Friday, April 8, 2016

Dr. Thinker: Interview season and FAQs related to interviews

1.      When should you be in the USA?
-          I would advise you to be in the USA, at least from the 1st of Oct until end of Feb (Rand order list submission) or Match day ( if things doesn’t go as planned, it’s better to be in the USA for SOAP).
-          If you are in the USA, you can contact programs by telling that you are in the vicinity and so can make it to the interview at a moment’s notice.
-          Even in February there are chances to get an interview due to last minute cancellation by others.

2.      Where should you be in the USA?

-          It’s better you stay close to family as you will be draining your bank accounts during this period.
-          Try to stay closer to the east coast, as most of us( IMGs) get maximum of our calls from the North East.

3.      What should you be doing during the interview season?
-          It’s better if you don’t sit idle.
-          Either get into some observership or research.
-          During the interviews, the programs would like to know that you are doing something to better your chances for the residency.
-          The most important reason you should be doing something is that it gives you a chance to build up CONTACTS. You never know whom you are going to meet. The person you may meet even in Feb might be the one who’s going to better your chances of matching.

4.      Would there be any use if I join any obsie or research after September?
-          Definitely, for the above mentioned reasons. Don’t let go any opportunity or don’t stop trying for one.

5.      What if I don’t get any obsie or research opportunity?
-          Keep trying for one.
-          Stay with family if you want to save money.
-          Stay with a group of friends so that you can keep yourself updated with all the things going on and also you can practice for interviews.
-          Keep practicing for the interviews assuming that you might get one the next day, even if you don’t have one by then.

6.      What filters does a program have to screen applications for interview? How do they select a candidate for an interview?
-          It varies from program to program.
-          Some programs have filters for step scores, some have filters for YOG, some for medical school (yes even for foreign schools),some have for USCE.
-          There is no clear answer as in how one gets an interview.
-          Having many alumni from your medical school in a particular program definitely helps in getting an interview there. It’s because the PD has already seen people from your college and he can assume that you would be good enough, too.

7.      How important is YOG?
-          You would get more interviews if your YOG is in the same year as the application season compared to those with YOG > 1year. Provided, rest of the profile is almost similar.
-          Programs definitely like to see a recent YOG.
-          YOG up to 3 years is not a factor to worry about if have decent USCE and LORS.
-          It becomes difficult when the YOG crosses 3 years from the application season. It only becomes difficult, but it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t get interviews or you wouldn’t match. 
-          There are many people who match with YOG > 5 years. Work on USCE, research, MPH etc.

8.      Can first year residents help in getting interviews?
-          Yes, the can. They can’t guarantee but the chances are high.
-          Of course, it depends on how well the resident knows you, how strong his recommendation is and how much importance the program gives to residents recommendation (varies from program to program).
-          If not anything at least your application will be reviewed for sure.

9.      Does last minute interviews (those you get in late dec,jan or feb) or of no use?
-          It doesn’t matter when you get it.
-          There are people who matched into programs where they got interview call in Feb.

10.  Does courtesy interview matter?
-          Once you get an interview it doesn’t matter how you got.
-          The chances could be very low if that program doesn’t take IMGs or you genuinely don’t have a good overall CV (not just scores).

11.  How to answer during an interview?
-          Be honest, but don’t be too honest and give away negative things about you.
-           It’s like talking to a girl. You should give the answer the interviewer is expecting and make it appear that honestly it is what you wanted all your life.
-          Don’t lie. They are experienced enough and will find it out now or later.
-          Know your personal statement and CV in and out and make sure that there are no discrepancies with your answers.

