Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D., MBA
Professor Emeritus, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

No matter how irrational it may seem, the 10- to 30-minute interviews at residency programs will count more, in most cases, toward getting you into a program than the total weight of your previous three and a half years of medical school. It is not only the most important part of the resident-selection process, but also the most costly and most time-consuming. Put your best effort toward doing a good job during your interview.

To prepare, review potential interview questions and situations. Ask your mentor/specialty advisor to do a “mock interview” with you. Then, use the mnemonic “SHOWTIME” to remember the following points to consider when preparing for the interview:

  • Self: Have you adequately assessed your own knowledge, skills, and desires?
  • History: How did you decide to enter this specialty and this program?
  • Originality: What makes you unique?
  • World view: How does this program fit your life goals?
  • Tell: Can you describe yourself in a concise but powerful manner?
  • Illustrate: Practice non-verbal communication, including maintaining eye contact, sitting forward, gesturing effectively, and smiling.
  • Manage: Use well-placed questions and time-awareness to manage the interview.
  • Engage: Throughout the interview, try to discuss those areas about which you are enthusiastic so that your conversation is animated and stimulating for the interviewer.

You also want to memorize your opening introduction to the interviewer and a two- or three-sentence summation of your message: your strengths and your desire to come to that program.

Three more tips: 1) Arrange travel with enough flexible time so that you won’t be late; 2) Dress like a professional, rather than like a student (or a resident!); and 3) Remember that any meals you have with residents or faculty are part of the interview process. Take the time to prepare for your residency visits so that the programs can see that you really are the candidate that they want as a resident.

For more information about the resident interview, see the two free videos at:


Based on: Iserson’s Getting Into a Residency: A Guide for Medical Students, 8th edition
Tucson, AZ: Galen Press, Ltd.


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