Let the Interviews Begin

by Bob Stuntz

It's October.  Leaves are changing color, the air is getting colder (at least in York, PA), and soon hundreds of interested MS-IV's will be flooding your residency programs, donned in their best black suits/skirts/pantsuits.  Most often, we focus on the interviewee.  For tips on interviewing as a student, I think Nikita Joshi (@njoshi8) has really summed it up well in a recent post on Academic Life in EM.  All of these things are certainly true, and I could not agree more.  I also wanted to provide some tips for residents and faculty that are involved in the interview process.  

First, hopefully your residency is doing a night before dinner or social event.  This serves a few great functions.  It shows your applicants that people have lives outside of work.  It also allows your residents and the interviewees to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment.  You also get to see the potential resident who maybe has some social/professionalism issues (I know I have seen and heard some interesting stuff at those night before dinners).  I personally think this should be a resident only (not faculty) event to make the applicants more comfortable and feel like they can be themselves and ask questions.  I do not think anyone should be there who is interviewing the next day.  Residents present should be on the lookout for people who either "fit" the program very well, or as already alluded to, people who may have professionalism issues or other social problems that you might want to avoid.  Communicate these things with your residency leadership.  

From a resident standpoint, be honest with your applicants about strengths and weaknesses.  Obviously, if you get involved with the interview process as a resident, you probably are very pro-your program.  But do not tell people things that are not true.  More than any other process in the college to doctor spectrum, residency is about fit, and matching applicants that will be happy with your program is integral to your program's success.  Do not tell a strong applicant something to try to get them to come that is not the truth.  If they match and find out your program does not actually offer the EMS experience or US program you promised, they will likely be unhappy, and both their time and yours will be tough over the next three years.   

Also, everyone should remember to avoid illegal questions.  What is illegal?  Hopefully, we are all aware that discussing race, ethnicity, sexual preference, or religion is not cool.  Stay away.  Asking about marital status and plans for family/kids is also illegal.  Remember that you also cannot ask about where else they are interviewing or where they plan to rank you, just like you cannot tell them where you plan to rank them.  The caveat to this is if they bring any of these topics up, it is fair game.  So if the applicant tells you they are getting married in the fall and have a baby on the way, it is ok to talk about.  It is ok to tell an applicant that you think they would be a good fit for your program, and you hope they will rank you highly, but you cannot tell them where they will be on your rank list.  

From a faculty standpoint, get feedback from residents, especially those at the dinner, and those giving the tour if you do one.  I think it is also vital to see how they interacted with your program coordinators, both on the phone/email before interview day and on interview day itself.  I have seen a few applicants who seem nice to everyone but are downright rude to the program coordinators.  This is definitely a red flag.   

Finally, do not dominate the interview.  My grandfather always told me that "You learn more by listening," and this is incredibly true for residency interviews.  Besides being weird, asking an applicant what kind of cell they would be if they could be any cell in the body is not as high yield as asking them what they are generally looking for in a residency.  Avoid the Iserson style stock questions.  They will have a canned answer for you.  Try to get to know them.  Ask them thought provoking questions (I like to ask about the most challenging patient they have encountered in the ED and what made it so difficult for them.  Not sure if this is in any prep for interview books, but rarely do applicants seem prepared for this, and it is really interesting and telling to see what they say and why).  I think most importantly, ask them if they have questions for you.  Sometimes what they ask you will give you more information than what you ask them.  

If you have other great tips or thoughts about interviews from the interviewing side of life, feel free to comment below.  Good luck, and happy interviewing!  And remember, do something nice for your program coordinators.  They are the unsung heroes, without whom, none of us would be able to do what we do this time (or any time really) of year.  


Get ready to see this guy's clone...   Image from: http://80000hours.org/blog/109-should-we-stop-interviewing-people  

Get ready to see this guy's clone...

Image from: http://80000hours.org/blog/109-should-we-stop-interviewing-people