The Interview Trail: How to Succeed on your Residency/Fellowship Interview

"All of the above being said, you should enjoy the interviews as well and be yourself. You are being fed well, shown the sights, and you are meeting applicants from all over the country with vastly different medical school experiences."           -Jay Sridhar

"All of the above being said, you should enjoy the interviews as well and be yourself. You are being fed well, shown the sights, and you are meeting applicants from all over the country with vastly different medical school experiences."

          -Jay Sridhar

Whether you're applying for residency, fellowship, or even medical school, interviews can be a busy time full of preparation and excitement, stress and uncertainty. Today, Jay shares a few tips on how to excel on an ophthalmology interview. However, his pearls of wisdom are also applicable outside of ophthalmology to any field of interest! Thanks for joining us today!

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We are entering the heart of surgical retina fellowship interview season. Nipping on its heels is the ophthalmology residency interview circuit. In a prior blog post about residency applications in general we briefly touched on interviewing, but here are some specific pearls to remember before you take that fancy suit and new dress shoes on the road:

1)    Mock, mock mock: Practice makes perfect. Practice interviewing with your medical school classmates, mentors, significant other, whoever. Everyone has different comfort levels with interviewing. Just like you would not expect to pick up a tennis racquet for the first time in your twenties and play like Roger Federer, you should not expect to walk in cold and nail every interview.

2)    Common is common for a reason: While it may come across as mechanical to memorize responses, you should be prepared for the most common questions you may be asked. Here is a list to practice:

     -Do you have any questions about the program? (the most common question)

     -Why did you go into ophthalmology? Who were your biggest influences?

     -Tell me about yourself

     -Tell me about X activity/interest/hobby (from your application)

     -I have to sell you as an applicant to the rest of the residency committee. What should I tell them? Give me a 2 minute synopsis.

     -Why are you interested in our program?

     -Have you visited here before? If not, how do you find this city? Why would you be happy here?

     -Why are you a good fit for our program?

     -What are your three biggest strengths? Your three biggest weaknesses?

     -How can I convince you to come here? (not a promise)

     -I saw that you did a presentation on XYZ topic during your ophtho rotation. Tell me more about this. What do you know about current research on this topic?

     -Where do you see yourself in ten years? Why (academics/private practice)? Do you want to do fellowship?

     -Tell me about your research. How do you think this will be applied in the future?

     -What problems did you face in your research? What were your results? What would the follow-up project try to achieve?

     -If you were not a doctor what would you be? Why?

     -What are your hobbies (or questions about hobbies listed on your application)?

     -What is your favorite book? Why?

     -What is your proudest achievement? What was your biggest failure and how did you learn from it?

     -What is the future of this field? How will healthcare reform affect us?

3)    Be enthusiastic: No matter how high or low a program is in your mind, remember always that if you are visiting a place that means on some level you are seriously considering working there. So “turn it on”! Be excited, smile, be interested in the program because THIS MAY BE WHERE YOU TRAIN! You put in all the work to get to this point and now you get to see your future as a resident first-hand. You may be tired from a long day’s travel, you may be sick of seeing another examination room with slit-lamps, you may be sick of answering ‘Do you have any questions for me?’, but always remember to be enthusiastic and polite. This is the beautiful place you may be privileged enough to call your home program in the future.

4)    Be prepared: Given that this is YOUR program of the future, you should be well-prepared in advance about the program. At the bare minimum know how many residency slots there are, who the program chair and residency director are, who the coordinator is, and any other information available on a program’s website. Asking any of the above indicates to faculty/residents that you have not done your homework. In addition, talk to residents at your home program who may have interviewed there in the past. Read all feedback about the program posted online at Student Doctor Network or match applicants. All of this will help you come up with specific questions about the program that show how interested you are. And you should be interested, because this may very well be the place where you train. Better yet, these questions will actually be legitimately thought-provoking to you and your interviewer as opposed to the standard ‘What are the biggest strengths of this program?’-type questions asked by everyone.

5)    Carry on, carry on: Always carry extra photos, copies of your CV, and any of your publications (if you have them) on interview day. I stopped doing so about half-way through (since they were never used). Then I wound up interviewing with a faculty member who was pinch-hitting for a colleague and had never seen my application. That CV would have really come in useful.

6)    Do not sweat the small stuff: There are debates how “even” applicants are when they arrive for an interview. The best philosophy is to consider it dead-even and treat it as such.

7)    Have fun: All of the above being said, you should enjoy the interviews as well and be yourself. You are being fed well, shown the sights, and you are meeting applicants from all over the country with vastly different medical school experiences. Talk to them and learn about them! You will meet some very cool people who will be your colleagues for the rest of your life. You will see the same people at national conferences as a resident and then perhaps in fellowship and beyond. Some of them will be your co-residents! I made some very good friends on the trail and we wound up helping each other out throughout the season.

 

Note: much of this article I previously wrote up in a now defunct “Updated Unofficial Guide to the Ophthalmology Match.” Stay tuned for more excerpts in the future!

-Jay Sridhar

 

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Jayanth SridharComment