In my final post in the Road to Matching series I want to discuss everything centered around interviews and rank list. Just a reminder, these are my tips and advice for how to navigate interviews and rank list. Once again, I am by no means an expert, so always consult your home institution! Okay now that that disclaimer is out the way, lets get into it!
- I recommend downloading The Match Prism App on your phone. This app is an excellent resource! It has the Match Event timeline, allows you to enter the programs you have applied to and enter the programs you have interview invites at in order of the dates and times. It also has a section were you can write notes about your interview day (pros & cons) and also rate the programs you interviewed at based off of different parameters. I found this app so helpful and it allowed me to keep track of everything during interview season!
- The way that you will be notified about interviews will be via email and your ERAS portal. It is going to be very important that you respond promptly to the invites because it’s a “first come, first serve” basis and spots fill up very fast! I recommend creating an email just for application correspondence. The email will only be for your interview invites to ensure that they don’t get lost along with other emails. I also recommend scheduling less busy electives during interview season if you can, if not that’s completely fine, many students give their information to loved ones to access and respond for them, that’s also an option. Just set yourself up in a way that you will be able to respond quickly to invites.
- If you are finding that you are not receiving interview invites or as many as you would hope for, I wouldn’t panic early on, especially if it’s early in the interview season (remember to focus on you and not others process). But if you find yourself in late October, early to mid November and you still don’t have many interviews, it’s okay to send letters of interest and reach out to programs to find out about your application status. You can send a Letter of Interest to the programs you applied to as well and that may also get you an invite. I did this and received several interview invites, so don’t be afraid to reach out! “We have not because we ask not!”
- If for any reason once you schedule an interview you have to cancel or decline , do it in a TIMELY manner, I REPEAT, DO IT IN A TIMELY MANNER! If you have to decline, I would recommend within a few days reach out and let the program coordinator know, this allows spots to become vacant for another applicant to get an interview invite. Same with cancellations, if you have to cancel for whatever reason, you should do it ASAP. This once again allows your spot to become vacant and others to get an interview invite.
- For interviews, I recommend trying your best if finances allow to invest in at least 2 suits. To learn more about what to wear for interviews please head over to my post about interview attire under the fashion tab! (I also posted a picture for your reference!)
- For pre-interview attire: I would recommend casual attire, you don’t have to dress in business attire. Most of the dinners will be at residents homes/apartments, bars or restaurants, so casual attire is appropriate. I would of course ensure that the attire is modest. If you feel anxious about wearing casual attire, you can pair a blazer or a cardigan with jeans or a casual top with dress pants, just stray away from a full suit. You will stand out and probably not in a good way! 🙂
WHAT TO PACK/TRAVEL:
- Okay you snagged an interview so what should you pack? Great question! When it comes to what you should pack, I want to stress that you should pack light and bring only what you need (i.e. suit and pre-interview attire with travel sized toiletries). You should not and I repeat, you should not check a bag! Life always happens and you do not want to have to deal with lost luggage with your suit inside. So…..
- Tip #1: To reiterate, bring only a carry on size luggage that you can bring onto the flight and not have to check in. I have posted a picture for your reference to show you how I packed for interviews! I only packed what I needed which usually included, my pajamas, pre-interview dinner outfit, suit and heels and travel sized toiletries. My rule, if it can not fit in your carry on then you don’t need it! lol
- Travel Tip #2: Book with airlines that allow you to cancel flights and receive a refund and are flexible with changing flights. My favorite airline for that is Southwest Airlines. It’s my go to for flights! If you have to cancel or reschedule an interview, if you book with an airline that is pretty flexible it will make things a lot less stressful and you won’t have to worry about losing any money.
- Travel Tip #3: If you can drive to interviews and save money then I would do it! Of course if you are interviewing in your home state, then that goes without saying you should most certainly drive, but if you are interviewing in neighboring states, I would recommend driving there also. It is way more convenient and saves so much time and money. I drove my car when I had interviews in neighboring states and it was so much better than flying. But remember know yourself and if you don’t like to drive, then don’t do it. Also if you get last minute interview invites and plane tickets are too expensive then that would be another time where driving may be more cost efficient, so I would recommend renting a car and driving. This happened to me once where I scheduled an interview with the date right around the corner and the plane ticket was just too darn expensive so I decided to rent a car and drive and it was a great decision for me because I don’t mind driving!
When it comes to lodging during interview season, there are several options you can choose from, my advice is try and do the cheapest options, because most likely you will only be staying for a night or two if that. See below the different options:
- Option 1: Complementary one night stay sponsored by the program that invited you for an interview. This is common for small programs or newly established programs to provide you with a free stay in a hotel for one night. Two of my interview invites had this and it was wonderful. They were really nice hotels for FREE. It definitely helped with the stress of lodging for at least those 2 interviews.
- Option 2: Another option is Airbnb. Of course when we think of Airbnb, we think of vacation, but this is a great and cheap option for lodging. I chose this option a lot. I usually stayed in a private bedroom/shared bathroom and it usually cost on average $25-$30 and I usually only stayed for one night. It was the best and cheapest option for me. If you don’t mind staying in an Airbnb then this is a great option.
