The USMLE is a long and lonely process, filled with ‘ups and downs’ along the journey but you do not have to walk this path alone. We are here to help you. If you have been selected as an interview candidate then congratulations because you have made it this far and now it is your time to shine and stand out from the crowd. By standing out you can separate yourself from the masses by being memorable and leaving an unforgettable impression in an effective way. Here are a few tips and strategies to ace your USMLE residency interview.
Think of every answer to your interview questions as a short speech, which should be prepared beforehand. Remember the interview starts from the time you are contacted by the program coordinator, so ensure that you always communicate respectfully. Avoid changing your interview date and ensure that on the day of your interview, you show up on time and are respectful to all staff, fellows, residents, janitors, etc. Prepare with a friend or with professionals so that on the day of your big interview you are cool, calm, and collective with smooth and natural responses. If you are unable to find someone to prepare with, then ensure you write out your responses and practice in front of a mirror.
Know your audience, in this case, learn as much as possible about your interviewer and the institution that invited you to interview with them and tailor your responses to be specific to them as possible. Research, research, research, then practice, practice, and more practice.
What you say is important but how you say it is more important. Ensure that you communicate with a respectful and conversational tone, while being impactful. Telling stories is a great strategy. In addition, describing and developing points using the ‘rule of threes’ is an ideal strategy, which has been advised by psychologists over the years. This allows spaced repetition and an easy number to remember.
Know the contents of your CV, ERAS application and personal statement and be prepared to answer any questions from it, (exclude anything you are not familiar with). If you were involved in a research project, then ensure that you know the research title, method, results, and conclusion. Ensure that you are perfectly prepared to address gaps, failures, and misrepresentations in your USMLE application.
Stay structured and stay short. Ensure that you are well organized, open, and receptive. Always aim to be concise as much as possible. It is normal to feel nervous but with enough practice, this nervousness should abate, especially if you prepare with a professional.
Display self-confidence, while remaining respectful. Do not be cocky and full of pride. Remember pride comes before a fall, so humility with confidence is the key to success. Use your active voice and tone but remain professional yet conversational.
If things go bad- keep cool and do not panic. It is okay to correct misconceptions, do not repeat misperceptions but address it positively.
Look for visual cues since body language says more than words. Do not become unprofessional or use indecent language.
Use Humor tactfully, if you must make a joke ensure it is a clean and safe joke, preferably a joke that is about you. Some programs may ask the candidate to- ‘Tell me a joke’. In our USMLE interview prep course, we address the best jokes to use during your interview if you are asked by the Program director or another faculty to undertake this task
Appearance– dress appropriately, maintain eye contact, be relaxed. For men wear a shirt and tie or bow tie and preferably a suit. For women, dress professionally with a suit, jacket and pants or skirt (at or below the knee). It is best to wear calm colors, for example black, grey, dark blue. In a few instances, you may wear a bold tie or dress shirt to highlight your individual personality but ensure that it is professional and matches the rest of your attire. For virtual interviews via Zoom or other video conferencing platform, optimize your ‘VALUE’-Video, Audio, Lighting, yoUr Energy. This will ensure effective communication and will make the interview smoother and increase your chances of ranking highly and Matching.
Watch your body language. A picture tells a thousand words; therefore, it is important that you maintain a professional posture, give the interviewer your undivided attention and always maintain eye contact. In the current COVID 19 era, with video conferencing this is even more important. Avoid twitching and biting your lips, knocking your knees and being glutton during the interview lunch or dinner.
Be comfortable with responding to medical type questions. These questions are meant to assess your clinical decision-making capacity. It is a fair game for some programs to ask medical questions, either one or two is possible. Interviewers are trying to ensure that you can apply the knowledge of medical school and the USMLE boards to patient care. The trick here is not to get flustered but use a systematic approach to answer questions as you would on ward rounds.
Be prepared to ask questions. As a residency candidate you MUST be prepared to ask the program questions. These questions are multi-faceted but ensure at minimum that you have questions prepared for the faculty (Program Director, Associate Program Director, Program coordinator) and specific questions for the residents (chief resident, senior residents, interns). Examples of good questions are – ‘What platforms exist for resident education e.g. didactics, journal club, ACP board review courses? Is there protected time for lectures? Are there research opportunities? These are just a few of the examples of questions that we prepare our students with.
Learn how to be memorable- you are unique, therefore allow your uniqueness to come out during the interview process. Be memorable and sell yourself by telling stories. This evokes emotions that will make you unforgettable and set you apart from the hundreds or thousands of other residency candidates. Finally use techniques such as bridging, hooking, and highlighting important points about yourself. For example, if asked why we should rank you above other candidates? You can say ‘I am a great candidate, with multiple talents and skills as an ideal resident. The qualities I bring to the table are professionalism, high quality patient care and honesty. My three strongest attributes are integrity, dependability, and self-control….’
If you or someone you know would benefit from Expert USMLE Consultation or would like assistance with the USMLE residency interview process, then feel free to reach out to us via e-mail at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or text us on WhatsApp at 592-638-0115