Residency interview season: tips for success and other pearls

Tis the time of the year when most programs are starting to send out invites for residency interviews. This exciting time is often mixed with the anxiety of the unknown, the headaches of winter travel, and feeling pressured to impress.

With dermatology, and other competitive specialties, where only a handful of applicants are interviewed, even the smallest detail of an applicant can be a topic of discussion when we (the faculty members) deliberate and generate our match list. In this post, I will share with you some of my tips on how to best prepare for that nerve racking interview, and share some how tips on how to have an enjoyable and ultimately successful interview season.

Interview tips

Many students probably have prepared for a list of potential interview questions circulating on the “Student Doc Network” website; this is a good start.  Most programs can have a up to 15 or more faculty members on the residency interview committee. The interview style can vary, but can best be described as speed dating. Every 7-9 minutes, applicants will rotate through a room consisting of one or two faculty members. This may seem long, but believe me, time flies when you are interviewing. Interviewees will be asked about research, publication, or other interesting personal factoids from their ERAS application.

Here are some additional tips to prepare you for those unpredictable odd ball questions:

  • The best way to answer any questions is with honesty, sincerity, and humility.
  • Always try to be positive, even if that means describing a bad experience or point of failure; do not give the impression of being dismissive or redirecting fault to others. We know that no one is perfect and residency can be hard. But more importantly, we want to get a glimpse of how you handle a mistake and respond to a negative experience.
  • If you ever get a weird curve ball question that you’re totally not prepared to answer, remember it’s okay to say I don’t know or that’s a great questions, please let me think about it. Again, this is a way to gauge how you react to the unpredictable and the worst thing is to be overly flustered.


Travel tips

Residency interviews are often be back to back. You may be traveling from warm sunny San Diego one day to brutally cold Minneapolis the next. It is important to pack smart and pack light as you will hauling your luggage cross town from place to place. Scheduling program interviews in similar geographic locations close can be helpful, but often dates are limited.

Here are some packing tips:

  • Pack clothing in anticipation of the weather changes at your location destinations (Rainy season down south or snow season in the north).
  • When traveling between extremes of weather, remember to bring a warm compressible down jacket and pair of boots for snow.
  • Bring warm cardigans and scarfs, items that you can easy layer on and take off.
  • Severe weather change can inevitably lead to flight delays and worse yet missed interviews. Make sure to have the contact of each programs ready on hand. The residency coordinator should be the first person to contact in case of travel delays.


Outfit tips

The most common interview attire has to be the tried and trued suit combo. Whether its sheath dress, blazer, pants or skirt, I recommend sticking to safe and traditional suit colors such as black, navy, or grey. However, I’ve seen nice pairings with a colored or accented blouse top.

Looking fashionably put together never hurts, but I recommend the following:

  • Avoid bare legs if your outfit consists of sheath dress or skirt. Nylon pantyhose are required as proper attire by most clinical institutions.
  • Simple jewelry. Avoid dramatic or statement necklaces, bracelets, or earrings.
  • Wear comfortable, close toed heels as often walking tours are often a part of the interview itinerary.
  • Although fancy handbags may get you more likes on Instagram, I recommend more professional, structured totes, or shoulder bags. This is not the time to stand out for expressing your unique and forward sense of fashion.


Loft and Express are currently having 40% off; Ann Taylor is having 60% off sale items. I get a lot of my work attire from Ann Taylor!


Some last tips

  • Your makeup should be light, clean, and simple. Avoid heavy eyeliners, thick dramatic or false lashes, no bold lipsticks.
  • Avoid perfume or spray lightly on clothing
  • Don’t forget to pack in your bag: pen, small notebook, mints-not chewing gum, small mirror, dental floss, stain remover pen
  • Have cleanly manicured nails, avoid flamboyant colors or designs.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake, especially if offered at the interview dinner the night before.
  • Smile and be courteous to everyone, not just the residents and faculty members. Chances are program coordinators and clinical staff may also be present during interview day, and any negative feedback from will impact your chances of being ranked highly.
Items I always have in my handbag: moisturizer (CeraVe), chapstick (Aquaphor), sunscreen (Colorescience), lipcolor (Neutrogena), blotting powder (Innisfree), BB cream (Missha)



Best of luck this interview season!



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