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Jefferson Medical College Alpha Omega Alpha Guide to Residency
In order to be considered as an applicant to a program, you must interview in person. Interviews are usually 4-8 hours in duration and include an introduction to the program, interviews with faculty members and residents, a tour of the facility and usually breakfast and lunch. Additionally, some programs may offer an informal get together with the department or just the residents to give the applicants a chance to meet people in the department in a more relaxed setting. Depending on the specialty, the interviews may be a recruiting tool or a way to weed out applicants. They are your (incredibly brief) opportunity to see if you would feel comfortable in the program both professionally and personally. You get a chance to see the city (if it’s somewhere far from home) and meet the people you would be working with on a daily basis.
The number of interviews you will do is highly dependent on which specialty you are applying to and the strength of your application. This is another aspect of your application that you need to talk to your advisor about. Remember if you are applying to an advanced position, you will also need to interview at preliminary/transitional year programs as well as your advanced program (this can double your interviews). Factor in travel and hotel costs at out-of-town locations. This cost is not included in the school budget because it is designated as a professional rather than an educational expense. As most people do at least 10 interviews and you will usually need to spend the night in a motel the night before, you will definitely need to budget for this. Try to get in touch with out of town friends before interview season to cut costs. If plane tickets are involved, the cost can be in the thousands.
Interview invitations can come any time between September and January (or earlier if you’re doing a specialty with an early match). It’s good to make a calendar for yourself as soon as you start scheduling interviews so you don’t accidentally schedule interviews that conflict with each other. It’s also a good idea to reply to interview invitations ASAP since the available dates may fill up very quickly. Try not to change your interview date multiple times since this will make a bad impression. Always remember to be extremely polite to the residency coordinator since they often have a lot of input with the program directors. If possible try to cluster interviews in the same geographic area together so you don’t wind up having to travel to the same city multiple times. If you haven’t heard back from a program you can try calling to ask about the status of your application although they may not give out any information.
There are numerous sites listing questions to ask on the interview day. It’s a good idea to have several handy because everyone will ask you if you have questions and if you don’t, you risk looking uninterested in the program. You probably will have a lot of questions at first. At some interviews the interviewer may not even ask you any questions but may just want to know what your questions are. If you don’t have any the interview will be over very quickly. One source recommended that if you run out of questions, ask opinion questions. You can ask every interviewer the same question and get different perspectives. There are many lists of residency interview questions on the internet if you do a search. This is a link to the AMA list of interview questions: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/6701.html. Try not to ask too many questions about call schedule or vacation time in your formal interviews. These questions are more appropriate at the pre-interview dinner with the residents or on your resident-led tour.
A final note. While it’s tempting to compare programs you’ve interviewed at with other applicants on the interview day this may be better done in private and not in front of residents or faculty. Try not to bash other programs in your interview. This is poor form. Be aware that interviews are allowed to and may ask you where else you are interviewing. The best way to handle this is up for debate. You may choose to be vague but some program directors will ask for specifics. It’s an awkward but unavoidable reality.
After the Interviews
Most applicants write thank you notes. Some programs will specifically ask you not to write them. These programs will hold a special place in your heart. Some may ask you to only write one, which might be a good idea overall. If you’re going to write thank you notes probably just write them to the program director and an interviewer if you felt you connected with them in a special way.
After all your interviews, most people will let their top ranked program know that they’re top ranked. Not a good idea to tell more than one program that they’re your #1. Pretty unprofessional and PDs may remember this in the future when you’re applying for fellowships. Programs may contact you and let you know they’re interested. Programs are not allowed to ask you where you are ranking them and you are not allowed to ask. You are allowed to offer this information. Don’t worry if your dream program does not contact you - all programs have different ways of operating. (Check the NRMP website for the specific rules on communicating with programs because you don’t want to commit a match violation.)
Finally, all you can do is wait. Be happy to be done with interviews and glad that you had the foresight to attend Jefferson. Enjoy the rest of 4th year (truly an enjoyable year) while you wait for match day!
Good luck to you!