Nailing Residency Interview Questions with Zero Research Experience

We frequently work with clients that start out who have zero research experience. This can certainly making interviewing difficult – research interests become an interesting talking point in interviews. There are often questions related to an interest in research during residency interviews.

All of the international medical graduates (IMG) or foreign medical graduates (FMG) who claim this have a richness of experiences once we peel the layers back.

I have no research experience. What should I do?

Research experience can be difficult to conduct at some institutions. Thus, many of the clients we work with do not have papers, abstracts, or posters. This is completely OK. We work with our clients to identify an approachable area of medicine that forms the basis of a future research question. This allows candidates to say “I haven’t had the opportunity to conduct research, but I’m very interested and motivated to get involved!”

The question then becomes what should my research topic of future interest be? There are areas of research that are approachable and easy to master.

  • Preventative health is a safe area of research that is hard to argue against. For instance, colorectal screening has clear health benefits. But, adherence to colorectal screening is still low. I’m interested in exploring reasons that prevent certain populations from getting colorectal screening done.
  • Health literacy and patient education is another research area that is easy to approach. It’s easy to say you’re interested in ways to improve health literacy in a given area of medicine. This could be something such as improving patient education related to screening for colorectal cancer. You can say that you’re interested in preventative medicine and specifically in testing strategies to improve patient education related to colorectal cancer screening. You can see that you can modify this for anything. In pediatrics, you can say you’re interested in vaccination campaigns.
  • Quality improvement is a third area of interest. Quality improvement research interests are always attractive to program directors. They like to foresee energetic residents interested in quality improvement come into the program. You can parlay a “research interest” into a specific area of quality improvement. For instance, your research goals could be to ensure that every patient is counseled by a pharmacist prior to discharge when they have a new medication. Another idea is to work on reducing unnecessary diagnostic testing through a house staff education program.

Ultimately, the biggest mistake you can make is to simply say you haven’t had any research experience and leave it at that. Use this lack of exposure as a way to transition the topic to areas of future work.