Interviewing for Residency

As you prepare for interviews, try to enjoy the process as much as possible. Reflect on your strengths. Ask hard questions of programs. Interviewing for residency is as much of an opportunity for you to interview programs, as for programs to interview you.

Your main objectives while interviewing for residency:

  1. Determine how well programs meet your goals and how compatible you are with programs
  2. Demonstrate your compatibility with programs to those who interview you: program directors, faculty, residents, and staff
  3. Assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of programs

Ultimately, your goal is to gain enough information to create a solid rank order list.

Knowing what you are going to say during an interview takes dedicated preparation time.

Start by reading: Residency-Interviews-Prep-Guide-20-21, containing:

  • General interviewing tips
  • Sample questions
  • Addressing challenging questions and red flags on applications
  • Suggested questions to ask programs during interviews

The interview season is the period of time after application materials are submitted and before rank order lists are due. On average, students take 6-8 weeks off from clinicals to conduct residency interviews.

NOTE: You must follow all policies in the UWSOM Medical Education Program Handbook, especially the:

Every specialty has their own timeline for offering interviews and for conducting interviews.

  • NRMP Program Director Survey provides data on when interviews are typically offered and conducted (in non-COVID years).
  • UWSOM Specialty Career Advisors FAQ: the last page for each specialty has specific recommendations for the number of interviews to aim for by a particular timeframe. Typically the target number is around 10-12.
  • NRMP Charting Outcomes in the Match provides data on likelihood of matching based on contiguous ranks. The more contiguous ranks you have in one specialty, the higher the probability of matching in that specialty.

Interviews generally take place November through January, with some starting in October and others occurring in February.

Follow the recommendation of your Specialty Career Advisor regarding the number of interviews you need for your specialty and manage your interview schedule accordingly


  • Respond immediately to interview offers
  • If possible, consider scheduling the interviews for programs you are most excited about in the middle of your interview calendar
  • Apply to enough programs to account for the possibility that you may have to turn down some offers
  • Sometimes interview dates will conflict with one another. Send a professional email to the person coordinating interviews, informing them of your situation. They may be able to help rearrange the schedule.
  • As you accept early interviews, know that you can always cancel later if you are offered more than you can reasonably attend, or receive invitations to programs for which you have a greater interest
  • Some competitive specialties may only offer one interview date, as they only allow for 2-4 interview days per season

Approach virtual interviews with the same formality as you would for an in-person interview.

Respond promptly to any required pre-interview or supplemental application components, as required by specific programs

Before Interviewing:

Research programs and salient characteristics

  • Programs may send you digital program materials
  • Review program websites

Gather information about all aspects of your interviews and prepare your technology:

  • Live or Asynchronous Interview?
    • Live: real-time video conferencing to connect you with an interviewer
    • Asynchronous: record your responses via webcam, to be shared with reviewers at a later time
  • Video platform being used
  • Number of interviewers
  • Interview length
  • Be prepared to ask questions. Avoid questions answered on program websites
Prepare your interview location and test technology well before your interviews. Make sure:
  • You have a reliable and stable internet connection
  • Your computer or tablet has a good quality webcam and microphone
  • If possible, use a computer or tablet instead of a mobile phone
  • Your interview environment is private, well-lit, quiet, free from distractions, and is located where you can control the background noise (no public spaces)
  • Identify a backup plan if technology fails
On the day of the interview:
  • Present your best self by being well-rested and focused
  • Present yourself well – conservative attire is a safe bet (dark solid colors suits, blazers)
  • Test your technology prior to logging into the interview
    • Shut down other computer programs so that no alerts or notifications will disrupt you
    • Camera, microphone, and internet connection are working properly
    • Your device is fully charged, ideally plugged into a socket
  • Have relevant interviews materials in front of you for easy reference
  • Arrive to the interview 5 minutes early
  • Treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness
  • Make notes of your impressions during and after the interview – details will start to blur as you complete more interviews
Present a Great Impression on a Video Interview:
  • Angle the camera slightly downward
  • Look into the camera when speaking. This improves the perception of eye contact
  • Avoid watching yourself when speaking – close the self-view window if necessary
  • Sit still, lean forward, and keep hands still
  • Rely on facial reactions, instead of distracting hand gestures. Use exaggerated face and body animations to better communicate in the virtual environment
  • Speak slower than normal. Take your time to provide thoughtful responses
Make Your Environment Look Good:
  • Have adequate lighting
  • Select a neutral background
  • Notes should be within easy reach and limit the sound of paper shuffling


A Note on Social Media

Maintain a professional and appropriate presence on your social media channels, as programs will review these sites to learn more about those they are interviewing. Consider changing your privacy settings to private, or self-censor your posts. For more information: Federation of State Medical Boards’ Social Media and Electronic Communications Guide.