Common Interview Questions
We’re working on tactics and strategies to help you succeed in your interviews for medical residency and fellowship positions. The goal of this module is for you to apply what you learned from the first module – the basics of body language and nonverbal communication, how to best present yourself to your interviewer, and mistakes to avoid while interviewing – while answering common residency interview questions. If you haven’t seen the first module, go back and watch it before you begin this one.
Before we start, keep this in mind as we proceed through these courses, and you practice on your own time: weaknesses should be seen as opportunities to improve until they become strengths. The goal is to progress from conscious competence to unconscious competence. In other words, we want to move from having to think about doing the right thing during an interview – speaking naturally, making good eye contact, the things we covered in the last module – to doing the right thing reflexively.
Don’t rush the process: any mild improvement to a weakness should be viewed positively. And don’t get discouraged if progress takes time. Remember: practice makes perfect.
Let’s get started with some common questions you will be asked in an interview.
These are questions that are open-ended, that allow an interviewer a chance to find out more about you than what’s listed on your CV. While there isn’t a “right” way to answer them, there are ways to answer that are more effective at showing the interviewer who you are and how you think.
If you’ve ever interviewed for a job, you’ve probably encountered similar questions to the ones we’ll cover today. Remember that while a job might bring in a handful of candidates to interview for a single position, a residency program could interview hundreds. You and your answers must stand out to have a better chance of being considered for the program.
Later, we’ll also go through a couple of ways to help the interview flow more naturally. Ultimately, you want your interview to feel professional but relaxed. If it’s going well it should feel like a conversation, not a series of disjointed questions.
For our first commonly used interview question, we’ll start with:
“What made you want to become a doctor?”
As you can imagine, this is a question that you will encounter in almost all your interviews. It is an excellent opportunity to highlight your story and personality.
Watch out though – a big mistake interview candidates make is to give a linear progression retelling how they became doctors – instead of telling a relatable story about what inspired them and what their journey into medicine was like.
Remember that details are key. Engaging ones should be added to your answer to allow the listener to experience your journey towards becoming the person and physician that you are today. In addition to discussing what your inspiration was, make sure to talk about related projects you’re working on right now, what some of your short-term goals are, and how excited you are for the future and the achievement of these goals. This is how you make a memorable impact on an interviewer.
Remember that an interviewer could be working with hundreds of candidates in total, and the best way to stand out positively is to leave a lasting emotional impression.
The second common interview-style question that we will focus on is:
“Why are you applying to this specialty?”
Whether the specialty you’re applying to is family medicine, dermatology, surgery, or any number of others – keep in mind the difference between this and the previous question: specificity.
It is critical that you center your answer around your path to this specific specialty. Start your answer with the story or experience that first sparked your interest in the specialty. Make sure to add details. Be specific. How did you feel during that experience?
Thinking about all these things will help the listener relive your inspiration vicariously. What were some moments that were particularly motivating to you that helped you ultimately choose this specialty from all the others?
After discussing this, detail how you have been involved in the specialty in the last few years and some of the highlights of your more recent experiences. Again, details matter and help paint a picture for the listener to share in your positive memories.
Finally, finish off your answer with the impact you plan on making in the specialty by focusing on your future research interests and patient care goals. What exciting avenues do you want to pursue to make a lasting impression on the field? Answer the question with passion and engagement because, based on how you answer, the interviewer will get a preview of the kind of resident they will be accepting into their program.
The final common interview question that we will be focusing on is:
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
There is one major key that will allow you to answer this question effectively: take the time ahead of your interview to really think hard about where you would ideally like to be 10 years from now.
These next questions are important:
- What will you have want to have accomplished?
- What interesting areas of research will you pursue?
- What impact will you have on your community?
- What areas of medicine will be your primary focus?
- What are your plans and goals for this area of focus?
Give thoughtful, detailed answers to these questions and the interviewer will be blown away by your conscientiousness and plans for a bright future.
Take some time now to think about your answers to all these questions. Write them down and reduce them to bullet points. Get comfortable retelling them. Do this so that you can answer naturally, not like you’re reading from a script.
Now that we have discussed some high-yield questions, we will talk about how to facilitate conversational-style interviewing.
The easiest way to flow naturally in an interview is to have lots of practice with mock interviews or have previous experience with real interviews.
Refine this practice by identifying and correcting mistakes.
Record yourself practicing these answers and watch the recordings with a critical eye, keeping the following in mind:
- Were you confident in your answers?
- Did you make proper eye contact?
- Did you sit up straight?
Important: Another important key is instead of trying to say the perfect line, be proud of your accomplishments and journey up this to point and convey this to the interviewer. With enough practice, you should feel comfortable telling your story.
When you make a mistake and stumble over your words during an interview – which we all do from time to time, don’t worry – don’t let this derail you.
The best way to deal with this is to brush it off and continue with what you were saying. Remember that it’s normal to be a bit nervous, and the interviewers understand this. The big picture is much more important than the tiny errors.
Before we finish this session and move on to module number three, consider these questions and use the tips we just discussed to prepare your answers:
- Take time to think about your past experiences.
- Write out bullet points to use in your answer.
- Record your answers and watch for the things we’ve covered so far.
- Here are the questions to prepare ahead of the next module:
- The questions appear onscreen as DR. KARTHIK announces them:
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Why should we take you into our program?
- Tell us about which aspect of your application you would change if you could.
We’ve now completed module two. We discussed common types of interview questions, and strategies to prepare your answers to them. You’re now ready to confidently answer why you want to be a doctor. You can put together a ten-year plan and speak to your future goals. And you can take a breath and keep the interview moving when you’ve made a mistake.
By practicing and keeping all of this in mind, you’ll be able to impress your interviewer and move one step closer to your goal of medical residency and fellowship.
Module 2 audio