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  • Residency Interviews

    I'm submitting my residency application this week! Would love to hear advice on both how to succeed on the interview trail but also what you guys may have found important when choosing a program.   Obviously location, COL, program prestige all play a role--is there anything else that you wish you would have known prior to interviewing/ranking programs? Thanks!

  • #2
    Program prestige would be at the bottom of my list. Many programs with 'prestige' offer the worst training. Think about what makes an institution prestigious. Clinical skills are not weighted heavily towards "prestige." Look at the quality of the residency program, how busy the hospital and the department are. Believe it or not, residency is short and there is a lot to learn. You do not want to be in a cushy program. Not only will you not learn what you need to learn, but the reputation will follow you and will dictate what kind of job (and salary) you will get. Look at the people. Are they good and nice people? Are you a fit with them? Are they a fit with you?


    • #3
      Advice I received when applying to residency that I'm most grateful for: Look at the overall prestige of the program in relation to the rest of the hospital.

      You don't want to be in the program that is the ugly stepchild of the hospital.  You won't be respected there and you won't be given responsibility that will help you grow and learn.

      I'm EM.  Going to a hospital where EM docs were in administration, where EM residents were respected as the 'go to' people on floor rotations for procedures, etc, and where problems with boarding could be appropriately addressed made a big difference in my education.


      • #4
        Kind of depends on your specialty, career goals and what you ultimately value.  Prestige can certainly matter if you want a high-powered academic career or a competitive fellowship.  What people value can be so variable as well, I know people who had to be in a certain location or at the biggest name program at any cost.  I would say dress well, be professional and likable (by most people's standards), really try to feel out the program and it's residents and what they say.  Think hard about what you really want out of your training and what you value most, and ignore the noise, such as what people on SDN say and/or don't read too much into how you think a program may like you or value you (it can be political at times with some gamesmanship by PD's too).  Really think about yourself and rank them how YOU like them.


        • #5
          Remember unless you're in academics, outside of your own field no one has any idea what a good program is, nor do many really care. If they recognize the name of the university that will be in their minds a "good" program, true or not.

          You want to align your training with your goals as you currently see them. If you want to do research/academics go where this is emphasized, and if you want to know what you're doing and practice, go where you'll get great clinical skills.

          I think location is also big, not having to move, etc...can be great. Not more important than first couple but still big.


          • #6
            One trick I used when applying for residency was to read the specialty-specific Student Doctor Network forum for their residency interview thread. People will post when they get an interview at a certain place. If you didn't get an interview and you want one, e-mail the program director or program coordinator your interest. When others cancel their interviews for other places, you'll often be at the top of the list. I got many, many interviews this way, including at the place I eventually matched.

            Since this is a financial forum, I also recommend trying to keep costs as low as possible. Flying around the country can be expensive, and my best advice is to always fly Southwest when possible, since they are the only major airline which allows you to change or cancel your reservation without fees.

            Good luck!



            • #7

              I’m submitting my residency application this week! Would love to hear advice on both how to succeed on the interview trail but also what you guys may have found important when choosing a program.   Obviously location, COL, program prestige all play a role–is there anything else that you wish you would have known prior to interviewing/ranking programs? Thanks!
              Click to expand...

              1. Hit submit already!!!!!

              2. Have enough clean, pressed clothes (and/or make sure you iron, etc) to show up for 3 interviews a week, for that week crunch time happens!

              3. Apply to more programs.

              4. Pick another one to apply towards.

              5. Mentally completely separate the "interviewing" and the "ranking" programs. Do not even consider ranking until January. Put it out of your mind. Just focus on interviewing.



              6. Gather all the information you can before hand. Read program websites, consider which schools their residents are from, consider where they go post residency. Ready SDN, etc. Talk with colleagues.

              7. Interview. Be professional. You now live in a small world. You'll meet and see the same applicants at multiple programs. People (and programs) talk.

              8. We spent time (dinners, etc) with the residents and faculty at each program, trying to determine if the culture (people/place/etc) of the program fit. It's harder to learn if you don't mesh with your colleagues. Remember, you're stuck working with these people 3-7ish years. How many people show up to dinners? The mandatory 2? The entire program - and did they voluntarily stay for round #2?

              9. Read all the information again!

              10. Don't be afraid to cancel programs, if they don't fit your goals, if you can't fit them in, if they simply cost too much. Just do it as in advance as possible.



              11. Make a list, make it again, sleep, look at list, react.

              12. Ask (or have someone ask you): would you rather go here or here?

              13. Rank enough programs!! Question is: Would you rather have to reapply next year, or go to the last place on your list. When you'd really rather re-apply, then you're list is likely long enough. Make it longer anyway.



              Oh, and have fun too. Enjoy the travel, food, networking, people, places!


              • #8
                For my wife, there were three programs in our town, one clearly better than the others, and she wanted to stay here, so that's how they ranked.  She went on several out of state interviews, but she was competitive and got a lot of offers and turned down a few.  After the in-town interviews, the ranking was by prestige, how nice the people were, if it felt like a good fit, etc.

                Some programs you show up and you worry if you'll get your numbers since volume is so low, but others you show up and quickly discover the residency program is simply a slave ship of free labor for the hospital.  Somewhere in-between is obviously what you want.

                Other things to consider these days is if a program offers good subspecialty fellowships, these can be very competitive, and they tend to give them to the insider applicants first.  Also, you'll have a little bit easier time of applying to fellowships in general if you're coming from a respected residency.  In theory, it'll be easier to get a job in a competitive market if you're arriving with a prestigious residency/fellowship under your belt, too, but typically once you're in the workplace it's not particularly important where you came from.  Obviously prestige isn't everything, but if you know you're travelling, and burning 3-6 years of your life somewhere, you might as well do it at the most impressive place you can.

                Definitely check out SDN.  Lots of garbage on there, but lots of good info too, worth sorting through it.  Still, it's a limited subset of nerds who speak the loudest on there, so YMMV, caveat emptor, and all of that.   



                • #9
                  Some really great advice here, and definitely a few things i hadn't considered fully.  Thanks for the help! I'm definitely excited to start earning a paycheck again and get rid of this short white coat!


                  • #10
                    Go to the program that works hard and you're going to bust your butt being busy.  Not scut work busy, but busy doing surgeries, procedures, ect.

                    As above, if you want to be in academics and publish a lot then going to a "named" program would be more beneficial.  If you want to be a great community surgeon, go to the best hands on experience, as none of your patients will know or care where you did your residency training 10 years ago.


                    Interview day: be polite, ask good questions, do your homework on the program, talk to all the residents (ask them what they wish they could change or don't like about their program).


                    • #11
                      COL had nothing to do with our choice. It definitely had to do with the prestige/reputation of the programs for training, location as we couples matched, and how prepared we would be afterwards.


                      good luck!


                      • #12
                        I echo those above that prestige of a program is less important than you think- but totally depends on your goals. When I was applying I didn't think I would want to do a fellowship but didn't want to close that door either, so I only looked at academic programs and when one program mentioned how nobody does fellowship and the one person who applied didn't match that was a red flag for me. What's more important is the quality of the clinical training- I did residency at an academic institution that doesn't make the US News lists, yet had a VERY strong reputation for training competent ob/gyns and everyone knew it when I was looking for a job at the end. For procedural specialties, ask about numbers and figure out what averages are. For ob/gyn you actually don't want *too* many deliveries because that tends to be a sign that all you do is ob and may not get enough gyn time or cases. Ask what their pass rate is for boards. Try to figure out how much supervision there is from the attendings- too much is a bad thing. That's something that really annoyed me about my program (and changed for the worse over the years I was there). Are the seniors operating without the attending scrubbed? Yes you need to learn from the attendings but part of that is doing things by yourself while they're in another room rather than over your shoulder.

                        Get a feel for what the people are like- remember you will be spending 80 hours a week with them! Try to get a sense of how the residents are treated when life things happen- if someone mentions having a kid ask how maternity leave was handled. Even if you don't plan on having kids in residency, the answer may give you a glimpse into what would happen if you have an ill parent or whatever come up. Always go to the dinner the night before the interview (but 2 drinks MAXIMUM) and see how many residents show up and see whether they enjoy hanging out with each other.

                        Always be polite to the coordinator- they have more power than you realize. I know the ob coordinators have a listserv and will spread the word if someone no-shows an interview without notice. If something happens last-minute (snowstorm, illness, whatever) CALL them. Take notes after each interview because after a bunch you will start to forget things. Look at your notes as you start to make your list.


                        • #13
                          I mostly applied to pediatric residency programs in cities where my favorite baseball team occasionally travel to play (National League cities).  Fortunately that covered most of the best children's hospitals in the country, and I matched at my first choice, a big name place for my speciality.

                          Got to see my team play a lot in person.

                          Also got decent training and matched in a competitive fellowship at another big name place.

                          Lesson being -- there are a LOT of programs where you can receive good clinical training, and the nuances are going to be hard to decipher in advance.  If you're a good applicant you should be evaluating other components as well, and those are nuances you can anticipate.
                          An alt-brown look at medicine, money, faith, & family


                          • #14
                            disclosure: i'm an asst prog director in EM at a large prestigious university, sadly there is no emoji for an ivory tower  :lol:



                            1. dress like a senator. you would be shocked, or possibly not shocked at all, by the number of applicants who try to use a professional interview to express themselves through clothing choices.

                            2. have at least an idea of a focused career plan, it doesn't mean you can't change it later. you just don't want to be the 100th student that month saying you want to do "education and research" with a side of global health

                            3. write thank you notes unless specifically told not to. it's dumb and should go away across the board but it's still pretty standard. i do tell students not to but most don't.

                            4. be prepared for the most common interview question of all which is "what questions do you have for me?" you have to have a response to this other than, "oh.... no...."



                            1. think that politely declining or cancelling an interview with a reasonable amount of notice is going to get you blackballed. this stuff is handled by the admin support people the PD will never even know.

                            2. speaking of which, don't be a ************************ to the admin people or the guy at the front desk. still happens, every year. easiest way to not rank someone.

                            3. say you are interested in global health unless you have done legit work in this area. this represents 1% of med students at the absolute max.

                            4. badmouth other programs or your home institution.

                            5. sweat it if you can't make it to social functions.

                            6. ask about vacation/time off/weekends.


                            • #15

                              disclosure: i’m an asst prog director in EM at a large prestigious university, sadly there is no emoji for an ivory tower  ????



                              4. be prepared for the most common interview question of all which is “what questions do you have for me?” you have to have a response to this other than, “oh…. no….”

                              Click to expand...

                              I had a standard 3 questions, and just asked everyone the same ones. Not only did it make it easy and flowing when that question came it gave insight into the collective opinion on each of my questions and was super helpful in getting a feel for things.