Posted in Education, Health, students

Interview Tips for Residency Programs

Thousands of medical students are hitting the final stretch of their medical school education and beginning to embark on one of the most critical times of their career…choosing a residency and applying for a position.

Despite one’s academic prowess, however, the interview could make or break an applicant.

Therefore, let’s get you ready for the biggest job interview of your life.




Know your audience

Every residency program is different. And each one has defining elements.  So don’t make the assumption that all hospitals, doctors, staff and teaching programs are the same.

Do your research before your interview, and know inside and out what makes them tick.

  • The services they offer that other institutions don’t
  • The type of community they serve
  • Current research studies
  • What are they known to have excelled at or trail-blazed

It might even help to read up on the program director and see what he/she published.

Why?? Because the first question they ask you is:

Why did you choose our residency?


Know the specialty you’re applying for

This may seem like a no-brainer but many students will, when nerves take over, cite  misconceptions or negative stereotypes of the field their entering.

For example one may cite during a surgical residency interview that they “Prefer cutting over figuring out what the patient has.”

Or during a family medicine interview say, “I don’t like working in the hospital,” or “I would rather be a Jack-Of-All-Trades, than specializing in one subject.”

These answers could make the interviewer cringe.  So the following examples may be better statements:

Surgery – “I enjoy working with both my mind and my hands when it comes to the vast amounts of pathology one sees as a surgeon.”

Family Medicine – “I enjoy working with the family as a unit and am excited to have the capability to treat those of all ages.”

Internal Medicine – “I’m fascinated by the complexity of cases seen in internal medicine and how the history and physical exams skills we learned in medical school can be just as accurate as the most powerful imaging study used when determining what is wrong with a patient.”

Pediatrics – “Children make me laugh and smile and to be able to do that every work day is a rarity in many professions and specialties.”


Remember it’s an interview

Dr. Thomas Hunt, Program Director, Valley Health System Family Medicine Residency Program, states:

Generally programs are looking for a good fit – fit to the specialty, culture, community, and mission of the program. Each program will weigh elements of your application differently, taking into account your transcripts, scores, letter of recommendation, etc. looking for candidates that best adhere to their “Ideal” resident.
That being said, the best advice I can give to students interviewing for residencies this season is to relax, be yourself, and remember that you are interviewing the program as much as they are interviewing you. Watch how the faculty, staff, and residents interact with one another and ask yourself “How do I see myself fitting into this program over the next 3 to 5 years? Is this what I am looking for? Will I be happy and thrive in this environment?”

So remember…. it’s an interview.  The reason why you are sitting before them is because they liked what they saw on paper but now they need to see you how you act, speak, and compose yourself in person.  So the same rules apply.




  • Thank them before and after the interview, using a handshake when appropriate
  • Dress professionally, but comfortably so you appear comfortable and professional
  • Avoid slang and overly wordy responses
  • Keep giggles to a minimum, even if they make a funny joke
  • Be respectful
  • Be gracious to everyone with whom you come into contact with that day from the security guard to the program director to the parking attendant
  • Be humble
  • If a question seems random, and you don’t know the answer, respond with, “That’s a good question, let me give some thought into my answer before I respond,” to provide you with some pause to collect your thoughts.


Why should they pick you?

Each program is being inundated with applications and your competition is fierce. However, don’t let that over-intimidate you.  The fact that you clutched an interview means you are already ahead of the pack.  Now you need to convince them they made the right choice in choosing to interview you.

  1.  Remark how appreciative you are in them giving you the opportunity to interview for such a highly coveted position.
  2. Highlight your strengths and how they can be of benefit to their residency
  3. If you are multilingual, don’t hold your tongue, let them know!
  4. If you did an audition rotation there and worked well with the residency team (less transitioning needed) remind them of how well you all worked together
  5. If your academics and board scores are strong it can enhance their test score average
  6. Some may straight up ask what three things make you valuable for their residency program
  7. You want to become apart of the community in which the residency resides and help continue their good work.

Many programs want to train those who will stay instate and provide much-needed care to their residents.  If you do plan on living in the state in which you train, make sure you let them know!

Will they try to trip you up?

The short answer….No.   Program directors don’t have time to waste by choosing applicants and then scaring them off or tricking them into performing badly.

However, they are going to want to get to know you.  Residents and their attendings are committed to working with each other anywhere from 3-5 years and your future boss wants to know you can make the cut and work well with others.  Don’t be afraid to show some personality but remember to be brief and continue to allow them control of the interview.

So what are some sample questions?

