The Match Series Part III: Interviews & Rank List

Disclaimer: These are my personal tips and I, in no way claim to be an expert on these topics.

INTERVIEWS

ATTIRE:
Invest in at least 2 suits and pairs of shoes that look great on you, you feel confident in, and you can move around in. The tours can be very long and you may be walking more than you expect, so keep this in mind. I generally wore heels on interviews and carried flats in my bag for the tour. Do try to keep your suit conservative (dark color, modest, well-tailored), interview season probably is not the time to break out your most fashion forward, brightly colored suit with a questionable length skirt. Be sure to sit and stand in your skirts to make sure they are an appropriate length in both positions. Pantsuit vs skirt suit, it honestly doesn't matter. I wore my pant suit for the majority of my interviews because it was November/December. However, as you can see in the photo to the left, my skirt suit got its fair share of wear.
Pro-tip: Catch the Ann Taylor 50% off sales she has a few times a year, I caught the Sept/Oct one, and get your suits. I was able to get two suits (one with both pants + skirt),  and two shells,  $700 value for around $300.


KNOW WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR
Prior to going on interviews try to identify what YOU are looking for in a program, trust me you WILL BE ASKED.  It could be research opportunities, fellowship match rates, diversity, diverse clinical experiences, community vs academic setting, the type of patient population, mentorship, collegiality among residents.  Of course there are a number of things you are looking for in a program, and many programs will have a lot to offer, but I’m asking you to focus on 2-3 MUST HAVES. For me personally, as someone interviewing for OBGYN, my must haves were: diversity in residents, faculty, and staff, strong family planning opportunities, and an undeserved population, these were things I refused to compromise on…of course I wanted to be somewhere with strong fellowship placement and people I LOVED (this one is a given). But beyond these things, everything else was lagniappe for me because I knew I could get GREAT TRAINING in a number of places. But would I feel supported as a woman of color in a number of places, would the political climate in certain regions prohibit the family planning opportunities I desired, and someone who comes from an undeserved community, would I feel fulfilled training somewhere where I was not serving a similar population? Probably not, so I felt having a few hard must haves allowed me to be objective and evaluate a wide variety of programs based on what I personally was looking for. It can be easy to get caught up in the details, and all of the nuances, free parking here, free meals there, etc, but honestly in the grand scheme of residency, those things do not make or break a program, or make or break your training. So you have to decide what’s truly important to you.

SCHEDULING:
Interview invites come in waves, and sometimes programs send out more invites than spots, so a quick response is NECESSARY.
Pro-tip: create a separate email for example yournameeras@gmail.com and download the gmail app so invites don’t get lost in your regular inbox.
Pro-Tip: Put all programs you’re applying to with interview dates (usually can be found on the site) in your planner, and circle your preferred dates. This will allow you to respond quickly with a date. This also allowed me to group my dates based on regions and minimize date swapping.
Pro-Tip: Be sure to check charting the outcomes in the match to get a good idea of the number of programs you need to rank to ensure a match, which will help you gauge the number of interviews you should go on.
Sometimes you may be in a later wave and therefore limited dates may be available, be sure to keep your list of interviews and dates with you so you can quickly cross-reference and respond.

TRAVEL:
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, check a bag. The last thing you want is your suitcase (and interview suit) being lost. I would recommend applying for and getting a travel rewards credit card, you will likely rake up a LOT of miles, and can use those for a trip in the second half of the year when you’re celebrating. 
Pro-Tip: Book with southwest, they allow you to cancel and reschedule flights without penalty. You also can periodically check back, and if you find the price has gone down on a fight you have booked, you can rebook and receive the difference in form of a credit.
Pro- Tip: Schedule interviews during the winter headed to snow-ladden places early in the day, both ways, if the flight is delayed you will hopefully have enough time to get on a later flight and still make your interview or a flight home.
DO NOT blow off the pre-interview dinners. The people make the program (i.e. the residents), so if at all possible do plan to attend. It may be your only chance to truly feel out the residents, their camaraderie as a group, and the fit in that aspect. 

ON THE INTERVIEW
Be nice to Every. Single. Person. You. Encounter. I cannot emphasize this enough. Coordinators can make or break you, so please don’t be rude, have an attitude, etc regardless to the circumstances or what goes wrong because undoubtedly at some point something WILL go wrong.
It goes without saying but be familiar with your application, keep a copy of your CV and personal statement on you just in case. Residency interviews are wrought with behavioral questions. It allows programs to best gauge your future actions, or how you will act in certain situations, based on how you have reacted in the past. A good rule of thumb is to come up with two stories or clinical scenarios you found yourself in that can be applied to a number of questions. The general format you should answer behavioral questions is as follows:
1.       Describe the situation in detail
2.       Describe what action you took
3.       Describe the result
Some questions you may be asked in these behavioral interviews are:

“Describe a time you made a mistake”
“Describe a time something did not go as planned”
“Describe a time you and teammate disagreed on the best plan for the patient”
“Describe a time you disagreed with an attending and what you did about it“
“Describe a time you failed at something”
“What traits annoy you or rub you the wrong way about others”
…and the list goes on.

So as I mentioned before, choose a scenario or two that you feel could be applied to multiple questions.
Of course you will be asked why that specialty, why medicine, etc., you will also be asked about your interests outside of medicine, you may even be asked what you would be if you weren’t a physician!  You may also be asked about different clinical scenarios and patient encounters. Be sure to be able to describe the vignette succinctly, able to elucidate what the problem/issue was, and how you contributed or helped fix the problem. Be sure to choose clinical scenarios that play up to your STRENGTHS, or show growth. I would also recommend choosing two of these!

The MOST IMPORTANT thing though is to BE YOURSELF. Programs want to know if you’re a good fit, and likewise you want to know if they are a good fit. It is much easier to feel if there is a connection with others and the program when you are being your authentic self.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR GUT! If you have a bad feeling about a place, DO NOT brush it off, and on the contrary if you have ALL the eels about a place, recognize that.

Be sure to have questions for your interviewer, I once had an ENTIRE interview that was simply just me asking questions, it happens more often than you think. Programs want to gauge your interest as well, so make sure you have read up on them prior to the interview.

After your interview be sure to take notes of the things you liked, didn’t like, pros/cons how you vibed with the residents, any things that concerned.

Pro-Tip: I used the match prism app to keep track of interviews and program rankings.
Be sure to get email addresses of your interviewers and send thank you notes/emails later.

RANK ORDER LIST:
The process of creating a rank list can be stress inducing. I recommend talking with a trusted adviser and any family who will be affected and/or moving with you. Rank programs in the order of YOUR PREFERENCE, do NOT try to play some match game or rank based on who you think wants you. There is no penalty for ranking a reach program #1. If you feel you would be absolutely miserable somewhere or there is somewhere you ABSOLUTELY do NOT want to, DON’T rank them. In the end, I recommend going with your gut and choosing where you will be most happy and ranking accordingly.



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