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Online Residency Interview Tips

Medical Residency Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

The following is a brief overview of core tips for online residency interviews, which are becoming all the more common in the wake of COVID-19.

Familiarise Yourself with the Interview Format

There are various different possible interview approaches that you may encounter during an online residency interview (or, for that matter, in an in-person interview). The four possible approaches are:

– Virtual interview days: Here a program will attempt to recreate the full in-person interview, with multiple interviews from different members of the faculty or residents
– Pre-recorded interviews. Often taking place through a program like CASPER, these one way interviews involve you recording yourself in response to pre-set questions.
– Asynchronous video interviews: These involve interviews with members of the program over different dates, with responses recorded in turn (e.g. two interviews with pre-recorded questions in the second referring back to your first)
– Second-look interviews: These interviews see selected candidates inhibited back for a follow-up to help the decision making process

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Get There on Time

Be aware that the timings might be more specific and demanding than in-person interviews, which will see you show up at the start of the day and have guidance throughout – instead you will likely be given one specific time to log in. Therefore, make sure you keep on top of any information from the university, and ‘show up’ (log-in to the meeting room or waiting room as appropriate) well in advance of the slot you have been assigned. Logging into the waiting room in good time also gives the interviewer a good impression – showing that you are organised and ready in advance. Ensure that you have a ‘buffer,’ timing wise, both before and after the interview – you don’t want to be stressed about the interview starting early or running late.

Have a neutral background. Some people will suggest that the ideal background is a plain colored wall, whilst others will suggest either a virtual background or a particular background that shows your personality. Virtual backgrounds can be a little risky, so the ideal might be a relatively plain backdrop with one or two items that would show your personality or allow discussion. A sensible decision would be a plain wall with a bookshelf and plant, for example, providing a more pleasant view than an entirely blank space behind you.

Remember that your background can be questioned. If you do decide to strategically place items in the background, ensure that you are prepared to discuss them. This is especially relevant for books, which you must have read and be able to discuss in some detail with your interviewers. Equally, be aware that paintings or posters could be picked-upon, and in particular you must avoid anything that could be seen to show a political leaning, as this could lead an interviewer to be (at least subconsciously) biassed against you from the outset.

Respond Naturally to any Tech Problems

Whilst you will hope that no tech issues appear, if they do you should approach them naturally. An echo, feedback, or camera issues are entirely normal with video calls and acknowledging them will help to make the interview run more smoothly. Everyone (be they the faculty or interviewees) is aware that these issues happen, and therefore will be understanding. Additionally, showing a natural ability to deal with a difficult situation (perhaps through humour, or simply a quick confidence) will impress the interviewers and reassure them that you have some of the qualities needed of a future doctor.

Show the Correct Body Language

You should sit an appropriate distance from the webcam and ensure that your head and shoulders are clearly visible. Try to align your eye level with the webcam – remember that by making eye contact with the webcam rather than the screen, it will appear to the interviewers as if you are making eye contact with them. Try not to fidget, and adopt a pose that feels comfortable, whilst appearing professional. Sitting with hands crossed in your lap may help you resist the urge to fidget. Try to avoid adjusting the webcam or referring to / engaging with anything off-screen. You can make appropriate hand gestures if you have set up the webcam in a way that shows enough of your shoulders.

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How do I decide whether a residency is suitable if I can’t see them in person?

The same factors that you would rely on in-person are mostly available online as well – just remember to ask questions, listen to what is said, and take notes if needed. Ask about the teaching culture, work-life balance, research opportunities, etc – whatever is of importance to you.

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