As we get further into the post-application season, we know that all applicants are feeling the pressure of interviews; especially the candidates who have not received as many interviews as they had hoped. This is not the time to give into panic, it is instead time to evaluate what you can do to improve your chances at a Match. Despite the chaos around application, Match A Resident is here to remind you that it only takes one successful interview! In this blog, we will discuss how to gain interviews and be prepared to knock them out of the park.
How Can an Applicant Gain More Interviews?
A useful tool for an applicant to stand out and gain more interviews is sending Letters of Interest to programs you applied to but have not heard from. You can send these to your top 5-20 programs ONLY. Do not send them to every program you applied to, and DO NOT use the same Letter of Interest for more than one program.
When crafting your Letters of Interest, you need to be mostly focused on the specific reasons for your interest in the residency program. It should be about 200-500 words. Keep it concise, specific, and engaging. Remember, it’s best to send to both the Program Coordinator and Program Director.
Most importantly, these reasons should not be generic or vague. For example, don’t just focus on the program’s Mission and Values, or the fact that they foster an atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie. Only discuss these if you can vouch for such attributes through personal experience. Of course, the more details you can add, the better. These could include specific research projects, training tracks, elective rotations, special opportunities, resident programs, and geographic preferences, as examples. Don’t forget, make sure to explore any topic you bring up in detail and how it relates to you personally, rather than just listing attributes.
You should include the below details:
- Opening with the specific names of those addressed
- Most importantly, the specific reasons for your interest in the program
- Next, the experiences and strengths you’re bringing to the table
- Then, how you plan to contribute to the program
- Finally, an invitation to look further into your ERAS Application and hopes for interview consideration
- In signature, include:
- Your Professional ERAS Photograph
- Your AAMC ID
- You may attach a version of your CV in the email for quick reference if you’d like
If you have utilized Geographic Preferences by selecting a specific geographic region you prefer, or you’ve sent Program Signals- this is a great way to reinforce your strong interest in those programs. When you are crafting your Letters of Interest, you can include why you selected their geographic area, or why you chose to send them a Program Signal.
How Can an Applicant Prepare for Interviews?
There are a few things that a candidate should do to prepare for interviews. First, you should conduct thorough research on the program to understand the culture, the location, expectation and to prepare a list of questions that YOU would like to ask. In addition, you should be ready to answer the common interview questions such as “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses”. Lastly, it is important to be prepared to answer any questions about the specifics of your application choices- such as if you selected Setting or Geographic Preferences.
Next, you should prepare for the format of the interview. If this is going to be virtual, ensure that you have a proper connection, quiet background and professional attire. If your interview is in person, you will want to do more preparation. Other than planning your travel arrangements, get to know as much about the program as possible, so you are prepared to explore and learn more.
Whether your interview is virtual or in-person, you will want to practice common questions that you will be asked during an interview. Below are some questions you should be prepared for:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths/weaknesses?
- Why did you choose this specialty?
- What do you want to do after residency?
- Why are you interested in our program?
- What is most important to you during residency?
- Tell me about the last book you read.
Take the time to practice in the mirror and have important key points organized with stories to back it up. Interviews can seem scary, but the best way to knock it out of the park is lots of practice.
If you are looking for assistance with Interview Prep, our partner company Match A Resident offers Interview Preparation packages with both basic or premium access.
Other Resources to Increase Match Chances
Once you have had an interview, there are still ways for an applicant to stand out and reiterate why this program is the best fit for them. You can send Letters of Intent, which inform the program of your intent to rank highly. Additionally, you can send a Thank You letter after the interview to remind them of your interest and passion for the program. Be sure to check the program website, as some specifically request no post-interview communication.
We know this process is long and arduous. However, staying as prepared and proactive as possible is the best way to increase your chances at a successful Match. If you are feeling the pressure right now, take a few moments to yourself to recharge and remind yourself why you are passionate about this field. You can overcome these obstacles if you keep pushing forward!
Unsure of the quality of your Letters of Interest? Need more help practicing for interviews? We are here to help! Residency Experts can assist with editing your Letters of Interest using the Residency Document Editing service, and Match A Resident can help you practice with our Interview Prep packages.
Questions or comments about the post-application process? You can give us a call at (858)-221-8580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get all the advice you need to succeed!