Residency Interviews: Key Tips on Time Management

One thing that is not talked about in residency interviews is how to manage your time. It’s something that I often take for granted as someone who spends most of their time in meetings. Essentially, you need to have an internal clock around the time of your residency interview.

I have done the entire spectrum of interview times. Some of my interviews have been as short as 7 minutes to the traditional 1 hour. In rare instances, my residency interviews have been 1.5 hours or even 2 hours. The vast majority of interviews will range from 20 minutes to 1 hour. In this blog post, we’ll talk about how different residency interview lengths affect your strategy.

The Panel Interview

A panel may include 2 individuals all the way up to 4 or more. In this case, each panelist likely has a prepared question for you. The length is typically a bit longer – usually 1 hour but this can also be 30 minutes. The panel interview allows more people to meet you in the same amount of time. It also allows panelists to share their reaction to your answers to reach a certain consensus. My main tip here is that this may seem more intimidating but it is not. Treat it like any other interview. The only piece of extra work is make sure you answer the question but scan the room making eye contact with all panelists rather than the person that simply asked that question.

The 1 Hour Residency Interview

More and more, I see this length less and less. These kind of interviews are one in which you will have plenty of time. This means there is no need to speak more quickly than normal. Small talk is totally acceptable and feel free to ask questions back to the interviewer. You can add more details and personal anecdotes.

The 30 Minute Residency Interview

This is definitely now the most common time slot. 30 minutes can go by quickly. In this kind of interview, stay tight with your answers. You want to get through at least 3-5 questions for the interviewer to get a good sense of your qualities as a candidate. You also want to make sure you have time to ask a few of your favorite questions to emphasize your fit with the program. You can check out our recent blog posts on our favorite questions to ask. One piece of key advice is to not shorten your “Tell Me About Yourself” answer even with a 30 minute interview. Even in a 30 minute interview, providing the right amount of detail in this question is still essential. 

The 15 Minute Residency Interview of Less

These things happen. It may be that some residency programs just want you to make a lot of first impressions. It’s very hard to get to any depth with interviewers for interviews of this length. The goal is to be slightly more energetic so that you inject a positive impression. You have time for only 2 questions at maximum. My suggestion on interviews of this length is to really hone in on your “Tell Me About Yourself” answer and hit back on how much you fit with the program.

For some of these ultra-short interviews, I have also had experiences where the interviewer simply asks a single behavioral question. The behavioral question is the same for all candidates allowing the interviewer to compare answers across the board. In this case, don’t be flustered by this. It is simply the process. Do your best to smile and be energetic even if the interview itself is quite robotic.

Ultimately, the nature of your answers is not that much different depending on the length of the interviews. You obviously won’t be able to get through as many residency interview questions with shorter interviews but don’t cut your answers shorter because it takes away from the richness of your answers.