Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Let the Games Begin!!

Posted by Jenna at Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Interview season is in full force and it's going to be a fun-filled but bumpy ride! While some of my classmates have had quite a few interviews already, I'm just preparing for interview #3. It seems that a lot of the in-state, Michigan, programs had early interviews, starting a little over 3 weeks ago now.
I thought that I'd add to Melanie's great advice because you can never have too much advice during this crazy part of your life:

#1. As soon as you know where you're applying, give the people writing your letters of recommendation their materials. I put together a word document that listed each program, in order of due date. I wrote out the addresses on each envelope, stamped them, and included any supplemental papers, if required, in the envelope. While my deadlines ranged from Dec 31-Jan 15, I asked that my letters be mailed by Dec 20th, if possible. My preceptors already had their letters written for the most part (I asked one in August, one in October, and one in early November). Ask your preceptors to let you know when they sent their letters and follow-up with them if it's a day or two before 'your' deadline. Give your preceptors plenty of time. Give them everything they need, in an organized, ready-to-mail fashion. Ask that they let you know when letters have been sent. Don't bug them! Follow up with hand-written thank you notes.

#2. I sent all of my applications via the USPS. I sent them priority mail (~2 day delivery) with delivery confirmation, which cost $6 each. I sent half of them out before Christmas and the other half (which had supplemental parts) out right after Christmas. I sent everything together in one big envelope so I didn't have to keep track of individual pieces of mail getting to the program.

#3. My first interview offer came on 1/6 and my last on 1/26. You may get different advice but I would not recommend emailing RPD's (residency program directors) to ask if they've received your application. 12/13 of the programs I applied to sent me a confirmation email that all of my materials had been received. This is a busy time for RPD's and I think some could find it annoying if you're checking in on them. If you get delivery confirmation when you mail it, you know they have your stuff.

#4. Once you start hearing back from programs, scheduling interviews becomes quite the work of art. Keep your calendar with you at all times because you never know when you might get a phone call or email with the next interview offer! Some programs give you dates based on 1st come, 1st serve. I was lucky in that my January rotation I worked from home, so I was able to respond to emails quickly and answer my phone when calls came through. My biggest word of advice: don't schedule any flights until you've heard from all of your programs!!! I wasted a good chunk of change calling and changing flights so that I could fly from one city to the next, rather than flying back to Detroit in between. That's the only way to fit in as many interviews as you can.

#5. Prepare for interviews but know that you can't prepare for everything. I've actually shocked myself at how 'little' I've prepared for interviews, compared to how 'on top' of things I usually am.  I think part of that has to do with the fact that I want to be myself, so programs get to know me, not someone I'm trying to make myself out to be. I think it's important to have points in mind that you want to cover for some of the 'popular' questions but you don't want to sound like a recorder. Questions you must be ready to answer
-Tell me about yourself (i.e. elevator speech)
-Why do you want to do a residency?
-What are your short/long term goals?
-Tell me about your rotations and what you did on them.
-Why do you want to do a residency here?
-What are your strengths/weaknesses and how will that help/hinder you during residency?
-Tell me about a recommendation that you made that improved a patient's care.
-Tell me about a recommendation that you made that wasn't accepted and how did you handle it?
-What do you like to do in your free time?

#6. Have A LOT of questions ready to ask. You should be interviewing the program as much as they're interviewing you. You need to make sure that it's a good fit for you - a year is a long time to be miserable! The amount of time I've had to ask questions has been quite surprising to me so it's important that you can fill that time with intelligent, thoughtful questions. You will look like a doofus if you don't have questions and will just lead to either an awkward silence or your interviewers trying to come up with more questions to ask you. It's okay to repeat questions when you're with different interviewers, it's good to get multiple opinions.

#7. Write hand-written thank you notes to the RPD and pharmacy director(s) (if you interview with them). I also wrote thank you's to all of the residents but most of my programs only had 1-2 residents. Some people may recommend writing hand-written notes to every person that interviewed you but unless you have an abundant amount of free-time and unlimited stock in stamps, I would say this isn't necessary. If there's someone that went out of their way to make your experience extra pleasant or if you spent an extended amount of time with an interviewer, then by all means, write them a nice hand-written letter!

#8. There are a wide variety of interview formats. Some interviews will pretty much be straight Q & A/drilling all day with an opportunity to eat lunch/talk with the residents. This is probably the typical interview format, which seems 'all about them.' Some interviews will have some 'drilling' and may also include a patient case to work-up & present or a 15-30 minute presentation that you have to give. Other interviews will be much more 'relaxed,' and to me, seem much more about giving you the chance to figure out whether their program/institution is right for you. As an interviewee, I very much appreciate the last scenario. The interviews/places that I loved were the places where I got to attend rounds, tour pretty much the entire hospital, have sufficient time to talk with the current residents, and have had ample amount of time to ask questions of the RPD/preceptors. 

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