Dr. Meghana Yajnik just this month graduated medical school here at Stanford and will be staying on to do the anesthesia residency at Stanford.
She was kind enough to put down in writing some of her thoughts on the interview season and match that I hope will be helpful to applicants gearing up for the 2014 NRMP. Below she lists her top 10 reflections on the whole residency application process.
Residency application season can be a tough and nerve wrecking time. Here are some things I learned along the way that I think would be helpful to those who are just about to start the application process.
1) Apply early
After all, this is a rolling process. The earlier you get your application in, the earlier programs are likely to read it and the earlier you’ll get your choice of interview dates for many of the programs. Interview dates do fill up, and if you delay your application you may only get choices for days you cannot make. The biggest hurdle to this is your personal statement and your letters of recommendation. The earlier the better!
2) Know your CV/Application
While you are filling out your ERAS application, make sure you know your own background backwards and forwards. The worst situation is to be asked in an interview about some research project from a summer in undergrad that you can barely remember. Don’t let them catch you unprepared.
3) Take Step 2 Early
Some schools require you to have Step 2 scores, some don’t. I would advise taking Step 2 CS as early as possible to get it out of the way (after all, there is a 97% pass rate so this shouldn’t be a problem). It’s a good idea to get Step 2 CK out of the way before you start interviews. This just makes it easier to focus on interviews, plus you won’t have to worry about studying while you’re flying all over the country. You can always take the test early and send out the score to programs at your discretion. There is a place within the ERAS application that lets you select if you want your scores automatically forwarded to programs or not. Some applicants who feel that their Step 1 score is not strong might choose to take Step 2 early and use that score to improve their application.
4) Practice Interviewing
Some interviews are conversational and some are interrogations. Luckily in anesthesiology, most are conversational. Interviews always go smoother if you take the time to practice some of your answers in advance. Stock questions like “why anesthesia?” or “tell me about yourself” are good examples of questions you will definitely be asked. It’s the uncomfortable ones that you really want to practice – “tell me a joke” or “teach me something non-medical in 5 minutes” can throw you off if you’re not used to thinking on your feet. Mostly practice being put on the spot and keeping your cool.
5) Do Your Homework
Read up on each program before your interview. It will give you specific talking points during your interview and impress the program that you’ve researched them. Some programs might also ask specific questions about their curriculum assuming that you already know all about them.
6) Get Contact Information
On your interview day, take the contact information (i.e. business card) of everyone you talk to. You never know when you might need to talk to that person again. Plus, it’s a great way to build up your professional network. This includes co-interviewees – they’ll be your colleagues some day!
7) Say Thank You
Send a thank you email right after your interview to all your interviewers. If you wait to write those emails, you won’t remember your interviewers well and they might not remember you. It’s also nice to put something specific in your thank you note so it reminds them of your conversation. You may or may not get a response. But I wouldn’t read in to that too much either way.
8) Write down your reflections
After each interview day, write down how you felt. Reflect on what you liked and what you didn’t like. This might seem silly, but by the end of interview season they all start to blend together. It’s nice to have something to look back to when you’re making your rank list.
9) Remember to Smile
After the first few times, interviews can start to get tedious. Try to stay refreshed and excited for each one of your interviews. Each program only gets a tiny snapshot of what you are really like, and you want to make sure you put the best foot forward. Even though you might be coming straight off of a red-eye flight, stay enthusiastic and remember to smile.
10) Go With Your Gut
When the time comes to finally make your rank list, go with your gut. It might seem important to create an algorithm or exhaustive excel spreadsheet to balance all of the variables of different programs, but in the end none of those small details matter. Try to rank based on how well you think you fit into a program. In my experience this is based on an overall feeling about a program, not on how good the dental benefits were or what the cafeteria looked like. This is where reading over your reflections on the interview day can really come in handy (see #8).
Oh, and don’t forget to have fun! Be yourself, keep your cool, and have a good time. Good luck!
Thank you Meghana for writing this nice piece!