The professor looked up from my application, his eyes piercing mine. “I see you have a letter from Mr. Chen, your boss at Baskin-Robbins, who says your favorite flavor is Pralines ‘N Cream. Why would anyone put that in a letter of recommendation for medical school?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “My favorite flavor is Jamoca Almond Fudge.”
While that interview didn’t lead to an admission offer, I’ve never regretted asking Mr. Chen for support, and I ended up at the right school for me. Since many of you are about to start interviewing for jobs and fellowships, let’s devote this morning to interview tips.
First, be ready to discuss anything on your application. “What happened to that patient with Wilson’s Disease?” “Tell me more about the procedure team.” “Why did you leave race out of your logistic regression?” Anticipate generic queries too, like the notorious “tell me about yourself.”
Second, do your homework. Anticipate program-specific questions like “why here” and “which faculty would you like to work with?” If you learn your interviewers’ names beforehand, look them up.
Third, bring questions. Ask about support for grant applications, transitions to faculty, and advanced degrees. Ask standard questions everywhere so you can compare answers at ranking time: “What brought you to this program and what keeps you here?” “What do you like most about this division?” “What changes do you see coming?” But don’t ask about salary and schedules; save those questions for the fellows.
Fourth, discuss your goals. Interviewers know plans can change: The budding diabetologist may fall in love with the thyroid. Future oncologists may become hematologists. But show you’re thinking long-term, especially about your role in academia, if that’s your plan. Remember that interviewers can tell which candidates are just saying what programs want to hear. Just be yourself; you want to match at the place that’s right for you.
Fifth, dress to impress. Show you’re invested. Almost all interviews will be virtual, so be sure your lighting, sound, background, and internet connection are ready.
Sixth, show enthusiasm. Sadly, I sometimes hear about candidates who seem blasé. You want to show every program that you’ll be a bright, energetic, friendly recruit.
Finally, record your impressions. Were the interviewers prepared for you? Were they interested in your success and well-being? Would you want to work with them? Did the conversation flow? Were you left feeling excited?
I’ll end with an email I got a few years ago from Morgan Soffler, a former Yale resident and Chief who was interviewing fellowship applicants at BI-Deaconess:
I just wanted to drop a quick note to say how lovely all of the Yale PCCM applicants were – and really how well-prepared they are for their interviews. It becomes clear very quickly which applicants have received guidance from their programs and are able to speak about their interests very clearly and practically…The Yale residents really distinguish themselves and I am always excited when one comes through and I get to hear about all the wonderful things happening in New Haven. As always, I’ll do my best to advocate for them.
Morgan’s email confirmed my belief that you’ll all interview well, given your accomplishments, potential, and interpersonal skills. Just be your wonderful selves, and get ready to discuss your favorite ice cream flavor, in case you’re asked.
Enjoy your Sunday, everyone! I’m headed out into the sunshine.
P.S. In anticipation of tomorrow’s 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.
P.P.S. Pictures from yesterday’s hike up Sleeping Giant: