Hannah Bisoglio, OMS IV

A Medical Student Series: On the Road to Graduation

By pursuing medicine, you have made an investment in yourself so that you may serve others. I hope my monthly series of articles provides you with valuable information and tips which I have learned along my way. 

Hey there! I am Hannah, a fourth-year medical student who grew up in central Missouri. I attend A.T. Still University – Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and will begin residency in Emergency Medicine next month.

Interviewing for Residency and Creating Your Rank List

Once the residency application has been submitted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), medical students eagerly await interview invitations. Residency programs begin reviewing applications in late September. The interview season primarily runs from mid-October through mid-February. Students have the potential to receive an interview invitation at any time during these months as applicants are consistently accepting and canceling interviews. Contact with applicants is conducted through email, and you will get lots of them! So, it is best to keep your inbox organized.

A residency interview guide from the Association of American Medical Colleges

When an interview invitation arrives, you will be asked to schedule an interview through a scheduling platform such as Thalamus, Interview Broker, Rezrate, or directly on ERAS. You will have to plan months ahead to fit interview days into your rotation schedule. In my experience, most preceptors are lenient in giving students time to interview. My interviews were all virtual and lasted anywhere from 90 minutes to 6 hours. Many programs interview groups of applicants in the morning and then in the afternoon. So, you can choose which half of the day works best for you.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, residency interviews have largely been conducted virtually via Zoom or another video conference site. Some interviews have gone back to in-person formats. Both options have their pros and cons. In-person interviews will cost more in terms of travel and time, limiting the number of interviews you might complete. However, being at the residency program and hospital gives you a better understanding of who you will work with and where you will train. It is much more difficult to pick up the vibes from a residency program virtually. You will only see what they show you, which, since they are trying to recruit you, will likely only be the good things. Doing your interviews virtually is convenient, saves money, and allows you to check out more programs. Be aware of doing virtual interviews in different time zones! I missed the beginning of one of my interviews because it started in a different time zone. Everything turned out fine, but it was still embarrassing interviewing in scrubs and no makeup since I was at the hospital that morning for a procedure.

A residency interview guide from the American Academy of Family Physicians

The interview day is typically accompanied by a resident social, where applicants can hang out virtually or in person with current residents and get some insights into the programs. I felt these were worthwhile attending. They are advertised as being optional. However, I did have an assistant program director inform me their program took attendance and noted applicants as disinterested if they did not attend the resident socials. You can cancel interviews, but I do not recommend doing it super close to your interview day. It’s a bad look and gives the residency program little notice to fill the spot you leave open.

To prepare for residency interviews, I would begin by searching the program webpage to find information. There are lists of participating programs per specialty on the AAMC’s website (https://systems.aamc.org/eras/erasstats/par/index.cfm). You will meet many people on these interview days who will discuss lots of information. I HIGHLY recommend making an Excel spreadsheet of topics that matter to you, such as class size, salary, patient volumes, procedures, benefits, etc. This way, you do not forget the information as you continue interviewing for new programs. It would be advantageous to practice your interview skills and review common residency interview questions (https://students-residents.aamc.org/interviewing-residency-positions/questions-frequently-asked-applicants-during-interviews). This way, you can make good use of your time by giving precise and well thought out answers. I would typically write out questions I wanted answered if I could not find information on a program’s website. It is always good to show your interest in a program by asking solid questions. It is important to find out if their program is a good fit that can help you meet your goals. Here is another list of interview questions from the Emergency Medicine Residents Association (https://www.emra.org/siteassets/files/career-planning/residency-interview-guide.pdf). Make sure you dress professionally. For those doing virtual interviews, consider your computer setup. Look directly into the camera and make sure the video is clear. Natural lighting is the best. Having some items in the room is fine, but I would remove anything that might be too distracting for your interviewer.

After the interview, many medical students are unsure whether to send Thank You cards/emails. Some programs will tell you not to send them, which is less confusing. Bottom line, I don’t think it matters. I did not send any and my Match went well. If you are going to contact a program after the interview, it probably looks better to be asking a question to express continued interest. Some students feel they must send letters of intent to programs they wish to Match. I am not sure this works, but I guess it is worth a try if you only send one letter to one program telling them they are your number one. It makes no sense to email multiple programs, telling them they are one of your “top choices.” It probably won’t cause them to move you up their rank list. Many residencies that do virtual interviews offer what they call a “second look,” meaning that you can schedule a date to come to tour the hospital and meet some folks at the program before you submit your rank list. I think this is very valuable so applicants can get a better feel for the program. Second looks have caused many applicants to completely rearrange their rank list.

The rank list is personal and can be difficult to create. We tend to stress about how the interview went or whether a program is too competitive. Many residents will say that they made their decisions based on gut feelings. It’s true! I made my list based on elements including location, curriculum, and the input of my partner. Rank your top choices as the places you want to go! The Match system is designed to try and get you there (https://www.nrmp.org/intro-to-the-match/how-matching-algorithm-works/). And if you are having trouble sorting the programs on your list, try this website that helped me (https://residencymatchtools.com/).

I will leave you with one last link to the National Resident Matching Program website which I found helpful when exploring my specialty and applying to residency (https://www.nrmp.org/match-data-analytics/residency-data-reports/). I hope this information has been helpful and you have enjoyed this series. A future in medicine is worth it. Keep working hard. Your Match Day will arrive before you know it! You will graduate and begin your next chapter in residency. Good luck!

All the best,

Hannah Bisoglio, D.O.