InterviewI often get asked by my advisees: “In my residency interview, what should I talk about or do to make myself more competitive?”

To help you demystify the interview process, I wanted to share with you some insights. Overall, the interview day itself helps the program put a person and personality with your online ERAS application. Similarly, you quickly get a sense of the program’s personality. In EM, the residency interview day is generally pretty laid back. Not too many crazy questions. Programs just want to get to know you. Both you and the program should be asking each other– Is this a good fit?

In terms of making your application more competitive, I personally find that interviews don’t actually help your cause. Your performance on interview day can, however, HURT your application. Can it hurt so much that you get dropped down several slots on the program’s Rank List? Yup. Can it hurt so much that you get dropped off the Rank List entirely? You betcha.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid on your interview day:

  1. Do NOT be late to your interview day. Map it out. Factor in traffic and weather. Get there early to be sure. Trust me, the program notices.
  2. Do NOT get drunk or do anything that you’d regret at the pre-interview social event. Don’t let the casual atmosphere trick you. You are still being observed. 
  3. Do NOT be a gunner. Unsolicited remarks about how great you are isn’t appreciated by anyone. The program already knows of your accomplishments. This is a time to show off your social skills and ability to fit into a team.
  4. Do NOT be clueless about the residency program. Spend a few minutes at least looking at the program’s website to familiarize yourself with the program.
  5. Do NOT lie in your interviews or on your application. Students have been found to list themselves as participants of projects and authors of publications/abstracts which don’t actually exist. This is a major professionalism issue, which no program wants a part of.
  6. Do NOT leave your Facebook open to the public. Professionalism and social media is becoming an increasingly hot topic in Medicine. Why place yourself in the middle of controversy? Close your account to friends and family only. I’ve heard of a few programs scouring through their applicants’ Facebook accounts.
  7. Do NOT be texting or checking email constantly during the interview day. An occasional check is fine. Programs notice when you are constantly on your iPhone or Blackberry and aren’t engaged in the day. This is really your only time to figure out if the program is a fit for you over the next 3-4 years.

Does anyone else have additional pitfalls or pearls to add?

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD