Textbooks and clinical rotation teach you much of what you need to know as a medical student, but preparing for your residency interview is another story. How you present yourself and the answers you provide play a pivotal role in your possible acceptance into a residency program. You can expect the program director to ask very specific questions, and preparing for them is key. Here are some examples to get you started.
1. What do you have that other applicants don’t?
The tendency here is to make yourself look better by making others look worse. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, focus on your own strengths as proof of why you’re deserving of a spot.
Get specific. Telling the program director you’re dedicated and hardworking doesn’t say much — it’s a safe assumption that most of the applicants are dedicated and hardworking. Instead, provide examples of how you’ve excelled and unique qualities you have to offer.
Lastly, be sure your answers are tailored to that specific program. Do you research ahead of time and be prepared to explain why you’re the perfect fit for that residency program in particular.
2. What’s a weakness you need to work on?
This is a common question in interviews across the board. A lot of people try to tiptoe around the answer by saying things like, “I’m a perfectionist,” or, “I care too much.”
Your interviewer will likely know these responses are disingenuous, so try to be real with them. Weaknesses are acceptable, and we all have them. The point is to be self-aware and in tune enough with yourself to acknowledge these imperfections, and also address how you plan to improve upon them. Be open and honest.
3. What are your plans if you don’t match?
This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the interviewer your plan for success — the keyword here is “plan.” One of the worst answers you can give is, “I don’t know.”
One option is to begin by explaining the steps you’ve taken and will continue to take to ensure you indeed match. This shows the interviewer you’ve been preparing for this time in your life.
You also have the option to be candid and explain what you would do if things ended up not going as planned. Applicants who don’t get matched will often get a job in a clinical environment and also participate in a research project. This makes them a more desirable candidate the next time around.
4. Why do you want to be a doctor?
Again, it’s in your best interest to be specific. “Because I want to help people” is a heartwarming response and obviously the truth, but what else?
This is yet another opportunity to explain why you care so much about that specific program, and how you feel you can contribute to the field. You should be specific and honest with the interviewer, possibly explain what first struck your interest in the medical field.
Preparing answers for these questions and their likes can help separate you from other candidates. Remember to give well thought out answers that respond to what the question is asking.
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