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Improving Your 

Residency Interview Skills

Gregg Blachford
McGill Career Planning Service (CaPS)
www.mcgill.ca/caps 514‐398‐3304

Dr. Pierre Tellier
Director, Student Affairs, Faculty of Medicine
www.medicine.mcgill.ca/careerplan
Overview
1.
1 What are interviewers looking for?
What are interviewers looking for?
2. What are you looking for?
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3. Preparing for the interview
i f h i i
4. The elements of the interview:
• What you say
• How you say it
• Physical appearance & dress
• y g g
Your body language

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What Are the Interviewers Looking 
for?
• You’ve already been screened for your skills in medicine, so 
ou e a eady bee sc ee ed o you s s ed c e, so
they are looking for EVIDENCE of:
• “Soft” skills  
– ability to communicate
– analytical thinking
– willingness to learn
– ability to judge
– hard worker
– initiative, adaptability, accountability, teamwork & 
cooperation
ti
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What Are the Interviewers Looking 
for?
• A
A “good” personality to fit in with their team
“ d” lit t fit i ith th i t
• A sense that you really want to come “with a 
passion” to their hospital and their program
• PLUS they want to feel that “what they see is what 
y y
they get”

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What Are You Looking for at the 
Interview?
• That
That the hospital and the program represent a 
the hospital and the program represent a
good fit with your career aspirations
– That the city is one you would want to live in
That the city is one you would want to live in
• The chance to demonstrate your effective 
two way communication skills
two‐way communication skills
– And to demonstrate your strengths and 
achievements without “bragging”
achievements without “bragging”

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Preparing for the Interview #1
Preparing for the Interview #1
• Know yourself
Know yourself
– Your “soft” skills
– Your passions and interests
Your passions and interests
– Your career target for the medium term
• YYou must have evidence to back up your 
th id t b k
claims
– Be ready to “tell stories”

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“Telling
Telling Stories
Stories”
• Evidence
Evidence of your skills/interests is best 
of your skills/interests is best
illustrated with stories about your 
achievements
– Stories can come not only from your academic 
work & rotations, but also paid jobs, volunteer
work & rotations, but also paid jobs, volunteer 
work and extra‐curricular activities
• Include
Include stories about interactions with 
stories about interactions with
patients, residents, nurses, staff, etc.

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“Telling
Telling Stories
Stories”
• Consider using the 
Consider using the “P
P.A.R.
A R ” Formula:
Formula:
– “P” – state the problem you faced
A  – describe the action you took
– “A” describe the action you took
– “R” – explain the results of your actions
– In terms of %, $, #
In terms of % $ #’ss

• BUT, make yourself more believable by having 
some stories that show your vulnerabilities
some stories that show your vulnerabilities 
and/or weaknesses

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Preparing for the Interview #2
Preparing for the Interview #2
• Know
Know about the city, the hospital, the specialty, 
about the city the hospital the specialty
the program, their research and the profession 
as a whole – how?
as a whole 
• Websites; literature
• Current residents, program director, residency secretary
,p g , y y
• Prepare “intelligent” questions for the 
interviewer from your research
interviewer from your research

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About Your Questions
About Your Questions
• Ask questions about the teaching program, not about 
things
• Your questions should reflect a strong interest in 
learning and should not reflect an aversion to work
• Don’t ask questions in which you’re not interested in 
the answers
h
• Don’t “cross‐examine”
• You may want to ask different questions to staff and 
residents 

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Now That You’ve Prepared, 
Onto the Interview…
• What
What are the main elements of an 
are the main elements of an
interview?
• A:  What you say
• B:  How you say it
• C:  Physical appearance & dress
• D:  Your body language

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A:  What You Say
Typical Interview Questions
• Chit‐chat:
Chit chat:  
– Show your personality, but be professional; don’t be too 
familiar; you are always being interviewed – even at the so‐
called “casual” lunch and on the tour
ll d “ l” l h d th t
• Behaviourial based on past experiences: 
– “Can
Can you tell me about a time when you led a team to 
you tell me about a time when you led a team to
achieve a goal?”; “What was your biggest clinical mistake?”
• Behaviourial based on how you might act in the future:  
– “what would you do if a patient said they wanted to see a 
‘real’ doctor?”

