Top 10 Ways to Ace the Interview

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Author: Melanie Pollack, OMSIV
Vice President, AAEM/RSA Medical Student Council ’15-’16

Congratulations, emergency medicine students! You’ve selected your away rotations, succeeded at them, and now you’re interviewing! Here are 10 ways to shine during interview season. Good luck!

1. Scheduling

Prime interview time will be November through January, so try to plan your rotations so you will have available slots. An important matter to keep in mind is geography. Try to make your life easier by lumping regions around the same time so you can save some money. Another important tip is to not schedule your top program first. Get a few under your belt so you are comfortable when you arrive at a desired program. If you have to cancel an interview, make sure there is a reasonable amount of time so the program can fill the spot. The biggest no-no would be to no show. Emergency medicine is a small world and people talk. Do not cancel the night before or no show. Just don’t do it.

2. To be Early is to be On Time. To be On Time is to be Late. To be Late is Unacceptable.
First things first, be on time. Plain and simple. Plan ahead, map out the path to take and notice possible delays. If you are late, make sure to call the programs contact and explain what happened.

3. Dress Appropriately
Especially as emergency medicine professionals, dressing in a suit and tie can be hard. You are interviewing for a job and must dress accordingly. Men, a suit and tie is easy and appropriate. For women, a nice pant or skirt suit is acceptable. For both, keep it simple with black or blue suits and a nice white or neutral colored shirt. Do not wear extravagant jewelry. Try to avoid strong perfume or cologne.

4. Know What You Want in a Program
Main divisions are county, community and academic. Some programs are a mix but those are the general divisions. Make sure you research the program’s classification prior to the interview to avoid stating your preference for another style.

5. Know the Program
Read the website! Know what the program has to offer. For starters, you should know at the very least what type of program it is (county, community, academic, etc), how many visits each year and any other hospitals where the program rotates. If the program is research heavy, know a few of the projects currently in process. If there is something unique about the program (for example: they fly with local air care), know enough about it to have a conversation. Get to know a little bit about the faculty so it’s easy to connect on interview day.

6. Know Your CV

Sounds like a no brainer but it’s true. Know your CV cold. If you did research way back in undergraduate, make sure you know all about it. Be able to explain any gaps in your schooling. If you took time off before medical school, it’s ok, just explain it. Some places may not like it if there was a gap for vacation rather than education so just be able to spin it into a positive. If you had a break in between med school years, say what you learned from the time off.

7. Don’t Embellish Personal Facts … Unless They’re True
Spelunking may sound like a cool, fun hobby to have. But unless you do it, do not put it in the hobby section. You never know who is interviewing you.

8. Ask Thoughtful Questions
Always, always, always ask questions. When you are researching the program prior to interviews, make a list of appropriate questions pertaining to the program. Make the questions related to your decision making. An easy way to start out is to make a list for each subset of people in the interview. Questions that may be more suited for a program director include topics like the philosophy of the program or the success of the graduates. Other questions can be more general for any faculty member to answer such as administrative questions or opportunities within the program. A good way to connect during the interview would be to have a special list of questions for the residents. Some topics might include: why they chose the program, the dynamic between nurses and residents in the department, any complaints they have about the program and how they are handled.

9. Practice!

The good old saying, practice makes perfect, still stands. There are resources available online such as Interview Stream, or your school may have a program set up. If that’s not available then ask your friends, family and anyone who may be knowledgeable about interviews. Of special note, Ken Iserson has a book titled Getting into a Residency — A Guide for Medical Students and though it is not specific to emergency medicine, it has been praised by many and comes highly recommended.

10. Getting In with the Residents
Most programs will have a get together with the residents the evening before the interview. It is important to try to attend. Not only will it give the residents a chance to get to know you on a more personal level, but it will also give you insight into how the residents interact. Three to four years is a good amount of time spent with a group of people, not to mention a tough three to four years, so it is important to know if you can see yourself working with the group.

Special thanks to:
Dr. David Overton, Western Michigan University Emergency Medicine Residency Department Chair