You might be asked any of the following:

  • Why did you choose our residency?
  • What made you choose this specialty?
  • How would you define our specialty?
  • What do you like about our institution?
  • What do you dislike about our program?
  • What sub-specialty are you interested in?
  • Where do you want to live once you graduate?
  • Do you work well with others?
  • Give me an example of when you had a conflict with a coworker and how did it get resolved.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about your research.
  • Tell me about your volunteer work.
  • Tell me about your community service.
  • Have you had any leadership roles?
  • Briefly touch upon some of your academic challenges.
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • How do you relieve stress?
  • Do you have family and friends who support your career choice?
  • Do you read books, and what book are you currently reading?
  • Describe a challenging patient case you’ve come across.
  • How would you approach a colleague who is abusing narcotics?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

For the final question, refrain from asking the interviewer questions that are easily answered on their website or catalog.  Use the opportunity to show off your interests whether it’s regarding what research, community partnership, or teaching opportunities exist.  You can also ask them what they like about the program, why they chose to teach there, and what they would like to see in terms of evolution and progress.

After the interview

You will thank them and shake their hand but when you return home send a thank you note for their time.  Don’t stress over how your interview went.  Most likely you performed better than you thought.  Moreover expect your skills to improve with each interview.  Some suggest to leave your favorite picks to the end until you gained more practice, however, some may argue to not allow the interviewer to get “applicant fatigue” such that by the time they meet you they have made their choice.

Practice with classmates or faculty if you need and remember to prepare.

Finally, realize that you have interacted with hundreds if not thousands of individuals in your lifetime whether they were students, patients or faculty and are very skilled at what you do.  If not you wouldn’t be about to graduate medical school.  You got this!! Crush it!


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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.



Posted in Education, Health, news, students

How College Students Can Cut Their Debt

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Student debt has been rising and the average undergraduate doesn’t feel confident they will pay off their loans before middle age.

Lots of factors contribute to the increased debt a student faces. Some of these include:

  • Higher tuition costs
  • Increased time requirements to obtain a degree (5 year program vs 4 year)
  • Fewer students work while taking classes
  • More competition after graduation
  • Higher cost of living precludes early repayment of loans

And it is projected to rise.  The Congressional Budget Office each year projects the total amount of new federal student loans the office believes they will issue with this year projected to be nearly $1.5 trillion.

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Andrew Coates, candidate for University Regent in Southern Nevada, states, “One way that colleges can help students keep their debt under control is by locking-in tuition rates.  This means that tuition will not be increased while a student pursues their degree.  By locking-in tuition, students will know exactly how much they will pay each year in college, which will help them budget accordingly.”



Andrew Coates, Candidate for University Regent, Southern Nevada


So how can students curb their debt?

Choose an affordable college

According to US News data, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2018–2019 school year was $35,676 at private colleges, $9,716 for state residents at public colleges and $21,629 for out-of-state students at state school, with many universities easily exceeding these numbers.  So students may want to consider getting early credits completed at community colleges and then finishing their degree at a university.  Additionally, many will need to decide if its worth picking an out-of-state college for a degree that provides the same job market edge as an in-state school.


Research available loans, grants and scholarships

Many students don’t apply for grants, loans and scholarships because of time constraints, misconceptions such as they don’t fit a demographic, or  “will be credit history required?”, and lack of optimism that they will even qualify.

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of states, “More than 2 million students did not get a Federal Pell Grant even though they were eligible because they did not file the FAFSA.”  FAFSA (link attached) is a free application for federal student aid assisting students who want to apply for a loan, grant or work study.

Scholarships are ideal in that they do not need to be paid back. Many can be found at

Learn to budget

Many students get a culture shock living on their own when they spend as if Mom or Dad is still footing the bill.  If eating out nightly, shopping online, or using excess data does not fit into the amount your trying to live on each month, budget expenses early on and stick to it.

Avoid the credit card trap

When we try to build our credit as a young adult, we may apply for a credit card that advertises to college students with no monthly fee and “rewards.” However, the interest rates can be up to 25%.  If you do use the credit card don’t borrow more than you can pay  off each month, always shooting for a zero balance.


Keep your living costs down

Rent, transportation, utilities, meals, entertainment, internet and phone service, add up and can be more costly than tuition.  Share expenses with roommates or family members to lessen your loan debt.

Cook and prepare meals for the coming days, use school wifi, carpool to class, purchase less beer, and use the university gym to save money.

But most importantly, don’t stress about the debt.  Your efforts should be concentrated on your schooling and getting a degree is one of the best ways to combat your debt later in life.



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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.

She is also a Board Certified Family Physician and Assistant Professor at Touro University Nevada