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More Interview Questions
More Interview Questions
• Questions to get a sense of your knowledge of the 
profession/program/specialty/medicine/ hospital:
profession/program/specialty/medicine/ hospital:
– “What led you to pick this specialty?”
– “Why are you applying here? To this specialty?”
• To get a sense of your self knowledge:
– Why do you think you’ll be a good ….. ?
– Who are your heroes?
Who are your heroes?
– With which types of people/patients do you have trouble 
working?
• H
How are you going to answer these questions at your 
i t th ti t
second and third choice places/programs?

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Other Possible Questions
Other Possible Questions
• What are the challenges facing our profession at 
g g p
the moment? (political and social issues)
• What would you do if the house staff had a “job 
y j
action” or strike? (ethical issues)
• Tell me about a time when you learned from a 
y
patient; when you advocated for a patient 
(“customer” service)
• How do you explain… (low grades?, leaves of 
absence?, poor clinical narratives?)

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Difficult Interview Questions
Difficult Interview Questions
• Please tell me about yourself
• Can you tell me why I should let you do your residency 
here?
• What area of weakness do you recognize in yourself 
that you are working on to improve?
• Any questions about your age, marital status, sexual 
Any questions about your age marital status sexual
orientation, religion or political views
– What are your plans for a family?
• Tell me about the resident that you least liked to work 
with during a rotation?

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B: How You Say It
B:  How You Say It
• Check
Check your volume, tone and speed
your volume tone and speed
• Enunciate carefully
• Avoid fillers:  “you know”, “um”, “and things 
id fill “ k ” “ ” “ d hi
like that”, “sort of”
• Allow silences to occur – take time to organize 
your answers
• Avoid slang and informal language 

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C: Physical Appearance & Dress
C:  Physical Appearance & Dress
• Role
Role – Resident Physician 
Resident Physician – a confident, neat, rather 
a confident, neat, rather
conservative individual
– Wash!
– Shave or trim beard
– Use deodorant, but not perfume or cologne
– Clean nails
– Breath freshener
– NO GUM CIGARETTES
NO GUM or CIGARETTES
– Clothes clean and pressed

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Dress the Role
Dress the Role
• Men: • Women
– Suit (two piece and a dark  – A suit or a skirt with jacket
color) – A blouse in a matching but 
– Grey trousers and blue blazer subdued color with long 
– A white or pale colored shirt sleeves or turtleneck
– A tie (silk, no animals) – Blouse buttoned up or a scarf 
– Socks that match the suit around your neck
– Shoes conservative, polished – Pantyhose
P h
– Belt matching the shoes – Sensible shoes matching or 
complementing the outfit
• Jewelry – Make‐up: natural, sparingly
M k t l i l
– Less is more, none is better
– Eyebrow piercing and tongue 
stud?
stud? 

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Dress the Role
Dress the Role
• The Briefcase/Portfolio
The Briefcase/Portfolio
– CV x 3
– Personal statement
– Material not included in application
– Pen/paper/PDA to take notes – but not during the 
i
interview
i
– Instructions/maps
– Material that is given to you
Material that is given to you
– Wallet, etc

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Dress the Role
Dress the Role
• If you are travelling 
If you are travelling ‐
– You’ll be travelling in winter, so have coat and boots
– Don’t travel in your interview clothes
– Change when you get there 
– Once you are dressed correctly, forget about it
– Use carry‐on baggage ‐ if possible
– Always carry important papers, money, etc on you
– A i
Arrive night before ‐
i ht b f if
if possible –
ibl and get good rest
d t d t

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D: Body Language
D:  Body Language

• Handshakes
H dh k
• Posture:  “walk/sit tall”
• Hand gestures – yes? no?
• Facial expressions – smile!
Facial expressions 
• Eye contact – make it!
• Sh
Show confidence, but be “natural”
fid b t b “ t l”

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Finally…
• After
After the interview:  assess your performance 
the interview: assess your performance
to improve for the next time
• Optional:  write a short thank you note to the 
Optional: write a short thank you note to the
interviewer (and secretary) referring to 
something you learned during the interview
something you learned during the interview

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Final Notes
Final Notes
• Be yourself! Don’t lose your personality!  But be 
your “self
your  self‐aware
aware” self
self
• Be honest!  But don’t put yourself down
• Be passionate!  But don’t overdo it; avoid 
superlatives
• Be genuine!  Don’t try too hard to figure out the 
g
“right” answers
• Sell yourself!  Give them the evidence to allow 
them to justify selecting you
them to justify selecting you
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Additional Help
Additional Help

• Mock interviews are available in December and 
January at CaPS and at the Medicine Career Planning 
y g
Office
• Check out the CFMS (Canadian Federation of Medical 
Students) site:  www.cfms.org

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