100 Difficult Residency Interview Questions

Medical Residency Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

Interviews for a Medical Residency can require a breadth of knowledge and attributes. Here, we present 100 questions, of which the top 5 have answers. These are suitable for candidates to a Residency in the US. Further questions and answers can be found in our Medical Residency Interview Question Bank

Top 3 Questions: Answered

What are your strengths? List three, briefly.

My three strengths that I would highlight are resilience, empathy, and analysis. My ability to come back or push through challenging situations has been core to my success so far in life – whilst I am lucky to have had great grades at school and a relatively smooth journey to medical school, family problems at medical school meant that I had to find a renewed focus and truly push myself in order to get to where I am now. All doctors need resilience, and a realistic appreciation of the challenges of the career, to succeed. I believe that I am highly empathetic – I provide support to patients, colleagues or friends, and am easily able to understand when others need help, when they would rather have time to themselves, etc. This in turn allows me to better develop trusting and caring relationships. My ability to analyse has been key for me at medical school – whether that’s analysing a patient’s case, or analysing a topic and understanding what’s important for future clinical work. I expect that it will continue to prove vital as I progress onward. 

What can you bring to this program?

I can bring a more mature and evolved version of who I have been at medical school. My high marks both in my degree and USMLE emphasise that I am highly driven, and understand what natural intelligence is not enough – we must work hard too, in order to succeed. My letters of recommendation illustrate that I am passionate about Medicine, empathetic towards patients, and eager to learn from senior physicians in order to drive better patient care, and in turn help the faculty that I am part of. I can bring a desire to take part in research, as well – I’ve been published in national journals, including the Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, and have been involved in research through both premed and medical school. I can bring empathy, resilience, and a keen analytical ability to bear on any challenge, great or small. I’m also keen to involve myself in the program outside of core work, and look forward to teaching medical students, and in time, residents. 

Tell me about three of the most important attributes for a physician.

Three of the most important attributes for a physician are empathy, resilience, and communication skills. To expand upon each:
– Empathy is vital as it allows one to better understand the patients whom one treats. It allows them to feel understood, and in turn it allows them to share more with their physician, leading to a higher standard of care. It makes for a more comfortable environment for the patient. Equally, it allows one to consider one’s colleagues and in turn ensure that they are happy and enjoying their work.
– Resilience allows a physician to overcome the many challenges that come with working as a doctor in the 21st century. Long hours, overcrowded or understaffed hospitals – there are many difficulties. Equally, many patients will face dire outcomes, and we must be able to treat them, accept their fate, and continue working.
– Communication skills are crucial both in a team when working with other healthcare professionals, and when interacting with patients. Without good communication we cannot deliver high quality care. 

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Two further high-yield questions

Tell me about a particularly interesting case. What learnings did you take from it?

(Psychiatry Residency)
An interesting case that I saw recently was Ms X. She self presented to the Emergency Department. She claimed to have had an argument with her sister, but no signs were found. Additionally, she had become worried about her deteriorating schizophrenic symptoms (showing a good degree of insight).  At the time of presenting she was a ‘Missing Person’, having absconded from her long term accommodation. Thus a request for police escorted transfer to the ward was placed, and Ms X was content with the arrangement. She had suffered from schizophrenia for 15 years – symptoms first began shortly after she graduated from university. At this time she primarily suffered auditory hallucinations, in which various figures, especially the Prophet Muhammad, would speak to her. She also displayed grandiose delusions that continue to today.

Since her admission one month ago, she has recently become increasingly concerned that hospital staff are trying to sedate her, and she believes that they are working with ‘satanic’ figures in this. As such she rarely trusts healthcare professionals.

I found her case particularly interesting as she was amongst the first psychiatric patients that I took a detailed history from, and her ability to switch from being relatively lucid about her condition, to saying something that was, rationally, entirely a product of her disease – like the number of children she had with the Prophet Mohammad – was surprising to me, and it took me a while to become used to it and take a history that still managed to touch on important elements.

Particular learnings that I took included ensuring that one has a clear idea of where a history needs to go, or what it needs to cover; that we often need to improvise when assessing patients, within the framework; that we need to work through a lot of noise to discover core points; that we need to extensively reference the result of taking a history (with patient notes, other physicians, etc).

Briefly present a patient to me.

A 54 year old male T1DM sufferer with a history of poor diabetic control has presented to the ED on [date], with suspected osteomyelitis of his right ankle leading to sepsis. He has suffered rigors and loss of appetite over the previous ~24 hours, and is unable to weight bear on his right leg. He has bilateral ankle oedema and his eGFR is 21. I suspect that the sepsis has precipitated an AKI, and suggest he is referred to nephrology and continued on his current antibiotic regimen, prior to being referred to orthopaedics for incision + drainage. His current medications are lisinopril and atenolol, aspirin, levemir, and novarapid.

In terms of management plan, I recommend:
– IV access, ECG
–  IV Fluids – 0.9% saline
– We need to establish a normal baseline creatinine reading for Mr, and monitor urine output to allow for better evaluation of his condition. Repeat U+Es daily
– Ondansetron 4 mg IM for opioid induced nausea, and senna 10mg oral o.d. for constipation.
– Begin flucloxacillin + benzylpenicillin to target cellulitis + osteomyelitis
– Contact diabetes team urgently
– Refer to nephrology as soon as possible
– He needs to be referred to orthopaedics for incision and drainage, with wick placement to ensure adequate clear-out.
– Continue admission medications. Aspirin and Lisinopril can be continued despite their link to AKIs.

