You’ve made plans, arranged for your flight and hotel (or found alumni to stay with)…. and now you are ready for the actual interview!
Learn about the program before you go. Check out the program’s website. Learn about the faculty – use google and PubMed to find out what they are interested in and what they have published. Look up recent graduates to see where they went after their training. Google the city, the hospitals and the medical school. Use this information to plan questions to ask if your interviewer asks “Is there anything you’d like to ask?”
Keep track as you go. It’s really easy to have the programs blend together after 3 or 4 interviews. Create a system to remember what you learned about the program and your overall impression. During the day of the the interview, use a notebook to record details such as who interviewed you, answers to your questions, comments made by the residents, data about the program, etc. After the interview (or during breaks) take time to write down your general impression. You may want to also create a form or use a spreadsheet with some kind of ranking system to be able to compare programs later.
First impressions are important. Be on time! Smile, be confident, shake hands firmly. Act like you are happy to be there. Remember, you were selected from a large group of potential applicants to be there – they want to meet you! Your clothes should be clean, pressed, and very professional. We all joke about the “sea of black suits” but there is a reason everyone wears them. It’s a fine line, though – you don’t want to look like you have on a uniform, so professional but stylish is ok.
Prepare for questions. Getting ready for interviews is a great time for reflection about some “big questions” – what you want out of life, why you have chosen your specialty, etc.. Use a journal, your family or your friends to “think out loud”. It’s important to think about what you will be asked, but don’t rehearse answers. The issue of healthcare reform is bound to come up in your interviews. Don’t worry about having a “right” answer to this question. Share your opinion, but answer in a way that makes it clear you are appreciative of all the points of view in this complex issue. A great resource is The Healthcare Handbook, a book written by medical students about healthcare reform.
Enjoy it! Yes, this is stressful and you are going to spend a lot of money and time, but this is a really special time. You will be seeing new places and meeting famous physicians in your field. You will also be meeting a large number of future colleagues. Don’t let the stress of interviewing obscure how unique and wonderful this process is!