Clinical: Mastering the Match Interview: Expert Tips for Success for Medical Students

Mastering the Match Interview: Expert Tips for Success for Medical Students

Osmosis Team
Published on Aug 28, 2023. Updated on Aug 24, 2023.

We're sharing tips with medical students on how to interview successfully after Match Week on today's Osmosis blog. Learn how to stand out from the competition by asking the right types of questions and carefully honing their interviewing skills. Let's get started!

After meticulously crafting your residency application, it’s time to shift your focus to preparing for interviews. Residency program directors only extend interview invitations to applicants who truly impress them and who’ve managed to stand out from the crowd.

To ensure success, thorough residency interview preparation is crucial! While reviewing commonly asked and challenging residency interview questions is a great starting point, taking your preparation to the next level is crucial. 

6 Effective Ways to Ace Your Interviews:  Make sure you look polished and professional: First impressions matter, and dressing appropriately will demonstrate your commitment. Know your application inside and out: Get familiar with every aspect of your application and be prepared to answer questions, in detail, about your experiences, projects, and achievements. Research the residency program: Make sure you’re clear on their mission, values, and recent developments to show your genuine interest, and to ask questions during the interview. Practice with mock interviews: Sit down with your mentors, residents, friends, and family members and practice thinking on your feet to build confidence and handle unexpected questions. Demonstrate confidence in your communication: Make eye contact and speak clearly and confidently. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answers. Send thank you letters: Personalized thank you letters to the residency director (and anyone else present at your interview) will help you stand out from other candidates.

Remember, receiving an interview invitation from a residency program means they’re already interested in you! Practice answering common interview questions and do your best to avoid sounding like you’re reading off of a script. Show how your skills and experiences make you the ideal candidate for their program.

Practice Creates Progress

Securing a residency spot ranks as one of the top priorities for most medical students. Feeling anxious about the process and wondering how to properly stand out is normal. The key to acing your interview is to do your research and practice consistently.

There are many sources with commonly asked residency interview questions that you can use to prepare. While it’s important to note sound robotic or scripted during your interview, having a handle on the important points you’d like to convey to your interviewers is super helpful. 

It’s also important for you to have a list of thoughtful questions for your interviewers as well as any residents you meet from the program. Remember that the interview process isn’t just about convincing them you’re a good fit; it’s also about making sure that the program is also a wonderful fit for you. You’ll be spending years of your life training at a residency program. Ask the right questions so you have a better understanding of the type of environment you’ll be immersed in.

Take time to sharpen your interview skills. Practice with a mentor, resident, friend, or even family member by having them ask you common and difficult residency questions. You don’t know what the next interview question will be, similar to how your actual residency interview is set up. Mock interviews will help you learn to think on your feet and answer questions with confidence. For example, if you listed a volunteer experience with a particular organization, take the time to refresh your memory about the organization’s main objectives, your role as a volunteer, your time spent there, and how you found the opportunity. Being able to accurately speak about your experiences shows that what you shared in your application is actually meaningful to you and worth learning more about.

Another vital aspect of preparing is doing the necessary research. Make sure to invest time learning about the programs you're interviewing with. Look at residency program websites to get familiar with their program. Keep an eye out for any interesting news about the program to help spark intriguing questions during your interview. And make sure to research the background of each of your interviewers and make note of any shared interests or career goals. Discovering commonalities can lead to compelling questions and make you more interesting and memorable to the residency interview committee. 

Virtually Amazing

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) announced that residency interviews will be held virtually for the 2022-2023 match season, eliminating the need for traveling to interviews, and saving residency applicants time and money. However, it’s important to remain mindful of how they conduct their virtual interviews. 

Make sure you have a good internet connection, a contact number for someone at the residency program in case there are technical issues, a clean and non-distracting background, and great lighting. 

Make sure that your attire is professional and appropriate. How you dress also has a positive effect on your confidence; dress for the position that you want. Check your lighting. Try sitting in front of a window with lots of natural light, or consider buying a small light ring. And make sure your interview background is clean and without visual distractions. You don’t want to be remembered as the applicant who had something unsavory in the background!

Once the interview starts, maintain eye contact with the camera to show that you’re fully engaged, even though it’s tempting to glance at your own reflection. Do your best to avoid fidgeting or unnecessary hand movements. And when it comes to answering questions, speak with poise and confidence. You’ve been preparing for this moment, make sure to shine! 

Keep in mind you may not know the answer to every question right away. It’s fine to ask for a little bit of time to think, collect your thoughts, or even just take a quick pause. How you respond when unsure is just as important as how you answer with certainty. 

And don’t forget to ask the questions that you’ve prepared! Ask about the program’s values, treatment of residents, learning environment, and opportunities for growth. It demonstrates your genuine interest and helps you gather important information about the program.

Post-interview Etiquette

After each interview, take some time to reflect on the experience and jot down notes about the program. List any pros and cons, interesting topics discussed, and fun facts you learned about the program and the people you met with. Those insights will help while you’re creating your Rank Order List and need to decide which programs to prioritize. 

In addition, those notes will help you create personalized thank-you letters for the residency director and everyone else involved in your interview process. A personalized thank you not only helps you stand out but can help you establish a connection with your interviewers. But be mindful about adhering to each residency program’s rules regarding post-interview communication and behave accordingly. 

Once you’ve finished all of your interviews, make sure to celebrate your accomplishment. The matching process requires a lot of hard work, but countless doctors have successfully gotten through it before, and so can you! Embrace the journey with confidence, and keep in mind that this is a pivotal step toward achieving your dream. Cheers to your future success!