Interview Tips

Applicants can look great on paper – and come out of the interview looking not so good. On the other hand, a great interview can strengthen a weak application. As you start out on the interview circuit, look over this list of interview day tips we've compiled to give you a head start.


  • Dress the part: You want to be overdressed, if anything. This is not the time to make a statement or be daring. Remember that you are trying to portray yourself as a professional, so something more conservative is better. (You’re trying to get a job, not a date).
  • Be on time: Being late for something this important makes others wonder if this is a pattern for you – and it looks unprofessional.
  • Be enthusiastic and interested: People like to work with upbeat colleagues. Remember to smile. If you can’t be enthusiastic about a program, should you really be applying there?
  • Think through why you are applying to a particular specialty and be able to articulate it: If you are like me and can’t think well on your feet, it’s important to be prepared. It is also good to have some idea of your long term plans. Residencies know that things change, but also want to see that someone is looking to the future.
  • Treat everyone with respect: Beyond being a good way to go about life, the program is also very interested in your character.
  • Be tolerant of mix-ups: During interview season mistakes or emergencies happen, schedules must be changed, or someone doesn’t show up exactly at the right time. Being impatient does not reflect well on you (see previous item).
  • Be genuine: We like real people. Directly address with your interviewer areas of weakness or anything that might appear odd, like a gap in your education or delay in starting residency. This doesn’t mean that you have to start with this, but usually it is good if you are proactive in bringing it up at some point.
  • Have fun: Family physicians are nice people (part of why we like family medicine), and during your interviews you will get to experience new cities, new people, and new ideas.
  • Ask questions respectfully: Your interviewer will likely answer questions much more fully if they don’t feel like they are on the defensive.
  • Learn everything you can: This includes before the interview – be informed about the program so that you can ask intelligent questions. (Having no questions about a program may be seen as a sign of disinterest.) Study their website or recruiting literature. I always recommend that applicants ask similar questions of multiple people to get differing perspectives.
  • Keep an open mind: Residency is a fairly short period of time in the grand scheme of things. You won’t ever have the opportunity for such concentrated learning again. Keep your list of absolute “must-haves” fairly short, especially regarding the location. Focus on the essentials.
  • Try to get enough sleep the night before: You want to be your best.


  • Try too hard to impress people: Residents and faculty alike want to see the real “you.”
  • Be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you’ve truly given no thought to a question: It’s still good to try and give an answer rather than to just let it drop, if you can think well on your feet.
  • Take advantage of the free meal to get the most expensive thing on the menu: It doesn’t reflect well on your character and most people that take you out have a limit on how much they spend. Pushing this limit puts them in a difficult position.
  • Wear too much perfume or cologne: If you must, wear just enough that you can tell it. This may be a big turn-off to some interviewers. Again, you are trying to portray yourself as a professional, not trying to get a date.
  • Get into controversial subjects: You don’t know if your interviewer has views similar to your own. Getting into an argument with an interviewer will always go poorly for you.
  • Overdo it with alcohol: There is research to show that in interview situations, someone drinking alcohol is perceived as being less intelligent than someone who is abstinent, even if the host/interviewer is drinking alcohol (not fair, but perceptions matter).