The purpose of the interview is for both parties to learn about each other to determine if the applicant and residency are a good fit. This is both a time for you to get to know them and for the residency to get to know you. It is an opportunity to learn and explore.

The entire experience is the interview. If you are with someone from the program ‐ staff, faculty, or residents, an unknown face with whom you are sorting out your interview schedule ‐ you are being interviewed. Any one part of the interview process can make or break your chances of getting into the program. Even worse, program directors talk with each other over listservs so that if you are thought to have acted unprofessionally at any one place, for example, it may hurt your chances everywhere.

Pre‐Interview Events

The dinners and social hours that residency programs hold before interview day are a great way to learn more about the
program and get a feel for the residents and faculty who may be interviewing you the next day. Even though this will be
a more informal event, remember that your interactions during these pre‐interview activities will be included in the
program’s discussion of you after you’re gone. Go to social events. You may be tempted to skip but you will miss out on
valuable information and a chance to show how well you get along with the team. This should not need to be said but
do not drink alcohol to excess or put yourself in any situation where there is a risk you might be thought of as unreliable
or unprofessional.

What to bring that day

Some students bring copies of their CV, personal statement and transcripts. You may want to bring a list of questions
you wish to have answered and a note pad (use a nice portfolio). Bring outerwear for bad weather and breath mints for
after lunch.

Getting to the interview

BE ON TIME; this cannot be over‐emphasized. If possible, go to the building prior to the interview so you know where to
go and how to get there so your travel on the interview day will go smoothly and allow you to get there on time. If you
cannot practice getting to the interview site before your interview day then leave plenty of time in case you get lost or
encounter other travel difficulties such as construction, public transit delays, or parking issues.

Shining in the interview

For the actual face‐to‐face interview, make sure to make eye contact, shake hands, smile, and introduce yourself. If you
are asked an open ended question, “tell me about yourself”, have a two minute statement prepared. Questions can be
repeated from interviewer to interviewer, most of the time the interviewers don’t talk with each other until after the
interview day is over and won’t know anything about the interactions in a previous interview. Try to sound fresh and
positive even if you have answered the same question 5 times. Your questions will change depending on with whom you
are talking. For example, residents will know more information about call schedules and the intricacies of different
rotations. It is okay to prepare a group of questions for each type of interviewer – resident, staff, faculty, and the
program director.

Make sure to:

  • Not ramble.
  • Listen to the questions asked ‐ make sure you understand what is being asked.
  • Answer the question that was asked.
  • Not answer a question they did not ask or add too much loosely‐related information.
  • Be comfortable with pauses, silence ‐ stay poised and confident.
  • Sound fresh every time ‐ be prepared to answer the same question 20+ times throughout the entire interview process.
  • Smile! ‐ highly underrated; often forgotten when nervous and tense. Be positive and enthusiastic.

Shining throughout the day

Remember that you will be “on stage” for the entire day. Treat everyone with respect; everyone you meet before the
interview and on the interview day will be involved in the decision about your application to the program. All staff
including receptionists, nurses, and the folks who answer your phone calls and emails have a voice in the
resident selection.
Interviews are draining emotionally and physically. Maintain energy and interest throughout the entire day. If you need
a minute or two away to regain your brain, excuse yourself to the bathroom, get a drink of water, or find some way to
get a minute or two to yourself.
Accept invitations for future contact. If residents offer you their card, take them. You can send them an email later to
let them know how much you appreciated their time and ask any lingering questions. Take faculty member’s contact
information when offered and reconnect with them to let them know how much you appreciated their time.

Observing in the ED

Many programs will allow you to spend a few hours in the emergency department during your visit. This is a great way
to see your future potential workplace in action as well as to make a good impression on additional people. If you
choose to do this, wear professional clothing and be very respectful of how busy things may be. You should not be
expected to see patients. It is unlikely that you will be asked clinical questions but it’s possible – how you handle
something you don’t know tells a lot more than knowing the correct answer. You may be shown interesting findings and
you should be interested in these.

What does a residency look for in an applicant?

The following is partial lists of things programs look try to establish during the interview:

  • Academic progress
  • Initiative ‐ self motivation is an important part of being and learning as a resident.
  • The ability to recognize one’s own limitations or knowledge gaps. The program wants residents that can recognize and find a solution to a knowledge gap or limitation in a specific ability to perform a skill. The ability to respond to feedback is part of this.
  • Motivation for and commitment to emergency medicine
  • Personality – warmth, compassion, maturity
  • Self‐awareness
  • Ability to handle stress
  • Commitment to work and get the job done
  • Fit with the residents and staff at the program
  • Reliability. Is this an individual I can trust?
  • Is this someone with whom I would like to work side by side


  • Ask thoughtful questions about the program.
  • Talk intelligently about emergency medicine and why it’s the discipline for you.
  • Be genuine.
  • Feel free to follow up and ask for faculty and residents’ contact information. You can use this information to send thank you letters and ask questions you forgot to ask during the interview.
  • Make eye contact with your interviewer and use nonverbal cues to show that you are listening to your interviewer.
  • Treat the staff with the same respect you do the residents and faculty.
  • Act professionally throughout.
  • Prepare for the trip: look at a map, visit websites that will give you information about the community and surrounding area. Know where you’re going if you’re unfamiliar with the area and don’t assume similarity of geography or climate because of how near or far it looks on the map. Make travel plans accordingly.


  • Compare the program your interviewing at with other programs.
  • Be rude or arrogant.
  • Spend the day asking for special favors such as asking the program coordinator to run an errand.
  • Interview if you’re not interested in the program.
  • Obsess over getting parking validation for the interview.
  • Slouch during your interview
  • Use your cell phone during the interview, even if only to take notes. It looks like you’re not paying attention.
  • Ask questions that are easily answered by looking at the program’s website.
  • Be ingratiating with faculty or the program director.
  • If your spouse or partner accompanies you to a social event do not engage in public displays of affection.
  • Bringing infants and small children is not advisable as they can disrupt activities.
Adapted with permission from the copyrighted career advising resources developed by Amanda Kost, MD and the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine