There is one question that I can predict with 100% certainty you will be asked during your residency interview. I was asked this on every single one of my 29 interviews. David and Tamara report the same statistics. No, it isn’t “Tell Me About Yourself.”
The question is “What Questions Do You Have For Me?”
You’ll definitely be asked this at least once during your interview day. More likely than not, every interviewer ask you this question.
This question seems so straightforward. All you have to do is remember a few questions to ask right?
We tell our clients that this is an opportunity to really solidify a connection with the interview and the program. So often, we see candidates ask really weak questions and it can completely derail your interview. Think about it from the perspective of the program.
A program has spent months preparing for the interview day. They have spent thousands of dollars on food. They are trying to put their best foot forward in order to attract the best candidates. Faculty members are taking time away from their clinical duties and research to meet and talk with you. If you have ever given a presentation, nothing is as sad as finishing your talk and not getting a single good question. It shows that no one listened or no one cared. The end of the interview is an opportunity for you to shine and demonstrate how much thought you have put into your day there.
There are clearly questions that are simply bad. They reflect poorly on you and generally fall into two groups.
Questions You Should Never Ask
Group 1 – You Could Have Answered Your Own Question with 5 Minutes on the Program’s Website.
- What’s the weather like?
- Is there maternity leave?
- What’s the sick policy?
DO NOT ask these questions. They make you appear lazy and uninformed.
Group 2 – Negative, Antagonistic Questions
- Many programs have malignant cultures. Is this one of them?
- Graduates seem to all go into primary care. What’s up with that?
We recommend never asking a question that can be construed in any way to be negative. You never want your interviewer to feel like he or she has to defend themselves. Many of these questions can be rephrased to be positive such as: “How would you characterize the culture of the program?” or “It looks like the program has done a great job enabling individuals go into primary care, which is definitely a big interest of mine. What about fellowships?” Definitely, be cautious so that you do not put any interview on edge.
There are always solid, non-offensive questions to ask that will not insult or offend people. Some examples include:
- What are some of your favorite things to do in this area on the weekend?
- Are there opportunities to do research – I’m very interested in epidemiology?
- Are there opportunities to teach – this has always been an interest of mine?
These are all fine. It’s good to have a few of those in the back pocket. But, these questions don’t automatically put you in a positive light or enable you to connect with your interviewer.
My Favorite Question to Ask
Remember, you only have 20 minutes to make a memorable impression and boost your position on the rank list. EVERY SINGLE QUESTION matters including the questions you are given an opportunity to ask.
If you sign up for our program, you’ll hear about in-depth strategies we suggest to turn this question to your advantage. Basically, the goal for the questions you ask is to give the interviewer a chance to brag about their own program – you want them to elaborate on what they love about their program. Then, you can turn that to your advantage in your response.
The question I asked to great benefit is:
- Tell Me What YOU Think Distinguishes a Good Resident from a GREAT One in this Program?
This question is great because the interviewer is basically going to tell you what kind of resident they want. If they’re using terms like “independent” or “self-starter”, you know that they want a go-getter kind of individual. If they’re using terms like “team player” or “collaborative”, you know that they want some one who won’t make huge waves. If they’re using terms like “empathic” or “patient-oriented”, you can fire back with how kind and thoughtful you are. As always, comments welcome.