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100 Questions

Direct Questions on your Credentials for Residency

  • Can you tell me about the research that you have done?
  • What is your class rank?
  • What was your USMLE Step 1 score?
  • Can you tell me about your 4th year rotations
  • What organisations do you belong to?
  • Did you take a course to prepare you for your USMLEs? (IMG)
  • Are there any physicians in your family?
  • What kind of learner are you?
  • Who has been your greatest mentor, and why?
  • What are your strengths? Can you list three, briefly?
  • Do you consider yourself to be organized?
  • How do you make important decisions
  • What is unique about you? What makes you different from everyone else?
  • What are your interests?
  • What one life experience stands out the most to you?
  • Tell me something academic that you have participated in.
  • Tell me about an academic achievement that stands out to you.
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • Tell me about a sport that you play or played.

Values and Attributes

  • Describe yourself in three words.
  • What do you value in your own life?
  • How would your best friend describe you?
  • What kinds of people are you friends with?
  • What qualities do you look for in a friend?
  • Who are your heroes?
  • If you had one wish what would it be?
  • List three people that you would invite to dinner. Why?
  • What would be on the 50th page of your autobiography?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What would be your perfect day?
  • What can you bring to this program?
  • How did you select undergraduate college and medical school?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Will you do a fellowship? In which specialty?
  • What is your ten year plan?

Readiness for Medicine

  • How well do you deal with pressure? Tell me about a time you worked effectively under pressure.
  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a colleague making a mistake.
  • Tell me about a situation in which you overcame a difficulty.
  • How do you deal with constructive criticism?
  • Did you think about any other specialties before choosing this one? If so, what, and why?
  • What worries you most about residency? What do you expect will be the hardest part of residency for you?
  • Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
  • Tell me about a verbally aggressive or otherwise difficult patient that you have seen.
  • How do you feel about the 80 hr work week?
  • How will you avoid burnout?
  • Have you always done the best work you could do?
  • Tell me about three of the most important attributes for a physician.
  • Tell me about one attribute that you have shown consistently throughout medical school.

Ethical Questions 

  • What would you do if you knew an attending was working whilst under the influence of alcohol?
  • Tell me about a time that you violated confidentiality and why you did it.
  • What would you do if you saw a colleague making a mistake with a patient’s medication?
  • What do you do if someone senior tells you to do something 100% wrong?
  • Tell me about a mistake you made in patient care and how you rectified it.
  • Tell me about a time you saw something unjust happen. What did you do to stop it?
  • What are your views on abortion?
  • How would you decide which patient should receive a transplant between an elderly judge and a young drug addict?
  • What would you do if you found that a senior doctor was having a relationship with a patient?

Leadership, Teamwork 

  • What does leadership mean to you?
  • Tell me about a time when you led a group or team and faced a sudden difficulty.
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a team member and how you resolved the issue.
  • Have you ever upset another team member? If so, how did you deal with the situation?
  • Which types of people do you have trouble working with?
  • Describe important relationships you have had with people.

Clinical Experience 

  • If you were in charge of your medical school, what changes would you make?
  • What was your worst clinical experience?
  • Briefly present a patient to me.
  • With what subject or rotation did you have the most difficulty?
  • How are old patients different from young patients?

Medicine, Medical Knowledge, and Hot Topics

  • What problems will our specialty face in the next 5-10 years?
  • Do you think that this field has enough doctors?
  • What do you think about the impact of pharmaceutical advertising on patient care?
  • What needs to be changed in our healthcare system?
  • What do you think community medicine means?
  • What is the most pressing problem in medicine today?
  • How do you expect Medicine to change in the next 20 years?
  • Tell me one way that you expect IT to change Medicine.
  • What do you know about the opioid crisis?
  • Tell me about some of the factors that might explain burnout amongst physicians.
  • How would you remedy the gap between a doctor’s perception of their role, and the role that they find themselves working in today
  • What do you know about the role of genetic testing in Medicine?

  • What do you consider to be the core of the ethical debate around genetic testing?

  • What do you know about Physician Assistants?

  • Tell me about the other healthcare workers that a typical resident might work alongside. Discuss the specialty that you’re interested in.

  • Tell me about how nurses’ roles have changed and evolved in the last 50 years.

  • How has the relationship between doctor and patient changed in recent years?

  • How should our specialty, or Medicine in general, look to change in the coming years? Consider a global issue.

  • What do you know about the career path that you are particularly interested in? What body is responsible for the specialty?

  • Tell me about one condition or disease state that you find to be particularly interesting. Have you encountered it during a rotation?

  • Tell me about the mechanism of action of one medication that you have encountered during clinical rotations.

  • What do you know about mRNA vaccines’ advantages?

  • Briefly tell me about the process of getting a vaccine approved.

  • Tell me about some countries that responded well to COVID-19, on the global scale.

  • Tell me about some countries that performed poorly during COVID-19.

  • Provide me with a brief overview of the different COVID-19 vaccines.

  • Are you interested in Rural Medicine?


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