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A Resident’s Observations on Interviewing

In the field of medicine, one thing is for certain: you are always interviewing. Whether it is for medical school, residency, fellowship or your “first job” as an attending, these skills are indispensable. During my career, I have interviewed on 39 separate occasions in over 150 distinct interview sessions. Here are some of my observations.

Pre-interview

You are interviewing even when you are not interviewing.

This statement applies to when you are at an interview social dinner or talking with the program coordinator. Just because you are not being asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” does not mean the coordinator is not trying to determine your personality type and whether you would be a good fit in the program. Similar to a politician at a press conference, it is best to assume that “the microphone is always on” when you are talking to others. Treat everyone you meet with respect and you will do well.

Know your territory.

Do not go into an interview “blind.” Most of your questions can be answered on the program website. It reflects poorly on you if you re-hash the website during an interview. Take the time and do your research to best utilize your interview sessions.

Leaders bring pens.

I cannot take full credit for this lesson. My former admissions coordinator at The Ohio State University, Ebony Smith, told me that a pen can initiate many things: email addresses can be given out, information can be recorded, and connections can be made. Do not forget to bring a pen.

Have your questions ready.

Think of every interview as a poker game with your questions as your cards. Often, your only interview question will be, “Do you have any questions for me?” Don’t play your entire hand too early and show patience while playing the game. If you have enough cards and play them right, you’ll win every hand.

Interview Day

Eye contact is key.

Many of your qualities as a person will be judged from your body language. Eye contact is a great indicator of confidence, so make sure you look in your interviewer’s eyes as you are talking in order to best get your point across.

Conservative dress is best.

Wear something confident but not too flashy. A neon green sport coat or a bright pink dress are fine to wear to a dance club, but this is not the time to show off your wardrobe beyond your business suit. You are there to sell yourself, but do not go over the top.

Just because your interviewer swears does not mean you should.

On a few occasions, I have had interviewers drop ‘sh*ts’ or ‘f-bombs.’ This does not mean that you should. Your interviewer may swear, but you are there to demonstrate your professionalism.

Always put negative answers before the positive.

This typically applies to the question of, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Always lead with the negative, in this case, your weaknesses, and end strong with your positive aspects. This will leave your interviewer with a positive impression since it is the answer that he or she heard last.

Post-Interview

Always follow-up promptly after the interview day.

“Do you remember who Jared Klein is?”
“Not really, he interviewed two months ago.”

After several months of interviews, most candidates blend together. In order to stand out, send a hand-written thank you note or email to your interviewers, the program director, and especially the interview coordinator since his or her opinion is often taken into high consideration. If a program requests that you do not send thank-you notes, it is not a trick. Regardless, continue to follow-up by email and ask questions that may arise after your interview.

Disregard your cell-phone during the interview day.

It is time to go back to the days of high school when you checked your calls, emails and texts in the bathroom. Looking at your phone during the interview day is another way to convey an attitude of “disinterested and bored,” which is not the impression that you want to convey.

Above all, remember, you are awesome.

The goal is to sell yourself to the program. No matter what your flaws may be, you are the best person and most qualified candidate for this position. Don’t ever forget that.

Best of luck during this interview season!

Jared Klein, MD, MPH Jared Klein, MD, MPH (2 Posts)

Resident Physician Contributing Writer

Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University


Jared Klein is a PGY-3 at Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University. He earned his medical degree and master of public health at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio and earned a B.S. in Psychology from The Ohio State University in 2009. After graduation, he will begin his pediatric cardiology fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic. In his free time he enjoys theatrical performances, running in 5Ks, and playing with his kitten, Piper.