So you received a residency interview – congratulations! Reaching this step is a celebratory checkpoint, but it’s not the end. For international medical graduates, the interview can very well be the most daunting aspect of the residency application. Once you get an interview, that itself can be the most important factor in how you’re ranked to be matched. Read on for some tips on how to impress your program director, for whom this will be the first time meeting you in person.
- Personality counts.
Remember that they already know you were a great student throughout medical school – this opportunity is to get to know you more as a potential colleague and as a person. As with the personal statement, convey qualities that are less tangible but are necessary to be a good resident such as the ability to work in a team, teachability, humility, innate curiosity, and reliability. Make sure to be polite, sell yourself in a genuine way, and ask questions. After all, remember that while scores and CV experiences speak for themselves, only you can speak for you.
- Confidence is key!
The fact that you were chosen for an interview means you already impressed the program directors enough to make it past the most competitive step of the process. If you got this far, it’s because they are seriously considering you. Make sure you know all aspects of your application inside and out prior to your interview, from your specific duties in research to what you wrote about in your personal statement. Have detailed responses ready for general interview topics, such as why you are seeking this specialty, individual challenges you have faced during/after medical school and how you worked through them, accomplishments that you’re proud of, etc. Even if English is not your first language, keep calm, speak clearly, and respond to questions authentically. Avoid filler words such as “like”, “you know”, and “um”.
- Maintain enthusiasm.
Keeping energy levels high for extended periods of time is a crucial part of being a doctor, so make sure your liveliness is present for the duration of the interview. Be excited when discussing your previous experiences, what you learned from them, why you’re interested in this program, and what your detailed future plans are. Remain alert, sit up straight, keep eye contact, and introduce yourself with a smile and firm handshake. Your passion will shine through, and that’s what counts here because in the interview, who you are is just as important as what you know.
- Convey the fact that you are an international medical graduate as an advantage both for yourself and the program, not as a disadvantage.
You may be asked why you make a better candidate than an American-trained medical graduate. Discuss what makes your voice unique, how your experiences with different healthcare systems in different countries give you your perspective, and how you can bring in diversity. Make sure to focus on yourself, your qualifications, and your aspirations, as opposed to being critical of other groups.
- Be professional (and gracious)!
As with all interviews, arrange travel and transportation ahead of time, get required paperwork in as soon as possible, be punctual, dress in business formal, and thank the program director for their time. Remember that the interview includes any and all correspondence and personal interactions starting from the time you receive the interview offer. On a final note, be sure to write a brief but genuine thank-you note (preferably handwritten) to everyone you interviewed with; often times, interviews are conducted on their days off.