12.  What are the questions commonly asked during an interview?
A.      Tell me about yourself: Don’t bore them with what you already have on your CV. Give a short description about your professional life and then talk about personal side. If there is anything interesting to know about you, your hobbies etc. You can start with “I am xxx, originally from xyz. I worked for so many years, finished all steps and was able to get so many months of USCE or research in the USA. Then start talking about the personal side.
B.      Why this specialty? This is most important. Have a proper and solid answer. Give at least 3-5 reasons.
C.      Why our program? This shows how interested you are in their program and whether you did any research before going there. Again, 3-5 reasons.
D.     Where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years from now? Your answer should include both professional (If university hospital – you can talk about fellowships and research. If community hospital with no proper fellowships or research – It’s better you don’t talk much about these two. You can mention becoming a primary care physician or a hospitalist) and personal side (like family, kids, your dream house, dream car etc)
E.      Which fellowship are you interested in? It’s better to tell them  you are inclined to certain subspecialty but you are still keeping your options open and that you would like to decide after going through different subspecialties in the 1st year of residency. If the interview is at a community program with no fellowships, don’t talk much about fellowships. You can tell you are open to becoming a hospitalist too.
F.       What are your strengths/What can you bring into this program? Give them at least 3 of your best qualities. Don’t sound too high about yourself. Be humble. Eg: You can say something like “ my friends say that or my parents say that” or “ I have become this or learnt this “.
G.     Why should we take you instead of others? This is just another way of asking the strength question. First acknowledge other candidates by saying that you are sure they are all well qualified to get an interview. Then you can talk about what you can bring to the program.
H.     What is your biggest weakness? Any skeletons in the closet? Don’t be too honest and say some irritating thing about you. For eg:  don’t say stuff like “I irritate people sometimes” or “I am lazy”.  Pick a safe thing which would be common for many people and ideally pick that weakness outside of medicine.  Eg: Fear of public speaking is a common one – but make sure to mention you never had any problem with patient interaction and it never affect your medical life. And also that you are trying to get over it and what you are doing to get over it and how it is not a problem anymore. Another eg: I am OCD about doing things in a perfect way – This is a positive thing in disguise.  OR you can say you don’t have any weakness if you don’t know what to say( last resort).
I.        What are your hobbies/what do you do in your spare time/ How do you keep yourself calm or from becoming crazy? Don’t lie. They can ask you questions related to it if the interviewer has similar interests. If it’s something that can be done, they can even ask you to do it right there. Like dance, singing or playing drums.
J.        What are you doing now? Tell me more about it. It could be about obsie or research.
K.      Do you have any questions for me? This will be asked for sure. Make sure to ask something. But, don’t ask something that is already on the website or mentioned during the presentation.
L.       Do you have family here?
M.   Are you married? If yes, where is your spouse? Would he/she move here in case you match at our program? Do you have kids? Are you planning for kids? (especially for girls)
N.     How do you deal with conflicts? Have you ever had any conflicts? The best answer to say is that fortunately you never had any conflicts in your medical career with anyone. In case if it does arise then you would deal with it in steps like “acknowledging it, analysing it, devising a plan of action, and if it’s out of hands then seeking help of attendings” – Just an example of how to approach.
O.     What type of patients are hard to deal with? One of the commonest answer is non-compliant patients. You will have to explain why they are hard and what do you do to deal with them. Another common answer is those without insurance.
P.      Tell me about an interesting case you came across. Present it in the same way you would present a patient.
Q.     What are the differences in medicine you noticed in the USA compared to your home country?
R.      Is there any subject you think that lacked during your medical school/Are you satisfied with your medical school or professors? Universal rule: Never talk low of your professors, medical school or country. You should always say things like “they did their best and that you are very happy to have them”. With respect to subject – you can talk about behavioural science as it is not stressed upon much in India. But, make sure to tell that you had learnt it during step1, continuing to learn it and that you don’t have any difficulty now.
S.       Why did you take up medicine? You should have a proper answer to this. If you had mentioned this in your PS, stick to the same story.
T.      Very few programs can ask medicine related questions. They can ask you direct questions as in how you would manage a situation or they can give a case scenario and ask how you would proceed further.
U.     Why did you want to come to the USA? What have you noticed so far?
V.      Is this your first match? If no, why do you think you didn’t match last year? What have you done to improve your chances this year?
W.   What would you do if you don’t match this year?
Ideally an interviewer shouldn’t be asking these questions. But, sometimes they do.
X.      Have you got more interviews? How many? Where did you get? The best thing to do is to give a straight answer without beating around the bush. You are not going to lose anything. But, if you beat around the bush it might irritate the interviewer. Eg: I have x number of interviews, I have at program Y, program Z and so on.

13.  Do you need to join any kind of interview coaching?
-          It should be your personal decision.
-          From my experience, it’s not at all needed.
-          All you need to do is practice the common questions with a couple of your good friends.
-          You can find ways to answer particular questions on google or youtube.
-          You can even find videos on how to behave during an interview.
-          You can save tons of money (which you would be needing for applications, travel etc) by preparing on your own.
-          You can take tips from your friends who are now residents or from the residents/fellows/attendings at the place you are doing obsie or research.
-          To get confidence read a book:
-          Don’t listen to too many people on forums.
-          Thousands of people match every year without joining any iv course.
-          If you genuinely feel your confidence is very low/ you are very poor at personal interactions/ you are really bad with words and/or if money isn’t a problem: Then join any iv course. It can boost up your confidence and take that stress off you.

