Using Body Language to Make a Strong First Impression

Body language is so critical during the residency interview just as it is during the rest of our conversations in real life. It’s the way that we express dynamics, emotion, excitement, that engages our audience. I’ve seen a lot of applicants who interview, and all their body language is showing one thing: they are nervous, they are unpracticed, and it leaves an unsettling emotion to the interviewer.


Making the Introduction

Let’s first just focus on making the introduction. As the saying goes, first impressions are the most important. When you first meet an interviewer, you want to project a sense of confidence and enthusiasm. Here are the three most important things regarding your first impression:

  • A friendly smile – shows that you are happy to be there. Portraying yourself as friendly is critical in medicine. Obviously, interviewers want to know that you are able to portray a courteous, professional appearance to his/her patients if to start working in that hospital. If you are unable to portray that during the residency interview, then it would cast doubt on your ability to communicate effectively as well. Of course, having a smile creates a positive environment, a definite plus during ANY interview.
  • A firm handshake – that’s what’s expected from you in the business world in America. In the world of IMGs who have whimpy handshakes, you will definitely stand out and grab the attention of your interviewer: it shows you know what you’re doing.
  • Good eye contact – shows that you are confident. See more on this to follow.

During the interview

Eye contact

Maintaining good eye contact is one of the most difficult skills for interviewer. It’s very common for applicants to look at different places as they are thinking of how to answer the interviewer’s question.

Sideways eyes - not the body language you want

I’ve seen many applicants where it takes all of their energy to be able to think up the answer, they neglect to take care of how they appear during their answer. It’s not easy to be able to do both at the same time, which is why is so critical to have practiced the key answers. That way you give well deserved attention to your appearance and delivery, not just your content.

Posture and Body Language

While sitting, maintain a slight forward lean towards the interviewer – it shows interest and makes you seem active. On the opposite hand, reclining back makes you seem disengaged or arrogant.

Saying Goodbye

Exiting the interview is just as important as making introduction. When you sense that the interviews coming to a close, gracefully transition to saying your final statements: how excited you are to match up the program, how grateful you are to have been given the opportunity to interview, how amazing the interview day was, and how exciting it was to me your interviewer. Your body language should parallel what you’re saying – with excitement and with energy. As always, finish every interview with a firm handshake.