
Residency Interview Hack#4: Tired of Writing? Create SmartPhrases for your Thank You emails
At the end of the interview day, the last thing you’ll want to do when you return to your hotel/AirBnB/domicile is to write a long, heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to the people you’ve met. Writing is thinking, and thinking is hard when you’ve put yourself out there and maintained your best image all day.
Here’s my hack: Write ONE original thank you letter, and you’ll never have to write another letter again.
You do that by creating a smartphrase and putting it into your phone.
Residency Interview Tip: Create a “smartphrase” 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.
**For a more detailed article on Thank You Letters, and Who to Send them To, click this link**
Residency Interview Hack #5: Low on social energy? Find Your “Person” on the trail
As an introvert, I sometimes get shy / nervous when meeting other people. But I adapt based on my surroundings. If I sense a fellow introvert, I go out of my way to include them or introduce myself to them because I think “What if they were me?” By doing so, I trick my brain to coming out of my shell. By looking out for someone else, I end up putting myself out there. On the day of your interview, find a fellow applicant you connect with well. Someone whom you would want as a peer in your program. For the rest of the interview, think of yourself as their “wingman,” and go out of your way to make them look good.
When you’re at 1% on your social battery, whip out that Mona Lisa smile, turn to your peers and say, “Sorry guys, I’m running low on my social energy,” knowing full well that you tried your hardest.