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Interviews: Dos and Don’ts

Interviews: Dos and Don’ts

A CONVERSATION WITH CARLA V. VALENZUELA, MD


How did you prepare for the interviews?

One of my classmates going into Ophthalmology gave me great advice. He told me to look up the most common residency questions online and then write out my answers to all of them. Writing out the answers made me really think about what I wanted to say as concisely and effectively as possible. I often hear students asking if they should do any research on who will be interviewing them, and my advice is not to contact the program in advance about who will be interviewing you because chances are that you will be interviewing with the entire faculty (they often do three interviewers for 15 minute increments). A list of commonly asked questions is provided to help you at the end of this article.

Any suggestions on how to practice and prepare in advance?

If your medical school has mock interviews, take advantage of those. See if you can be filmed in your mock interview and then review the video. It will show you what quirks you have when you interview and how to correct them. If that is not available, find a friend, family member, mentor, or others to practice with. Ask about sample residency interview questions to assist in your interview preparation. Watch your body language. Be sure you sit up straight, speak clearly, and do not give any inappropriate signals. Nervousness comes out in lots of different ways. Try not to be the type of interviewee who gives off the wrong signals.

What questions proved the hardest to answer or surprised you the most?

This is hard to answer since every program is different. For any question, the easiest thing to do is be open and yourself. If the interviewer asks you hard questions, they are just trying to see how you handle stress. There is no right answer, so just take a deep breath and showcase your personality.
After the interview, think about what went well, what questions gave you trouble, and how to improve before the next interview. Just remember the question and work on your answer for the next interview.

What follow-up is necessary after the interview is over?

Be sure to thank each interviewer and shake their hand when it is over. You should write thank you notes to your interviewers or just the chairs and program directors if it was a large group.

Did the interview process include any other meetings? Any tips for making the most of these opportunities and what not to do?

Yes, the interview process usually includes dinners. The best thing to do is be yourself. You will be meeting residents who could you be future co-residents and they just want to get to know you!


About Carla V. Valenzuela, MD
Carla V. Valenzuela, MD is a resident physician and postdoctoral research fellow with the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO.

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