Evaluating and Choosing a Residency

Residency and fellowship training programs want the best qualified applicants, and interviews are the culmination of that search. So, all the pressure is on you to wow the residency programs, right? Yes and no. 

Yes, you must sell yourself effectively and make a great impression, but you’re interviewing the residency program as well. You’ll likely be interested in multiple residency programs, and the interview is your best opportunity to discover how well you align with each residency program. So how do you try on each residency program? 

Decide what’s most important to you in a residency program. 

Each student has different priorities and criteria they want in their residency program and out of their residency experience, so make a list of and prioritize the factors important to you. Use the Residency Preference Exercise to develop a list of essential characteristics to help you search and narrow your list of residency programs.  

Do your homework. 

Research residency programs using their website and pre-interview materials as well as your contacts who are connected with the residency program. The more informed you are, the more insightful the questions you can ask during the interview. 

Ask the right questions. 

You are seeking a residency program that will live up to your expectations and assist in meeting your educational and professional goals. So, develop questions that will help you collect the information you need to make a good decision. 

Interested in conducting research? Ask about research track opportunities or the work of an investigator in the department whose research interests you. Is a fellowship in your future? Ask what percentage of graduates enter fellowships and in what fields. Don't Forget to Ask: Advice from Residents on What to Ask during the Residency Interview includes a broad list of questions to help you start. 

Prepare a long list of questions. 

Almost every interviewer will ask for your questions about the residency program, so be prepared with many thoughtful ones. An interviewer might even defer the direction of the interview to you, and being prepared with plenty of questions will allow you to take the reins with confidence. 

Direct your questions to the proper person. 

Some questions will be more appropriate for the residency program director, while some will be better suited for the residents. 

Have questions about residency program performance? Those are best answered by the residency program director. Want to know how supportive the faculty is? Ask the residents. Prepare your list of questions by interviewer and topic so you are securing answers that help you best determine the strengths and weaknesses of the residency program. 

Don’t ask about salary, benefits, and vacation. 

Even though these are important questions, it’s poor form. Interviewers will likely think you’re primarily concerned with the perks of their program rather than the educational experience. 

Also, since this information is typically provided in a presentation or other materials, you should be able to avoid asking for it during the interview. 

Compile the information. 

It’s fine to jot a few notes during the interview but conduct the majority of your note-taking immediately following the interview day. 

Take a moment to recall the answers to the questions you asked and write them down along with your feelings and general impressions of the residency program. After a few interviews, many of the residency programs start to look alike, and you’ll be grateful for any information that will help you distinguish and choose among them. All the questions you ask and the answers (or non-answers!) you receive will help broaden and deepen your knowledge of the residency program and your ultimate compatibility.