14.  Do’s and Do not’s during the interview.
    Do’s:
A.     A firm hand shake. Not too soft nor too tight
B.      Greet, ask how their day is going, show concern for their busy day
C.      Smile all the time
D.     Make eye contact all the time.
E.      Sit straight
F.       Put your phone on silent
                 Do not’s:
A.     Do not make your answers appear rehearsed
B.      Do not tap your hands or feet
C.      Do not carry too many documents
D.     Do not rush your answers
E.      Avoid bad breath (carry a mouth freshener)
On the interview day:
A.     Arrive 10-15 mins before your scheduled time
B.      Greet everyone including nursing staff or janitors
C.      Keep smiling all the time
D.     Avoid using cell phone
E.      Interact with everyone
F.       You can eat the food they provide as much as u want. It isn’t considered bad. Just use a mouth freshener every time you eat or drink something.
G.     Don’t talk too much or too little
H.     Pay attention to the presentation – you might find answers about the program
I.        Pay attention to morning reports or seminars. Take down notes to show interest.

15.  How many people will be interviewing you?
          This varies from program to program.
-          Most of the time it will be individual interviews. It means only one person interviews you at a time. The number of such individual interviews can range from 1 to many (maximum 3 on an average).
-          Sometimes it could be a panel interview – meaning two to three interviewers at a time in the same room with you. Make sure you address everyone and look at everyone while answering. Don’t ignore anyone even if they aren’t asking any questions.
-          Sometimes it could be a group interview – meaning one interviewer with all the candidates in the same room. Make sure to stand out. The interviewer can ask the same question to each one individually or may just throw a question and wait for someone to answer. Make sure you keep talking something or the other. Don’t sit silent.
-          Some of the places also keep a psychiatrist or a behavioural therapist as one of the interviewers to assess you in depth. Mostly at a university program
University programs usually have at least one group interview session. They are more focused on assessing you at a personal level than testing your knowledge.

16.  What to carry during an interview?
A.     You can carry a back pack.
B.      Carry a portfolio for documents( if you don’t have any documents)
C.      Carry a notepad and a pen.
D.     You don’t have to carry any documents unless they specifically mentioned to bring.
E.      Just carry an updated CV (preferably one page), timeline of what you have done since graduation, and any research papers you published.
F.       Definitely do not carry ERAS CV or score reports.
G.     Carry any certificates or honours you might want to show.
H.     You don’t have to carry proofs for anything unless they ask for it. To be safe you can keep it in your back pack, but not needed generally.

17.  What to do before the interview day?
A.     Research everything about the program. Look up their website.
B.      If you have friends in the program, try to get specific details which you can use during the interview.
C.      If you know someone that already went for an interview there, talk to them to get a general idea.
D.     If you have time and you are in that area, go around the hospital. If not, open google maps and explore things around the hospital. You can look for good restaurants, things to do around, places to visit and talk about these during the interview day. It shows your interest towards the place.
E.      Have your suit ironed, shoes well-polished.
F.       Most importantly, have a good night sleep and appear fresh.

18.  How to schedule interviews?
A.      Schedule them as per the region. If possible try to schedule all the interviews in the same city/state or nearby states as close as possible. This way you can save a lot of money on travelling.
B.      Even if the interview is in the same city, keep at least one day gap to relax. It’s ok to have it on two consecutive days if such a situation arises.
C.      If the programs are far away or in different states, then keep at least a 2 day gap. You will have to account for any delays in flights/buses. Keep one spare day.
D.     Try not to keep interviews in areas like Chicago during the peak winter months like December and January, unless you are living there. Also, try not to take a connecting flight that goes through Chicago during these months.
That said all this is possible when you get most of your interviews during the start of the season itself. If that happens, most of the interview dates will be available and you can choose them as per your convenience.
But, for the interview calls you get in late October or later on, you won’t be having so much flexibility in scheduling dates as most of the dates would have been taken already. Sometimes, only one date might be available and you have to either take it, ask them to keep you on waitlist or leave it.
19.  Do the programs give us the interview date or do we get to decide?
    They will give you a list of available dates to choose from. But, if it’s a last minute interview due to cancellations then you won’t get to choose.

20.  How many candidates does a program interview?
They usually call anywhere between 6-20 candidates per residency position. 

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