Questions Asked During Residency Interviews

After completing the lengthy process of taking USMLE exams and becoming ECFMG certified, obtaining letters of recommendations from clinical experience, filling in your residency application on ERAS and applying to residency programs, you are finally able to get some residency interview calls.

For most applicants, it’s a first time experience – especially for IMGs, to interview for a residency position. It is ok, many people often feel nervous. In most cases if you have decent USMLE scores, a few months of US clinical experience, less than 5 years from graduation, an Interview is not something to lose sleep over. It is an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths and explain any weaknesses. The programs basically want to make sure that you are sane and a likable person with whom they would be fine working with for 3-5 years.

Since every person’s background, experiences and application strengths and weakness are different, so is the interview, which is essentially based on your application. Typically, the person interviewing you will review your application and read your personal statement to know about you. The starting point is generally an introduction and typically the strengths of the application. Some of the interview questions frequently asked are:

Tell me about yourself?

The personnel interviewing you would like to know engage in a conversation, so this question is typically the first question. An appropriate response can start from your country of birth and the medical institution, a brief discussion about your academic experiences, such as observerships/electives etc, concluding with your interest in the specialty in which you have applied.

Why did you choose US?

A reasonable answer can be that the training opportunities in US are the best in the world. You can also discuss if you plan on staying in US or going back to your home country – and either way such training will be most helpful in advancing your career. Avoid discussions regarding financial benefit or any specific self-centered benefit.

How do you think the US medical health care system is different from the healthcare system in your home country?

It depends on where you have completed your training. You will have the best idea about it yourself, especially if you have clinical exposure to a working environment at US hospital.

Tell me about your XYZ experience – what did you learn from it?

Typically, it relates to your clinical experiences, and/or advanced degree courses you have undertaken. You should be able to explain clearly how that experience shaped your perspectives and career.

What are your long term goals?  Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Describe your long-term career plan specific to any particular specialty you are interested in.

What do you think makes you different from other applicants?

It would most likely be your clinical (and research) experiences plus your background and not scores.

Do you want to pursue an academic career or do you want to work in a community setting after completing your training?

If you are interviewing at a community hospital, then you can say community setting or most likely focusing on the community.  However, you could state you are also not opposed to the possibility of an academic career.

How do you explain your low USMLE score or a gap in your CV?

Do not give excuses. You can talk about subsequent scores only if they were better to suggest that you have improved.  If there are other strengths, you can say state that while your score may be average, your application on the whole shows many strengths overall.

Why do you think our training program is an ideal fit for your training?

It will vary, answer based on your knowledge about the program. Often times, discussion with residents working there will help.

What are you looking for in a program? Do you have any questions?

Mention points that the program can provide you with. For example: excellent training, clinical exposure, academic opportunities etc.

Even though the questions are the same more or less, every person’s answers would be different. To get a sense of how best to answer these questions, you should do an internal evaluation of your own application and think about your future goals. You should come across as someone who is clear in his mind what he/she wants. Also remember that no one is perfect, every person has strengths and weaknesses – you can provide explanations for all aspects of applications. It is always helpful to obtain consultation from experts in the field or your seniors who encountered similar situations as yours.

When you tackle it: be confident, to the point, truthful, and answer only what is asked.