Interview: Interview Day

The purpose of the interview is for both parties to learn about each other to determine if the applicant and residency are a good fit. This is a time for you to get to know them and for the residency to get to know you. It is an opportunity to learn and explore.
The entire experience is the interview. If you are with someone from the program – staff, faculty, or residents – you are being interviewed. Any one part of the interview process can make or break your chances of getting into the program.
Pre-Interview Events
The dinner and social hours that residency programs hold before interview day are a great way to learn more about the program and get a feel for the residents and faculty who may be interviewing you the next day. Even though this will be a more informal event, remember that your interactions during these pre-interview activities will be included in the program’s discussion of you after you’re gone. Go to social events. You may be tempted to skip, but you will miss out on valuable information. Also, some programs won’t rank students who do not attend the social events as they see it as a sign that the student is not really interested. If it will be difficult to get to a pre-interview event due to travel (for example, if your flight lands at 8PM the night of the dinner), let them know that you are sorry that you will be unable to make it due to your travel schedule.
What to Bring
Carry copies of your CV, personal statement, and transcripts, your lists of questions you wish to have answered, and a note pad with you as you would for your interview (use a nice portfolio). Bring outerwear for bad weather and breath mints for after lunch.
Getting to the Interview
BE ON TIME. This cannot be over emphasized. If possible, go to the building prior to the interview so you know where to go and how to get there so your travel on the interview day will go smoothly and allow you to get there on time. If you cannot practice getting to the interview site before your interview day then leave plenty of time in case you get lost or encounter other travel difficulties such as construction, public transit delays, or parking issues.
Shining in the Interview
For the actual face-to-face interview, make sure to make eye contact, shake hands, smile, introduce yourself, and if you’re asked the open ended question, “tell me about yourself,” use your two-minute drill. Questions can be repeated from interviewer to interviewer. Most of the time the interviewers don’t talke with each other until after the interview day is over and won’t know anything about the interactions in a previous interview. Try to sound fresh and positive even if you have answered that same question 5 times. Your questions will change depending on whom you are talking with. For example, residents will know more information about call schedules and the intricacies of different rotations. Prepare a group of questions for each time of interviewer – resident, staff, faculty, and the program director.
Make sure to:

  • Not ramble.
  • Listen to the questions asked, and understand what is being asked, and answer the question that was asked.
  • Not answer a question they did not ask or add too much loosely-related information.
  • Be comfortable with pauses, silence – stay poised and confident
  • Sound fresh every time – be prepared to answer the same question 20+ times throughout the entire interview process.
  • Smile! It’s highly underrated and often forgotten when nervous or tense.

Shining Throughout the Day
Remember that you will be “on stage” for the entire day. Treat everyone with respect; everyone you meet before the interview and on the interview day will be involved in the decision about your application to the program. All staff, including receptionists, nurses, and the folks who answer your phone calls and emails, have a voice in the resident selection.
Interviews are draining emotionally and physically. Maintain energy and interest throughout the entire day. If you need a minute or two away to regain your brain, excuse yourself to the bathroom, get a drink of water, or find some way to get a minute or two by yourself.
Accept invitations for future contact. If residents offer you their cards, take them. You can send them an email later to let them know how much you appreciated their time and ask any lingering questions. Take faculty member’s contact information when offered and reconnect with them to let them know mow much you appreciated their time.
What does a residency look for in an applicant?
The following is a partial list of things programs look for in applicants during the interview:

  • Knowledge base
  • Academic progress
  • Initiative – self-motivation is an important part of being and learning as a resident
  • The ability to recognize one’s own limitations or knowledge gaps. The program wants residents that can recognize and find a solution to a knowledge gap or limitation in a specific ability to perform a skill. This becomes the task of accurate self-assessment, which is a lifelong process of being aware of one’s knowledge and one’s limitation.
  • Motivation
  • Personality – warmth, caring, compassion, maturing, self-awareness
  • Ability to work under stress
  • Commitment to work and get the job done
  • Maturity
  • Fit with the goals fo the program
  • Fit with the residents and staff at the program
  • Reliability. Is this an individual I can trust to take care of patients at night when no one else is around? Will they get help when they need it? Will they care for patients on their own? Will they get done what they say they will do? Will they treat others around them, including staff and patients, with respect? Will this individual be able to do the job?

Listed below is what the program directors reported on the 2010 Program Director Survey as what the program uses to rank applicants, in order of importance. Note that interactions with faculty and residents are the top factors used to rank applicants for the match.


  • Ask thoughtful questions about the program.
  • Talk intelligently about family medicine and why it’s the discipline for you.
  • Be genuin.
  • Feel free to follow up and ask for faculty and resident contact information. You can use this information to send thank you letters and ask questions you forgot to ask during the interview.
  • Make eye contact with your interviewer and use nonverbal cues to show that you are listening to your interviewer.
  • Treat the staf with the same respect you do the residents and faculty.
  • Act professionally during your interview.
  • Prepare for the trip: look at a map, visit websites that will give you information about the community and surrounding area. Know where you’re going – if you’re unfamiliar with area, don’t assume similarity of geography or climate because of how near or far it looks on the map. Make travel plans accordingly.


  • Don’t openly compare the program you’re interviewing at with other programs in town.
  • Don’t be rude to staff.
  • Don’t spend the day asking for special favors such as asking the program coordinator to run an errand.
  • Don’t interview if you’re not interested in the program.
  • Don’t obsess over getting parking validation for the interview.
  • Don’t slouch during your interview.
  • Don’t use your cell phone during the interview. Even if you’re only taking notes, it looks like you’re not paying attention.
  • Don’t ask questions that are easily answered by looking at the program’s website.
  • Don’t be ingratiating with faculty or the program director.
  • If your spouse or partner accompanies you to a social event, do not engage in public displays of affection.
  • Bringing infants and small children is not advisable as they can disrupt activities.

National Residency Matching Program. (2010). Results of the 2010 NRMP Program Director Survey. Retrieved from