Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What to Expect on a Residency Interview

      Before I became the residency interview expert I am now (just kidding.....I am FAR from an expert) I was very nervous about the types of questions I was going to be asked during interviews. I had heard horror stories about people being locked in rooms and asked to find a way out (supposedly evaluating how the person would act in a crisis), and I had also heard that the interviews were a piece of cake, that all the residency program wants to see is if you are normal and can interact with others or  a "good on paper" social misfit. Unsure of what to to think or who to believe I decided that I better play it safe and prepare myself to answer the types of questions I feared. My school does offer mock interviews, but I thought that they might make me even more nervous, so I decided to read a book. There are quite a few books on "acing" the residency interview, but the book I chose is called "The Residency Interview: How To Make the Best Possible Impression." by Dr. Jessica Freedman. Dr. Freedman was a residency program director at Mt.Sinai for a number of years, so I figured that she probably knows what she is talking about. I chose the book after reading the reviews on Amazon and found it to be pretty helpful. The book goes through the different ways that the programs sort through applications and choose who to interview, the different types of interviews (group, panel, open file, closed file, etc.), what the interviewers are looking for when they ask you specific types of questions, what kind of answers to give, how to put a positive spin on any red flags on your application, how to behave during the interview day, and more.
       I prepared myself to answer ethical questions, went back and reminded myself of the tiny details of all of the research I have done in case they asked about it, read up on Obamacare, and was pleasantly surprised in the end. The interviews were not nearly as bad as I had been anticipating. I really think it depends on the specialty to which you are applying (obviously they are not going to ask you to show them your surgical stitching skills on a psychiatry interview). Anesthesiologists are known to have laid back personalities and I am happy to report that the interviews have been just that. I have been on 17/20 so far and I have been asked ethical and/or behavioral questions on maybe 3 of them in total. I have NEVER been asked a question about anesthesiology (I have been told by some of the anesthesia residents I have rotated with that if a program asks a medical question to RUN not WALK away from that program).
       For the most part they usually begin the interview saying "tell me about yourself," "why anesthesiology," or "why our program." Sometimes they have read my file beforehand, and sometimes they haven't and flip through it in front of me. Some of the other applicants I have met at these interviews have complained about that and believe that the interviewer should be prepared as well, but I don't mind at all. I know that they interview a lot of people on many different days and are busy doctors. The few non-laid back questions I have been asked have been "tell me about an ethical dilemma you have witnessed during your rotations in the hospital and what did you do?" or "what do you think about the role of nurse-anesthetists in healthcare today?" I have learned from reading my book that it is best to give as neutral an answer as possible in those types of situations. I have only been asked a so called "illegal" question once, which was "what other programs are you interviewing at and which are at the top of your list." I am not sure how successful I was at answering that last question, but I did let the interviewer know that I was interviewing at a good amount of hospitals in many different cities and that they all had pros and cons. I also said that I was not sure of my top choices, which at this point is true. When that answer did not satisfy him, and he pressed me to give him a specific hospital, I gave him the name of a middle of the road program, not so close to New York but not too far, not the most prestigious place I have interviewed at, but not the least, and gave him some of the pros and cons of that program. We moved onto another topic after that.
      What I do find funny, is that I am asked the same key things about my application on practically every interview. I find it funny because these things have nothing to do with medical school, anesthesia, or even my pre-clinical years. I have worked on 3 different research projects, one during my early college years, one during my late college years, and one after college. For some reason I am always asked about the first project. You might be thinking that the project was on anesthesia-it wasn't. It had absolutely nothing to do with it. I have no idea why I am always asked about that specific project is. I also have an MPH in healthcare policy and management that I obtained on my year off between college and medical school, and I am always asked about that. Given the current healthcare climate in America, I can understand why. Lastly, if I am at a non-New York program, I am ALWAYS asked something along the lines of "you would be willing to leave New York?" I am beginning to think that the rest of the country believes that New Yorkers are snobs who are unwilling to live anywhere else even temporarily for excellent residency training and that we believe that New York is superior to all other places (well true). The fact that I not only applied to these programs but paid money and took the time to get on planes to travel to them is not enough to convince them that a New Yorker would leave New York for 4 years. Anyway, they are usually appeased when I tell that my priority is to get the best training possible regardless of the location, and then remind them that I went to college in Atlanta, Georgia and I loved it. That means that I am not one of "those" New Yorkers who is married to living in New York and refuses to leave.
      I am happy that I have only 3 interviews left to attend and hope that they will be as enjoyable as most of them have been so far. I also hope that I did not just jinx myself. Watch, I will be forced to try to intubate a difficult airway mannequin on my next interview. Oh well. If anyone has any questions or experiences they would like to share about residency interviews, please feel free :)


  1. I had an a@@h%le frat guy accuse me of farting during one of my interviews. I don't know if he was testing or hitting on me!!!! FOR REALZ!!!

  2. Thank you for share this informative post.