You have two purposes for the interview:
- You are attempting to assess how compatible you are with a program, how comfortable you feel, and how well the program meets your stated goals.
- You are also trying to convey your sense of compatibility with the program to your interviewers. This goes beyond making a good impression; you are demonstrating to the faculty and residents that you would be a welcome addition to their ranks.
The best time to visit programs participating in the NRMP is mid-October through January. Programs participating in the early matches: ophthalmology, urology, and the military, will have interviewing schedules that begin earlier.
There is no reliable data to conclude that it makes a difference in outcome whether you interview early, in the middle, or toward the end of the season at a given program, so try not to worry about it. There is general agreement, however, that you should schedule the interview for your most highly desired program after you have had some experience with one or two interviews with other programs.
It is a good idea to email or call and confirm your appointment about a week before your scheduled interview. This will give you an opportunity to reconfirm the place and time of your meeting, name of the individual with whom you are to meet first, and other details such as parking arrangements.
Interviewing is expensive, so save money when you can. Try to cluster interviews in the same geographic location. Be sure to ask for student discounts at motels and residency interview discounts on airlines. Contact local VTC alumni to see if they can assist you in finding inexpensive lodging.
General Interviewing Tips
Here are some basic interviewing tips. To help better prepare you for your residency interviews, also read our more indepth interviewing tips and tricks.
- Just before the interview, take time to research the information you have received from the program.
- Write down the facts that you want to double-check as well as any initial impressions you may have formed based on the written material.
- Pay special attention to the names and positions of people you are likely to meet.
- Remind yourself of the specific questions you had about this program and write them down in a convenient place so that you will be sure to ask them. You should have some interesting questions prepared ahead of time to let the interviewers know that you have seriously considered the qualities of their particular program.
- The interviewer gets as much information about you from the questions you ask as from the answers you give. You may want to formulate a list of standard questions which you will ask every program for comparison, or you may develop a checklist of program characteristics to fill out after each interview.
- Don't be surprised if the interview begins with your questions.
- Don’t reply to an opportunity to ask questions with, “All my questions have been answered,” even if that is true.
As important as knowing what to ask is knowing what NOT to ask during the interview. Areas to avoid are salary/benefits, vacation, the competition, moonlighting, and topics that may put the interviewer on the defensive. You can get most of the answers to these questions from the residents.
Despite what you might think, there are a finite number of questions that are recurrently asked during interviews. It is really worth the time and effort to sit down before the interview and plan an angle of approach for each of the questions listed below. Don't be caught at the interview wishing you had thought of a good answer beforehand. Consider practicing a mock interview with someone but be careful not to have canned answers.
If one partner gets an interview, contact the program director/coordinator of the corresponding program and inform them that you are a couple and that your partner got an interview at the institution.
Remind program directors after the interview of your couple status.