Welcome to my five-part blog series on my tips and tricks for the residency interview season!
Interview season is in full swing, and these are the 3-4 months that I have been looking forward to since I applied for residency. It is an exciting and fun process, but also exhausting and repetitive. Along the way, I have made plenty of mistakes and collected many tips for surviving this unique time in med school.
I have divided this blog into several sections:
Part I – for days before and between interviews
Part II – for traveling by air
Part III – for traveling by car
Part IV – for things to bring/wear on interview day
Part V – for things to do/avoid on interview day
So without further ado – here are some of my tips for surviving the days before and between each interview:
- Go to the social events!
Residencies often host a social at a restaurant or bar the sometime before or after the interview in order to give you a chance to meet the residents in a relaxed environment. These are often optional, but it worth going to as many as you can. These are the people that you will be working with for several years, so it is good to see if you can get along with them.
- Try to stick to your normal exercise routine
Interview season is notorious for making people gain weight. The residency programs will often serve breakfast and lunch (which are always delicious and never healthy) and the socials will often involve alcohol and appetizers. Plus, you are going to be sedentary most of the time while traveling between cities and waiting around on the interview day.
- Be nice to the residency coordinator
Having a responsive and organized residency coordinator is amazing. This is something I hadn’t realized until I needed some interview dates changed. They seriously have the power to make your life so much worse, or so much better. In the milieu of scheduling, planning, and coordinating interviews it is easy to mess up. Having a proactive coordinator who knows how to help you troubleshoot scheduling mishaps is invaluable – so thank them!
- Use student doctor network
This website can often be a hit-or-miss. However, in general it has a wealth of information about interviews, programs, locations, questions, and so much more (most of which you would have never even thought to ask). But, it is important to take everything you read with a grain of salt. Remember that just because it seems like everyone is getting good interviews or doing better than you, does NOT mean it is true (or something you should worry about). The reverse is also true – don’t get too cocky if it seems like your scores are better or you have more offers. You will find tons of information on this site – ranging from helpful, to outdated, to blatantly wrong.
With that disclaimer out of the way, go crazy! It’s a great resource and it has helped answer many of my questions.
- Make friends with the other applicants
Most specialties in medicine are pretty small, and the pool of applicants applying in one particular year is even smaller. Plus, similar residency programs will tend to pick the same type of applicant. So, it is very common to see the same people over and over again at each of your interviews. Make friends!
It is important to remember that even though they are technically your competition today, they will be your colleagues tomorrow. I haven’t found any reason to hide information or lie either – my fellow applicants have always been genuinely friendly and it is always helpful to bounce thoughts and questions off people who are going through the same process.
- Get frequent flier miles and/or TSA pre-check
You will be traveling a lot. Waiting at the long security lines can take up hours of your time. If you plan to apply to programs around the country, it is worth looking into getting a TSA pre-check. The process can take months, so it does take some early planning. But it can save your hours in the airport. Frequent flier miles are also great because by the end of the interview season you probably will have accumulated tons of miles. Some of my friends have even saved up enough to pay for international post-graduation trips.
- Learn how to use a calendar/excel
Scheduling during interview season is one of the most complicated things I’ve ever had to deal with. If you are lucky enough to get a month or two off of your regular clinical rotations, all you have to deal with is booking flights/buses/trains, coordinating socials, trying to cluster interviews in the same location together, figuring out housing, and planning ways to explore each city. If you have to work during the time, you have the additional burden of getting time off, making up missed days, and traveling back and forth to your school.
So it becomes very easy to make mistakes. This is where excel and calendars become your best friend. Learn how to use them, update them often, and double check them obsessively – they have saved me many times from missing important appointments.