I want to talk about my top 10 tips for residency interviews, but first… guess what? I am now completey DONE with interviews for residency in ophthalmology!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I cant believe it. I’ve had 23 offers and accepted 13 interviews. The big reason I had to turn down so many was because they were all on the same day and I couldn’t make it to all of them. I originally planned on doing 14, but when I realized that I loved almost all the programs I had already interviewed at, and wasn’t super excited about the 14th, I decided to cancel it. Maybe it will open a spot for someone who was more interested in that program than I was.
All the interviews I’ve been to have been just incredible. I felt prepared and wasn’t caught too off-guard during any of them.
Here are my top 10 tips for residency interviews, interview preparation tips, and questions they will ask you (or at least what everyone asked me).
1. Have 2 suits. I originally only had 1 suit but broke down and bought another because after wearing the same one 4 days in a row, you will want a back up 🙂
2. Know the answer to this question: “Tell me about yourself”. This question could be answered in a million different ways. Keep in mind that they already have your application, so this is the time to tell them something about yourself that maybe isn’t on your application. I always told them a little history of me- I was born in Florida, moved to Indiana when I was 16, I would talk a little about how small my high school was in Indiana (I graduated with 13 people), then I went to college and studied English Literature and now I’m still in Indiana for medical school. I would add in, “I like to cook, read, listen to podcasts, and workout”. That is generally enough to get the conversation flowing.
3. Know the answer to this question: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Know if you want to go into private practice or academics. Also, it’s okay to say “I don’t know” but explain what you’re thinking about at the moment. For me, I don’t know if I want to be a clinician scientist or a community ophthalmologist. I explain how I think I would be excellent in either field and how I can see myself being happy either way. I also explain that I think it’s okay not to know at the moment.
4. Be prepared to ask questions. I hate this part- but lots of programs want you to ask them questions. Some of my go-to questions are ones geared at getting a sense of the attitude of the program. I ask, “What is your interaction with the residents like?” “What kinds of qualities do you think make a resident successful at this program?” I also ask, “what challenges does the program face?” “what opportunities are there for research?” and other more specific questions depending on the program. For example, yesterday I asked about a new refractive surgery center that’s coming to the program.
5. Be prepared for situational questions. I have about 5 or 6 set stories that I can pull from if someone asks me to give an example of a time I resolved conflict or a time I worked as a team, or a time I had to make a quick decision. You can google behavioral interviewing and find lists of questions you should be prepared for. Yesterday I was asked, “Tell me about a time you had an ethical dilemma”. You can’t just think of a story like that on the fly! You have to be prepared.
6. Make friends! Now is a great time to make friends with other people on the interview trail! I actually made a handful of great friends that I would see all the time at various interviews and it was SO fun. These people will be your co-residents and colleagues one day, so get to know them!
7. Be prepared to answer all kinds of questions about your research. If you did research, you better know everything about it.
8. Know what you want in a program. Some programs will ask you what you’re looking for and I have found it very helpful that I can describe what I want in a program. It also helps you to know if a program is a good fit for you or not. They are all different and so it’s important to know what kinds of things you want in your training! I look for things like research opportunities and a residency continuity clinic. Other people might want strong retina faculty because they are interested in retina fellowship- it all depends on what you want.
9. Send thank you cards. Some people say it doesn’t influence your ranking in the match but I don’t care. It’s the nice thing to do. These people took time out of their days to read your application. I think they deserve a big thank you! When you get someone who has truly read your application and knows all about you and then asks you probing, interesting questions, it is wonderful and deserves appreciation. I try to write hand-written thank you’s to everyone who has interviewed me. Some programs have panels of interviewers and it might not be feasible to write 15 thank-yous, but at least write them to the program director and department chair.
10. Be grateful. I know interviewing is expensive, exhausting, and time consuming. But, it’s an incredible opportunity and I think it’s important to be grateful. I am SO stinkin proud and thankful that I got 23 interview offers and I remind myself every day what a privilege it is to travel all over the country for 2 months, meet people in my field and talk about why I love ophthalmology.