What Are Residency Admissions Interviews Looking For?

Medical Residency Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

An interviewer for a place on a residency program will be looking for a common set of factors – largely that you will be an asset to their program, a safe and effective doctor for their patients, and that you will learn from the faculty in order to progress onto your chosen speciality in time. Your values should match those of the program. Here we will look at and assess some of the top factors that an interviewer will look for.

Your Commitment to the Speciality

Taking the lead in any interviewer’s decision-making process is your commitment to the speciality that you have chosen, and that they of course practise themselves. You will have expressed this motivation before the interview through your personal statement, through clerkships you have undertaken, and through your research experience. If you are applying to a plastic surgery residency, for example, you would be expected to have chosen specific rotations during the third and fourth year of medical school – your clinical years – that best align with this goal. This might include general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, or vascular surgery, or perhaps even psychiatry, with the proviso that you were interested in the underlying reasons for people choosing to have cosmetic surgery, as well as interested in reconstructive surgery for those affected by serious accidents. In other words, you will need to not only have chosen suitable rotations, but also be able to explain your reasoning for these choices.

At interview, you should be ready to describe what you found to be the most exciting and interesting part of each rotation, or which elements of the rotation made it stand out from others. The more a rotation is aligned with the residency that you wish to pursue, the more you should be able to pinpoint factors that interest you, and in turn have influenced you in your decision to follow that specialty. You might also choose to add colour to your choice of specialty with certain characters that have influenced you – perhaps tutors or clinicians that were particularly inspiring, or even family members that paved the way for you to follow in their footsteps, and instilled a deep interest in the speciality in turn.

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You will be expected to have undertaken research at medical school in order to demonstrate your passion both for Medicine as a whole and for the particular specialty that you have chosen to pursue. The former is important, the latter important too if you are competing for some of the more difficult specialties. You should be able to explain how you went about finding research opportunities, and of course be able to explain the research that you undertook in detail. Ideally you will have different types of research in your repertoire – for example assisting with both a meta-analysis and a clinical trial would show wide-ranging ability and interest.

Professionalism and Ethics

You must be able to demonstrate that you will be a professional doctor with strong ethics. In order to demonstrate professionalism and ethical awareness you should consider both your performance throughout your rotations (which will be largely assessed through the MSPE) and potential questions at interview. Regarding the former, you must be ready to discuss your academic history, and anything in particular that will stand out regarding your conduct throughout your time at medical school. Remember that examples of ill-behaviour will be brought up and thoroughly probed, so you must be ready to explain why any such event may have happened. Conversely, if you have a perfect record you should be ready to use this in discussion and deliver it as evidence of your likely future performance. You should also be prepared to discuss ethical cases that have either come up during your clinical rotations, or that could come up during your residency. For example – how would you react to one of the senior physicians showing up to work drunk, and possibly endangering patient safety?

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Volunteering & Extracurriculars

Outside of the medical school curriculum, you will also be expected to have demonstrated some range of extracurriculars and volunteering. However, this will be of lesser importance compared to your core performance at medical school, research, and marks.

Leadership and Teamwork

Be ready to demonstrate that you are a strong leader, and that you are an able team player. You will be able to draw upon your clinical rotations, and must also think through the extracurriculars that you have taken on for further personal examples.

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