Navigating this Important Social Event
The “pre-interview dinner” can be a challenging social interaction for some IMG applicants. This is another kind of trial, not your academic prowess, but rather of your social lubricity. In this article, we will cover some overarching goals of the pre-interview dinner and things to do/not to do.
Goal of the “Pre-interview Dinner”
From your perspective, the goal of this event is twofold: 1) demonstrate that you are a friendly, likable and “normal person” to the faculty and residents, and 2) obtain deeper insight into the program so that you can ask more meaningful questions during the interview the following day. Some programs will informally give you bonus points for having shown up to the dinner which demonstrates your interest in the program (though they understand this is not always possible). So if at all possible, try to make it to this event if your travel plans allow! Your interactions with everyone count even during this interview dinner, so make the most of it!
Layout of the Event
Usually this is an informal event most commonly occurring on the night before the interview day. In some programs, there are back-to-back interview days with an informal event shared between, so you may be going to the dinner after your interviews are completed. It is typically at a restaurant, bar, attending’s house, or at the hospital. Not all programs do these events – especially those that have numerous interview days (internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, etc.). The event typically features a social mixer portion and a dinner/passed hors d’oeuvres portion. Alcohol may be served. The event is a mixer, so try to meet as many people as you can and hear their unique stories.
Business casual is typical. This is usually a more casual event so suit jackets and ties for men are not necessary. For men, but dress code is usually dress pants or trousers and a button-down shirt. For women, the options are more variable including slacks, tailored pants, blouses and dresses.
1. Remember that the pre-interview dinner is still an opportunity for the program to evaluate you. Thus, you should behave professionally and maintain a friendly demeanor. Even though the residents can be considered your “equals”, do remember that they are still evaluating you!
2. Spend this time getting to know the residents because they will give you the lowdown about the program’s strengths and weaknesses. Try to build rapport with the residents by finding common ground, i.e. shared medical school, country of origin, fellowship goals, and hobbies.
3. Remember that people love to talk about themselves. When interacting with residents, make sure to ask them plenty of questions about the program and how they like it!
4. Alcohol may be provided at the event and it is absolutely reasonable to consume in moderation along with everyone else. Know your own tolerance level. Make sure your level of buzz does not compromise your social interactions.
5. Order food modestly if you are at a sit-down restaurant. Don’t pick the most expensive item on the menu, and choose foods that are clean to consume.
We hope that this guide helps prepare you for the pre-interview dinner!