Interview: Preparing Yourself

Prepare to answer all types of questions during your interviews, including very open-ended ones and ones that may probe weaknesses that appear on your application.
Know Yourself

  • Make a list of your top strengths, goals, values, accomplishments, and abilities to use as a general reference for all interview questions.
  • Develop your TOP 5 list. Go into every interview with 5 key things you want a program to know about you. What makes you a good candidate? What makes you unique?
  • Know your weaknesses. If you encountered academic difficulty you will probably be asked about it at least once during your interview. Know what you will say ahead of time and reframe it in a positive light. (Example: My father became very sick a few weeks before I took step 1 and I did not pass on my first attempt. I learned from this experience how to manage my education even in the face of personal difficulty. Though he was still sick when it came time for step 2, I passed the first time I took it.)

What Interviewers May Ask
Prepare to answer the most common question: “What questions do you have for me?” Many residencies want to see that you’ve thought carefully about their program and that you’re applying to them because you are interested in the unique things their program offers. This is your opportunity to let them know you’ve done your homework.
Make a list of potential questions you may be asked. Practice your answers ahead of time. The following is a list of potential questions that may aid you in your preparation:

  • How are you today? (there are NO innocent questions)
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why are you interested in this specialty? (#1 question asked)
  • What other specialties did you consider?
  • Why are you interested in our program?
  • What are you looking for in a program?
  • Where else have you interviewed?
  • Why should we choose you?
  • What can you contribute to our program?
  • How well do you feel you were trained to start as an intern?
  • Describe your learning style.
  • Tell me about… item(s) on your CV or transcript, past experience, time off, etc.?
  • Can you tell me about this deficiency on your record? (Do not discuss if you are not asked)
  • What do you see yourself doing in five (ten) years?
  • What do you think about… the current and future state of healthcare, this specialty, etc.?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • Present an interesting case that you saw during medical school.
  • Tell me about a patient encounter that taught you something.
  • What would you do if you knew one of your more senior residents was doing something wrong (e.g. filling out H&P’s without doing the evaluations, tying someone’s tubes without consent, etc.)?
  • Which types of patients do you work with most effectively? Least effectively?
  • How do you make important decisions?
  • If you could no longer be a physician, what career would you choose?
  • How do you normally handle conflict? Pressure?
  • What do you think about what is happening in… ? (non-medical current events question)
  • Teach me something non-medical in five minutes.
  • Tell me a joke. (Keep it simple and tasteful)
  • What if you do not match?
  • Can you think of anything else you would like to add? (Always add something!)
  • What is your vision of yourself in FM as a specialty?
  • What do you think will be difficult for you in residency and how do you cope with it?
  • Who are your role models and how did they affect the way you want to practice medicine?
  • How do you see yourself being involved in health reform?

There are some questions that are not allowed during interviews. If you are asked one of these, you can simply reply that you are not comfortable answering that question. “Illegal” questions might include:

  • What are your plans for a family?
  • Are you married? Have any children?
  • How old are you?
  • If we offered you a position today, would you accept?

Prepare Your Two-Minute Drill
This is a great response to an open ended question like “Tell me about yourself.”

  • First fifteen seconds is a brief review of who you are (My name is _____. I’m originally from ____, and I’m attending the UWSoM).
  • The next thirty seconds is a review of your educational background, undergraduate degree, work experience, and life experience.
  • The next thirty seconds is a review of special attributes from medical school, such as leadership positions, family medicine experience, or other experiences that led you to the decision for this specialty.
  • Final fifteen seconds is a review of why you’re interested in this residency specifically and what attracted you to this place here and now.
  • Optional closing if this question does not occur during the interview: “Tell me more about the residency or about your position with the residency.” This leads the way for the interviewer to introduce him/her self and the residency.

This is intended as an icebreaker that gives the interviewer enough information about you and your background and interests to start a longer conversation. Make this two-minute drill personal; you don’t need to follow the suggestions above exactly. In practicality, you may have 10 minutes of material that you have memorized and rehearsed that will allow you to mold the two-minute drill to any situation. The two-minute drill doesn’t have to be done in order from top to bottom. For instance, you may be introduced by another, then you can start the drill and skip the first fifteen seconds.
Mock Interviews
Do a mock interview. A mock interview can be done by family or friends, your advisor or mentor, or through the Family Medicine Department. Plan to treat every interview as though it counts and do not use your first interview as “practice,” because you may find that you really like the program. Prepare as if it were a real interview: review your answers to specific questions, have a list of questions you plan to ask, and if possible, dress as if it were a real interview.

  • Be prepared to address any potential red flags in your application, including extension of training, USMLE failure, or course failure. Programs are checking to see if you have insight and have taken action to correct the problem. Honesty is much preferred over defensiveness or excuses.
  • Practice the length of your responses.


  • Talk for too long (aim for a few minutes per question max)
  • Go off on tangents