Prepare for interview season

Residency Program Insider, January 15, 2008

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January is one of the busiest interview months for residency program directors, coordinators, and faculty. To help you through this hectic time, this three-part series from Residency Program Connection will offer you insight and advice on the interview process. Today's issue gives readers a look at the interviewing process from the interviewee's prospective.

As we begin another interview season, residency program directors and other administrators are once again placed in the unenviable position of choosing between the good, better, and best candidates to fill their few open positions. It is important for program directors to remember that applicants are in a very similar position. As ACGME guidelines for both curriculum and work hours standardize many fundamental details across all programs, it can sometimes be subtle, intangible differences between the programs that make huge differences in the minds of applicants.

To attract top candidates,  it is beneficial for program administers to consider the interview process from the perspective of the applicant. With this in mind, I asked three fourth-year medical students who are currently interviewing what could be done to improve their experiences. The bottom line is that organization, flexibility, communication, efficiency, and preparation count, and how the process is run is just as-or more-important than anything that is said during the actual interview.

A program can win or lose applicants before they ever appear on campus.  Residency search engines, such as FREIDA, sponsored by the AMA, are primary sources for information, and having inaccurate, incomplete, or insufficient data can be frustrating for potential applicants. Likewise, sub-par Web sites can be detrimental to your process; your Web site should include everything an applicant might want to know, from curriculum and research opportunities to housing options and salary, and it should be easy to navigate. Good Web sites make good first impressions. 

Additionally, one of the highest hurdles an applicant must jump is scheduling multiple interviews. It can be an absolute nightmare for applicants to schedule interviews when they do not know for sure which programs will offer them an interview. Flexible scheduling can make a huge difference. For example, if an applicant has an interview for which he or she has already made flight reservations, he or she will look unfavorably on a cross-town program that will not accommodate her schedule. 

Once the interview is scheduled, there are still many ways programs can impress applicants. First of all, many, but not all, programs offer hotel accommodations.  If your specialty is one for which this is standard, you do not want to be the only program not to offer this perk. In addition, it can help you consolidate applicants, thereby facilitating the pre-interview dinner that is popular for many programs. A program that can take an applicant smoothly from the Web site all the way to the campus will receive high marks for organization and efficiency, and earn an applicant's trust that his or her residency will run smoothly as well.

Good luck,

Andrew Spector, MD
Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL

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