How to Interview Like a Boss

Here are some tips to optimize your interview day and show prospective residency programs your potential.

With applications submitted and PHORCAS deadlines passed, your wait for residency interview requests has begun. As you wait, programs are reviewing residency candidate applications, and the first round of cuts are being made. When you get the interview invitation, breathe. Now is the time to prepare and gather anything you might need to optimize the interview. Here are some tips to show prospective programs your potential:

The Preparation

  • Make travel arrangements for a flight, car, and hotel.
  • Pack an outfit and a backup. If you fly, pack 1 in your overnight bag.
  • Update your curriculum vitae (CV).
  • Print copies of your presentation handout.

Once you arrive, take a calming moment prior to entering. Remember that the interview starts when you walk through the doors and ends when you pass back out. Choose your statements and questions carefully. The process can be rather intimidating. Knowing that it will be long, usually all day, 6 to 8 hours, will help you be mentally prepared. Most programs include a tour. This is a dual-purpose tour where you meet the preceptors and see the facility, while the selection team is evaluating you. Choose your words and actions carefully. Stay professional, and turn your phone off.

The Interview

  • Have your elevator speech ready. You have maybe 2 minutes of the interviewer’s attention, so be concise and highlight the most important aspects that led you to this interview.
  • The question, “What is your greatest weakness” can be a game-changer. Do not go trite, and be wary of generating red flags. A good way to prepare is to role-play your answers with a colleague or mentor.
  • Review your CV. Make any pertinent updates since you submitted it to PHORCAS. Be prepared to elaborate on any items that you have included. If you completed a presentation or journal club be able to summarize your experience.
  • Familiarize yourself with your letter of intent. Interviewers may ask about goals, strengths, or areas of improvement that you referenced in your letter. Be honest about your goals and plans. How will the program help you achieve current and future goals?
  • Be ready to provide experience examples. Write out situations in which you have made drug interventions, affected patient care, implemented or improved a process, or any other impactful experience. Be familiar with situations from school, work, or rotations so that you can use them as examples when answering interview questions. A “question-answer” bank will help you create polished and specific answers.
  • Do not sweat any off-the-wall questions, such as “What type of candy are you?” Your answer should focus on traits that highlight your abilities or character, such as confidence or teamwork. They are accessing your ability to interact with their team. It is not about the question but how you answer. Smile, take a breath and be a boss with the answer.

The Wrap-up

The moderator will ask, “Do you have any questions? Yes. Always respond by asking at least 2 to 3 questions. Questions show that you are interested and invested in a future with the program at which you are interviewing. Your research or tour of the program is a great place to formulate questions. You may focus questions on the goals of the program and preceptors, aspects of core rotations or electives not already discussed, or aspects of the program, such as certifications, daily schedule, and flexibility. Asking questions also allows your interviewer to shine about the program and his or her accomplishments. You can gain a lot of insight into work culture by how the residency program director and other members of the staff talk about the program.

Final Reminders:

  • Arrive early. If you are detained in any way, make sure that the committee is properly notified.
  • Stay local the night before the interview, if possible.
  • Wear professional attire and attitude, even if you know all the committee members.
  • Bring a bottle of water
  • Eat light during your lunch. Use this time to interact with their team.
  • Promptly, write thank you notes to each committee member and personalize the note to the program.

Be confident, be yourself, and express your desire to be part of the team. You do not have to be the smartest candidate they interview. You want to be a teachable candidate. Show that you want to work hard to improve through your year of residency. Keep your goals in mind and how this residency program will help you achieve them. You want to stand out as the best candidate to match with the team, program, and goals. Remember this may be your final chance to leave a lasting impression before match day. Good luck, and be a boss!

This article was written with Emily Bilas, PharmD, PGY-1 resident, who is a clinical pharmacist at HCA West Florida Hospital in Pensacola.