Today, 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).
Top 10 Tips For Residency Interviews
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, so 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, I will know what to say. 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.
One of my favorites…
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. You should 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 therefore 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.
What a great resource for not only residency interviews but any post-undergrad interviews!! Definitely pinning this 🙂
Thank you Carolynn!!
Hi Andrea! I’m a new reader – I just found your blog and am loving it! I’m a first year med student in Canada in a 3-year compressed program, so I’ll be graduating in 2016. Congrats on all the interviews – getting 23 interview offers for a competitive program like optho is amazing! Fingers crossed you match to your top choice! Also, yay to interviews being done in time to relax and enjoy Christmas! I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this post in 2 years when I’m interviewing. 🙂
Hi Lisa!!! Thank you so much for the nice comment! I am so glad you found the blog. Congrats on med school!! It will go by so fast 🙂
First off, congrats! I am so proud of you. I can only imagine how exhausting two months on-the-go must be, but you handled it so well (and never complained!). Your moderate approach to eating, exercise and really, just life, during this time is not something that comes easy for everyone. While many people would use it as an excuse to go balls out and eat whatever, not exercise, etc. (the all-or-nothing mindset), you have created such balance in your life, and not just over these last two months. And… these tips are super helpful! Definitely a list I will revisit in the future.
Thank you Emily!!!! You are the best 🙂 And you flatter me way too much- you are the inspiration!!
Congrats! You are quite the inspiration! Thank you for posting these tips. They’re super helpful. Question: When you write thank you notes, how do you know who exactly to write to? Do you ask for their names after the interview? What if there are 3 or 4 people interviewing you? I’m a premed who’ll be applying to medical school in the summer. I don’t have that much experience interviewing so any information would be helpful. Thank you. 🙂
Aw thank you! When you interview, you are normally given some papers with the names of your interviewers so you know who you are talking to. When I interviewed for med school, some of my interviewers weren’t from Indianapolis (they were from other cities in Indiana) so I just googled their names to find their office address. You can always send the thank you’s to the program coordinator or secretary as well- they will make sure they get to the right person 🙂 Good luck with med school applications! Let me know if you have any other questions!
Jody - Fit at 56 says
CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thx for sharing your knowledge!
Congrats, Andrea! I’m so proud of you. Isn’t it nice to finally relax a little? lol
And thanks for the tips. They are really good ones! Especially in the medical field, the ethical dilemma question can come up quite often.
Heather @ Pretty Strong Medicine says
Congratulations on being done with interviews! Just in time for Christmas, too. As always, I love being about to follow your journey. It’s sets me at ease that all this work I’m doing now will pay off in the long run.
You should be so proud of your accomplishments. Fingers crossed and prayers your way for a perfect Match Day this spring!
Thanks Heather!!! I’m sure you are doing awesome! How are you liking this semester? It’s almost over woo hoo!!
I stumbled across your blog this morning while waiting for our match results. Very nice! I really enjoy living in Rochester-Congratulations on matching here!
Hi, I came across your blog while looking up residency interview tips. Would you mind sharing where you got your suits for interviews and button down shirts? I’m on the hunt for a couple suits and shirts to go underneath. Thanks!
Nykolas Griffith says
did you get invited to Miami Bascom palmer?
Great tips! I’ll be using these for my upcoming interviews 🙂
Hello! I’m a 4th year med student currently gearing up for interviews. I had a question about the picture above on the right (the all black outfit)… did you wear that to your interviews or the night before? Just wondering because you don’t have a blazer on. Thanks!
Andrea Tooley says
I wore it for the dinner the night before 🙂
Andrea Tooley says
Good luck with interviews!!
Thanks so much! 🙂