If you’re asking yourself, ‘why didn’t I get any interviews this season’, you are not alone. The 2015 residency match has been the most competitive in recent history with a record number of applicants fighting for the same amount of residency positions as previous years. Since the 2004 Main Residency Match there has been a steady incline in the number of applicants vying for the limited number of residency positions in the U.S. Although there has also been an increase in the number of positions offered, the increase in applicants over the past decade has been much more dramatic, therefore, making matching for a residency position much more competitive.
There are many criteria Program Directors look for in candidates for their Residency Programs. See below where your candidacy has holes so you can improve your chances to Match!
- Do you meet the minimum requirements? Every program has different requirements so it is important make sure you meet the minimum criteria to be considered for a residency interview. For example, do you have any attempts on your USMLE Step exams? Do you need the program to sponsor your visa? Do you have current ECFMG certification? Most residency programs, including internal medicine and family medicine programs, will not even consider you for an interview if you don’t meet their minimum requirements, so do your research and choose programs wisely! One Program Director from a University of California (UC) program stated that if you meet the minimum requirements you will automatically be given an interview.
- Did you apply to highly selective specialties? It is also important to remember that some specialties are much more selective than others. Typically, family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics are much less competitive than the more lucrative specialties.
- Where are the programs located? The location of a program also influences how competitive it is. Typically Urban and Underserved areas are the least-competitive programs. These regions are in need of Primary Care Physicians so internal medicine and family medicine programs are much less competitive in these areas.
- Do you have strong Letters of Recommendation (LORs)? To be a strong candidate for residency programs it is imperative to have strong LORs from university-based programs and from people that matter (i.e. Program Directors). It is very obvious to Program Directors when LORs that are weak and impersonal.
- Do you have US Clinical Experience in your field of interest? Not only is it important to have US clinical experience on your CV, but experience in the field in which you are applying. If you are applying to an internal medicine program, the Program Director will want to see that you already have some hands-on exposure in an internal medicine department.
- Is your ERAS application, Personal Statement, and CV customized to your desired specialty: Just as Program Directors will look to see if you have had hands-on clinical experience in your desired specialty, they will also note whether your ERAS application, Personal Statement, and CV reflect your field of interest. Make sure your personal statement addresses why you want to pursue a given specialty and that your ERAS application and CV include references from doctors within that specialty. Additionally, make sure to join any relevant societies to your specialty of interest and add these to your CV and ERAS application. For example, if you are seeking an internal medicine position it would be beneficial to join the American College of Physicians (ACP) or the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). Similarly if you are seeking a family medicine residency position you should join the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
- Are you a well-rounded candidate? In addition to US clinical experience, having done volunteer and research positions within the realm of healthcare can greatly improve your candidacy for residency. Working as a research assistant to a program director will not only provide you with a strong LOR but will also help to improve skills and techniques PDs look for in candidates for their residency programs.