Making an Impression
Your guide to being a successful residency applicant
Academic performance, exam scores and extracurricular activities set the foundation. Here's what else you can do to get your application noticed.
By the time you complete residency interviews, you’ve invested a good deal of time in preparing for the next step in your career. You’ve completed three years of medical school, crafted an impressive CV and personal statement, researched medical specialties and completed rotations. Now it’s time to make the next move: securing the right spot for your residency training. Here are some tips on getting started preparing for residency interviews, and successfully navigating the process.
Submitting application materials
You can use the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) to apply to both osteopathic and allopathic residency programs. The system is your one-stop for transmitting applications, letters of recommendation, COMLEX or USMLE transcripts and other supporting documents.
Typically schools provide access to ERAS in June or July before your fourth year. You’ll want to apply immediately once you receive access. Former students recommend uploading at least your personal statement before submitting applications, then uploading remaining supporting documents.
Be sure to apply broadly, especially if you’re considering practicing in a competitive field or you’re matching as a couple. Some students apply to as many as 10-30 programs to boost their chances of matching into a program. However, you’ll need to factor in how much time and money you can afford to spend on the application process.
While you don’t have to interview at every program that comes calling, former students recommend going on at least five to 10 interviews for the experience. If you’ve gone on less than five interviews by fall for osteopathic programs, or by winter for allopathic programs, they recommend applying to your backup programs.
If you are invited to interview for a residency program in another city or state, you’ll need to plan for transportation and lodging. If you’ve lined up multiple interviews in the same city, ask if you can set up your interviews around the same time to cut down on travel costs. You also can save money by:
- Staying with family and friends who live in the area where you’ll be interviewing.
- Seeking lodging on Swap and Snooze, which connects medical students with available housing to residency interviewees seeking lodging.
- Investing in a solid carry-on bag to avoid paying checked bag fees.
- Researching airline charges for cancellation fees in case your interview gets rescheduled at the last minute.
- Cashing in your frequent flyer miles towards additional flights as well as other travel-related expenses, such as lodging and car rentals.
Acing the interview
Once you’ve booked a flight and packed your bag, it’s time to prep for the actual interview.
- Practice answering interview questions with a family member or friend. Be mindful of how you sit, if you fidget a lot when you’re nervous, and if you use filler words like “um” when answering questions.
- Watch this on-demand webinar, Advanced Interviewing Strategies for Residency, from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine for residency interview tips and strategies.
- Stick with traditional interview attire – black, navy blue or gray suit and tie for men, dark suit or dress and jacket for women.
- Ask people who interviewed at the program or current residents for insights on what to expect the day of the interview.
- Research residency or department websites to learn more about the general structure of the program as well as study biographies, if available, to learn more about the chairperson and other notable faculty.
- Write out and practice your answers to common interview questions, such as how you would mediate a conflict with another resident, how you reacted after making a mistake, or what book you’re currently reading.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions. Prepare a list of questions for the chairperson, faculty and current residents.
- Be prepared to discuss anything listed on your application. Don’t just name your leadership or committee roles, but share what you learned by participating. If you list a special skill, be prepared to demonstrate your proficiency.
After the interview
Be sure to send thank you letters after the interview. You can ask the program coordinator for a list of interviewers and if they prefer regular or email. The letters should be concise and note something unique from your conversation. Also don’t forget to thank the interview coordinator.
You’ll need to submit the rank order of residency programs for both the osteopathic and allopathic matches by January of your fourth year. Application deadlines vary, so be sure to check in with your desired residency programs. Note that with the transition to a single accreditation system for graduate medical education, the AOA anticipates that 2019 will be the last year to use two residency matches. Starting in 2020, all students will use either the NRMP—the primary Matching service for ACGME residency programs—or, if they choose, a different match program such as the Military Match, the Urology Match or the San Francisco Match.