- Option 3: Of course another free option would be friends and family members houses. Just check with them first of course! lol
- Option 4: You can always stay at a hotel. Check with the program you are interviewing with they usually have great discounts affiliated with the program.
PRE-INTERVIEW APPLICANT DINNERS:
As stated briefly above, the night before your interview there will be an applicant dinner hosted by the residents. It’s an excellent way to fellowship and meet the current residents. It’s mainly residents and applicants, but some programs will have the Program Director or faculty members stop by, not often but could happen, so just be aware of that. Remember the attire should be casual. If you don’t feel comfortable you can dress up the casual look with a blazer or dress pants. A lot of medical students struggle with this especially early on, because they want to remain professional. But I would advise causal attire. Another important point to make, is yes the applicant dinners are designed to be stress free and relaxed and a good way to socialize, but remember this is still an interview so be on your best behavior. The residents are informally evaluating you whether they say it or not, just keep that in mind. But of course enjoy the good FREE food and enjoy meeting the residents and other applicants (which you will see a few, if not more times along the interview trail). The applicant dinners are also excellent for asking all your burning questions that you don’t want to ask on interview day or may not have enough time for on interview day. I highly recommend you attend the applicant dinners. Try and schedule a day or two (if possible) in between interviews to give yourself time to travel and get into town in time to attend the applicant dinners. I can’t say for sure if programs hold it against you or not if you don’t attend the dinner, so just try your absolute very best to attend. Don’t stress if you can’t, programs know this is an extremely busy time for applicants.
WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IN A PROGRAM:
It’s important before going into the hectic and jam packed interview season that you have a list of things you are looking for in a program. I say compose this before you get started, because once you get started your head will be spinning off your body, because you will constantly be on the go and you really won’t have time to process everything until it’s time to rank the programs (I’M SERIOUS!). So if you have a list of components you desire in a program you can refer to that to make your decision.
Examples of components that you can consider include:
- Research: You may be seeking a program that has a heavy research aspect to it or you may not care at all.
- Location: You may be seeking programs in certain locations where family is located, a spouse is located, a dream program is located.
- Subspecialty exposure
- Fellowship matching rate/opportunities
- Elective opportunities
- Residency class size
- Vacation Time
- Community vs Academic programs
- Number of facilities
Be mindful that this is only a snapshot of things you can consider, it’s completely up to you what you choose, it is your journey and career. I had a lot of things I wanted in a program, some things I wasn’t willing to bend on and some things I were. That’s also important to note what you are willing to compromise and what you are not willing to compromise on.
- To prepare for your interview day I recommend:
- Reviewing your application in and out. You should know everything about your application, because the interviewer can ask you anything on it.
- Head over to the programs website and do your research on the program and look up the residents and faculty members as well.
- Craft a list of questions to ask at the pre-interview applicant dinner and the actual interview day. Remember these questions are simply based off what you are hoping to seek in a program. By the end of interview season you will have your questions memorized and it will be second nature to ask them. (trust me lol)
- You want to practice interviewing with individuals at your school or advisors.
ACTUAL INTERVIEW DAY-COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED:
These are just a few sample questions that could potentially be asked. This is not meant to be a compiled list of questions by any means, just a snapshot. You can obtain more commons question during your mock interviews or you can also Google common questions.
- Why did you choose that specific specialty you are going into?
- Tell us about yourself?
- Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
- Application specific questions (so remember to review your application in and out)
- Team work related questions
- Character building questions
- Scenario questions. `
FOLLOW-UP THANK YOU CARDS/EMAILS:
- After your interviews are complete, it is proper etiquette to always follow-up with a thank you. This can be in a form of a handwritten cards (my personal favorite) or email. Now of course if a program says don’t follow-up with any corresponding communication then don’t, but I didn’t have any issues with this. I found that if you wait too late to send your follow-up thank you communication they will certainly pile up, so what I started doing was filing out my thank you cards before the interview and then I put the names of my interviewers on each one and turned it in at the end of my interview day and I didn’t have to worry about them afterwards.
- RANK LIST:
When it comes to compiling your rank list you want to sit down and evaluate everything, I recommend once again using the PRISM app, because it allows you to take notes and rank everything. You can also take a notepad with you and take good notes to refer to later. Here are a few tips to help you when ranking your list:
- Make a Google document with all the important factors you want in a program (research, location, prestige, fellowship exposure/placement, connection with residents, etc). You can rank #1-10 and then add the score up at the end and that’s one way you can do it.
- Talk to family, spouses, friends etc. and get their input. It can be important in helping you make your decision.
- Make multiple drafts, you can make a first draft, you don’t have to commit to a final list as long as the deadline isn’t approaching.
- LETTER OF INTENT:
This is a letter that you can send to the program that you ranked number 1 to let them know you have a strong interest in their program and would be honored to attend. Be mindful that if a program says don’t communicate with them after the interview, then adhere to those rules and don’t send a letter of intent. Once again I didn’t have this problem. You can Google sample Letter of Intents. Be careful sending multiple letters of intent to multiple programs, you will hear mixed reviews on it, do what you think is right, I can’t provide any comment on it, just be careful.
This wraps up the Road to Matching series and I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions or didn’t see a topic on the series or need better explanations, please feel free to reach out to me! Goodluck! YOU GOT THIS!!!