Setting up Interviews
Different programs have different ways of assessing applicants and offering interviews. Some programs will offer interviews based entirely on a set of criteria that can be deduced quickly from an application (e.g. certain board scores, US senior applicant, etc.). These programs may get back to you very quickly (rarely in the same day as you apply). Other programs have faculty review each application and it can take a few weeks to get an invitation to interview. Almost all programs offer interviews on a rolling basis and schedule students as they receive and process applications. This is why it is important to apply to programs the first day you can. In 2010 over 50% of programs offered MORE THAN 50% of their interview slots between September 1st, when applications can be downloaded, and November 1st, when the Dean's letters are available. Only 17% of programs waited to offer interviews to any students until November 1st.
It's a good idea to have a rough idea of what order and what weeks/months you would like for your interviews so when you get an invitation you can reply quickly to schedule. Once you are offered an interview, make sure you schedule it as soon as you can. Replying promptly to interview invitations is not only polite - it gives you a larger pool of interview dates from which to choose.
Residency program coordinators are very important people in your residency application experience. They are the people you will e-mail or talk to on the phone to schedule your interview and will likely be the first people to greet you on your interview day.
Order of Interviews
You will undoubtedly hear many theories on the best way to order your interviews. The most important strategy is to schedule interviews at your top choices in the middle of your interview season. This way you will be comfortable and familiar with the process of the interview without being exhausted. Also try to group interviews by geographic location so you do not have to visit the same city or area of the country twice. Most programs have set "interview days" (e.g. Tuesdays and Fridays), but there should be enough leeway in their schedule and yours so that you can schedule multiple interviews in one city over the course of a week or 10 days.
If You Have Not Heard From a Program
Consider sending them an email. It never hurts to check in if you think that you should have received an interview offer. If you need to travel and have already received an interview in one city but have not heard from programs in nearby areas, let them know that you'll be traveling to their area for an interview at a different program and perhaps you could schedule an interview at their program too while you're in town. If you send an email and do not hear back in 2-3 days, give them a call.
Dress for Success
This is a job interview in the medical profession and business attire is the accepted norm. You want to give the appearance of a successful, mature physician, not a medical student who has been up all night studying. You will need to buy a suit. Your outfit should be both conservative and comfortable. Make sure you can get it to appear neat, pressed, and clean, even after being in suitcase or being worn for 2-3 successive interviews. Be prepared for bad weather - always have an umbrella and overcoat with you.
When selecting an outfit:
- Choose dark, conservatively colored suit - solid or pinstripe are acceptable. Women can wear either a skirt or pants.
- Choose a lighter, conservatively colored shirt. Men should wear a button-down shirt, women can wear the same or a blouse or light sweater.
- Wear simple, comfortable dress shoes that you can walk in easily to tour clinics and hospital.
- Men should wear a tie. Choose one that is also conservative and is solid, striped or has a small pattern.
- Men should have well groomed facial hair.
- Make-up for women should be subtle.
- Avoid strong smelling perfumes or cologne.
- Keep jewelry tasteful and to a minimum.
Make sure that your travel arrangements leave you plenty of time to attend any pre or post-interview social events. If you are driving, be sure to leave plenty of time to arrive at your destination and make sure the vehicle you take is in good repair and has been serviced recently. If you are flying, make sure that all of your belongings fit into a carry-on bag. You do not want your aforementioned, meticulously selected suit to not make it to the interview with you. If you are renting a car, be sure to reserve one ahead of time before you arrive to the airport. To help defray travel costs check out HOST (Help Our Students Travel), which is sponsored by alumni who will let you stay in their homes while interviewing in different cities.
If you need to cancel an interview, emailing the program coordinator is appropriate when done with advanced notice. Call the program if you're canceling close to the date or to follow up if you receive no email response. This way the program can give your interview slot to another applicant.
- Do respond to the program in a timely manner regarding acceptance/decline of interview or any special events, including pre or post interview dinner.
- Do contact the program promptly if you need to cancel your interview
- Wear khakis, or a sport coat, or really anything that is NOT a suit.
- cancel your interview the day before the interview.
National Residency Matching Program (2011). Results of the 2010 NRMP Program Director Survey. 49. Retrieved from http://www.nrmp.org/data