Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You: Best Practices for Interviewing Fourth-Year Medical Students for Residency Programs

Kristine M. Diaz, PsyD

Kristine M. Diaz, PsyD

Thirty minutes. Thirty minutes to assess an applicant’s interpersonal and communication skills, emotional intelligence, reasons for applying to your residency program, determine if there are any red flags, talk about application materials (don’t forget to comment on that personal essay!), AND answer any questions the applicant has about your program. Oh, don’t forget to recruit for your program! Yeah. Thirty minutes. That’s all the time you get. Sounds, easy? Right?!

While many websites and online documents exist that address succeeding in residency interviews for applicants, there are no guidelines or best practices with conducting the residency interview for faculty members in residency programs. The lack of guidance in conducting the interview may lead to variability in the assessment of the applicant. This variability may also lead to a poor experience for the interviewee. How does one judge the fit of an applicant in a short amount of time?

Medical schools have developed varied approaches to the interviewing process for entry to medical school. Yet, residency programs appear to vary in their approaches to the selection process, particularly the on-site interview. A systemic and individual-based program approach may be considered in the interviewing process of applicants, using ACGME milestones and the interview itself as an opportunity to evaluate your program’s success in the development of a distinct health care professional in the competitive field of medicine.

Focus on these four areas to strengthen your residency’s interview process.

The mission, values, and goals of your residency program

Time should be spent as an entire faculty, discussing the mission, values, and goals of your residency program. ACGME accreditation standards provide a common foundation for all residencies to function and operate in the development of residents in training. However, your faculty and the program’s composition of residents and staff provide an opportunity to create its own identity as a program separating the lion from the crowd. Your identity as a program will help to generate a rubric to which you have made your selections for on-site applicant interviews.

Personality of your team

The setting, location, milieu, and program composition contribute to the uniqueness of your program. The on-site interview provides the best opportunity for your program to “see,” “listen,” and “feel” how the applicant responds to physically being on-site. Being familiar with what works and what does not work in your residency program may help you determine if an applicant is a good fit.

EQ is as important as IQ

A tremendous amount of work has been completed by your team in the selection process of applicants for on-site interviews. The on-site interview can be highly effective as part of the selection process when the tone is conversational, allowing the applicant to give genuine responses. Remember, medical students have encountered various types of interviewing methods (one-on-one interviews, Multiple Mini-Interviews) to assess their interpersonal and communication skills to enter medical school. Additionally, medical students are receiving more training in the development of these skills, both in the preclinical and clinical years. Therefore, the on-site interview should be an opportunity to assess the continuation of these skills at an advanced level. Your 30 minutes with the applicant, while brief, provides an opportunity for you to determine the applicant’s professionalism, maturity, work ethic, and ability to work in a team. You want a resident who is interested in learning and receiving supervision and who has the ability to demonstrate competencies. Use questions, which allow for reflection, depth, and spontaneity in your interview. Do not rely on the “What made you pick this program?” as a standard interview question. Challenge the applicant with questions, such as, “Tell me what role you tend to take in a group.” Or, “How do you handle conflict?”  Consider creating a list of questions for interviewers to use, which allow for an assessment of the applicant’s emotional intelligence.

Team feedback

As part of a system-based approach to interviewing applicants, you will want to speak with your administrative staff, support staff in the clinic, and the faculty and residents who interviewed or met with the applicants for any concerns and/or feedback. Even small exchanges can be extremely telling about an applicant’s professionalism or lack thereof. This information may be helpful when reviewing applicants and ranking offers for your residency. Applicants are aware to be “on” for their one-on-one interview, yet may be lax with individuals deemed unimportant in the interview and selection process. This approach will take the emphasis away from relying on the one-on-one interview to make a decision about the applicant.

Thirty minutes. That’s all you get. Yet, with the proper preparation and a conversational tone, interviewing can provide an opportunity for applicants to talk about themselves and get to know the program, leading to fewer burdens on both sides for a “forced” conversation. This style of interviewing will leave a lasting impression on the applicant about the relaxed nature of the faculty and the program, increasing the desire to be offered a position in your residency.

One response to “Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You: Best Practices for Interviewing Fourth-Year Medical Students for Residency Programs

  1. Reblogged this on Silvia's Hub and commented:
    Great expert advice, especially when focusing on the conversational tone to facilitate genuine responses from interviewees. Great job!

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