The 3 Most Important Residency Interview Questions to Nail: Part 1

We definitely have RIQ clients that want to be prepared for everything. We totally understand that because of the importance of each and every interview. However, there are definitely diminishing returns. Not all residency interview questions are created equal. In fact, you may struggle to be authentic if you are trying to have answers to every permutation. Instead, you look as if you are simply trying to remember your answers instead of engaging with the interviewer. 

At RIQ, our Video Course is designed to give you proven tactics and strategies that enable you to nail the most important residency interview questions and apply those answers to a wide range of additional residency interview questions. This allows you to feel confident but maintain an ability to navigate the vast majority of what gets thrown at you. 

Here are the top 3 residency interview questions you absolutely have to nail. I see them as the core 3 that sets you off on the right footing with any residency program. 

  • Tell Me About Yourself
  • What Questions Do You Have For Me?
  • Why Choose You?

As a 3 part blog post series, we’re going to cover each one step by step. We’re going to start with the most important question.

Number 1 Most Important Residency Interview Question.

“Tell Me About Yourself.” This is the most common – and therefore – the most important residency interview question out there. There are numerous variations of this that should trigger largely the same answer. These include:

  • Tell me your story.
  • Tell me how you got here.

The reality is that your faculty interview was assigned anywhere between 10 and 100 residency applications. They are not paid extra to do this – it’s almost always volunteer work. Thus, the expectation that they will have read through every application and find deeply insightful questions to ask should be really low. You have to make it easy for them to get to know you and like you. This is why the residency interview question of “Tell Me ABout Yourself” is so important. It creates the right first impression and sets you up to guide the rest of the interview to directions you are already prepared for. David and I are proud of how we have helped hundreds of RIQ clients absolutely nail this question. 

KEY TIP: this is the time where it is OK to talk for a while. Nearly all of our clients remark that the answer is too long. But, think of it this way, you’re a special person. How can you possibly answer this question in 30 seconds? In fact, the most awkward way to answer this is to give an answer that is too short. The interviewer then has to scramble to ask another question. By giving an overview of your upbringing, career, and interests – you make it easy for the interview to follow this question up with another.

Our video course gives you our best examples and several permutations. The key is to start with an opener that breaks the ice. You do not have to go back to your grandfather’s life story unless it’s really interesting. This is where starting at high school or what your parents do can be a good way to create a personal bond. Then, you move into undergraduate where you spend a short period of time but explain how you decided then (and why) to go into medicine. In medical school, this is where you should be proud of your accomplishments. If you went to a top tier medical school in your country or province, say it! Most interviewers may not be familiar with your medical school – so adding qualifications help. During this part of the answer, talk about how you settled and decided on pursuing your future training in the United States and why you picked this certain specialty. If you had major accomplishments in medical school, talk about them! This includes any research or volunteer highlights. We also recommend addressing red flags – this includes failing a Step or some other major issue. This allows you to set the tone, the explanation, and narrative. Trust me, the red flag is there – they will not miss it in rank lists. But, if you answer it well, it will help the interviewer advocate for you. Lastly, in the answer, talk about how you’ve filled your time with enriching and meaningful that will prepare you to be an excellent resident. 

Now, even good interviewees, will then stop. It’s a major missed opportunity. Here is a key Residency Interview Questions tip.

PRO TIP: always try to tie back your answer to why you’re a great fit for the program. You’ve shared a great answer of who you are, and where you’ve been. Finish the answer with how those skills, and qualities make you a great fit for the program you’re interviewing for. This maybe a commitment to excellence in primary care or a supportive environment that promotes self-starters. You’ll see your interviewer smile as you’re making their job easier for them.

In part 2, we’re going to tackle a question you’re guaranteed to get asked in your residency interviews. The question is what questions you have. In fact, I once had an interviewer that solely asked this question. We spent the entire 30 minute interview going through his answers for my questions! In any case, there is real strategy here too to put yourself in the best position to be ranked highly. More to come.