Overview of the interview season

The interview season is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time for International Medical Graduates. I hope that this brief overview can shed some light on what you might expect to experience after you submit your ERAS application.

DISCLAIMER: This overview is based on my personal journey. Your experience may be different. Deadlines, key dates and details of communication with ERAS and programs may change over time. I encourage you to check the relevant official websites for definitive information. I have provided useful links under the relevant headings for further reading.

1. Send out your ERAS application

Do the best you can to send out your application on the first day that ERAS “opens” in September. Interview slots start to get filled quickly and you don’t want to lessen your chances by submitting late. Once you submit your application and make your payment, you may see something like this from ERAS:

“Your credit card payment has been submitted and your ERAS application has been made available for download by your designated programs.”

Now that the programs have access to your application, you can try to relax and wait for interview invitations to come to you.

Further reading:

2. Accepting interview invitations

You will hopefully start to receive interview invitations soon after you submit your application. From a review of archived emails during my own interview season, I can see that I received my first interview within a few days after submitting my application. I continued to receive interview invitations even in November. One program sent me a notice in October stating that they have received my application and that the selection committee was reviewing all applications from November 1. They would send out interview invitations after that time. So programs will vary in the way they review applications and send out invitations.

Programs will also send out notices declining interviews, so you may get used to seeing a mixture of these “rejection” emails along with interview invitations.

An interview invitation may look like this (usually from the program coordinator or program director):

Dear <__>, 

We are pleased to invite you to interview with <___>!  Interviews are conducted on Mondays beginning in October.  I have listed two interview dates below.  Hopefully one of these will work with your schedule.  Please confirm as soon as possible as we fill rather quickly for our interview season.  If these dates do not work for you, please let me know that as well and we will try to work something out or put you on a wait list.

<list of dates>

If you have questions you may contact me by e-mail at <__> or phone <__>. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

I wrote back ASAP. I generally replied directly to the program coordinator to accept the interview invitation with a selected date (they will let you know exactly how to accept the interview invitation). This may be your first actual interaction with a program. Good thing that the program coordinators are in general very nice and helpful.

A sample acceptance email may look like this:

Dear <__>, 

Thank you for the interview invitation at the <__> Residency Program. I would be glad to accept the invitation. My preferred dates for the interview are <__>. Would either of those dates be possible?

I look forward to hearing from you with further details about the interview day. 

Sincerely yours,

<__>

The above email is a sample of what I wrote. As you can see, I kept my acceptance emails short and to the point (please don’t copy the above email sample). As you write your acceptance emails, remember that program coordinators are very busy and read many emails during the interview season. So in my opinion, succinct and polite emails are best.

Further reading:

3. Arrange travel and logistics

residency-interview-trailGiven that your first interview can potentially be held in October and you may continue to receive invitations after that time, arranging your itinerary can be a challenging feat. If you are traveling from outside the U.S. to interview, you may want to try to consolidate your interviews into one block of time so that you do not need to keep flying back and forth. Just be prepared to alter your travel plans as the need arises.

You will need to think about visa, interview clothing, hotel bookings, travel insurance, and so on. Remember also that travel plans may not always work out due to snow. My first diverted plane was luckily at the end of my interview season when I was on my way home to Australia (well, I wouldn’t call that lucky but I was thankful that I made it to all of my interviews).

If you are fortunate to have received a good number of interviews, you will want to think about how they are spaced in the week. Having some time to recover in between interviews and allowing for travel delays is useful. Having 3 interviews in one week can be burdensome (although it can be done).

Programs may give you a list of different accommodation options. If you’re lucky, some programs may actually put you up in a hotel.

Further reading:

4. The interview day

Good preparation is important. Prior to the interview, make sure you review the program’s website and other pertinent information and be able to state why you like the program.

The interview process may actually begin on the night before the interview day with a dinner with the current residents. This is a chance to hang out, enjoy nice food and to ask questions about the program. I really enjoyed this part! The residents are also getting to know you as well. Other programs will organize meals and social gatherings a little differently (eg. dinner on the night of the interview).

The actual interview day consists of meetings with faculty, residents and likely either the program director or the assistant program director. You will also go on a tour of the facilities. Depending on the program, interview schedules do vary widely as do the length of interviews.

Below is an example of a schedule at one of the programs I interviewed at:

  • 8:00-9:30 Welcome and program presentation by the program director, various faculty and chief residents
  • 9:30-12:00 Interviews with faculty and residents (30 min each)
  • 12:00-1:00 Lunch with residents
  • 1:00-3:00 Tour of various hospital and clinic sites
  • 3:30-4:00 Closing Statements by the Chair of the department

Further reading:

5. Post-Interview

You should always communicate with the programs after your interview day. I wrote thank you emails to all of the people who I interviewed with soon after the interview day. I don’t believe that there is a “right” method of communication (some will advocate for thank you cards instead of emails.) No matter what your method of communication, make sure that you are genuine about what you write.

I won’t display my thank you notes here as they are personalized and are unique to each interviewer. In general I was enthusiastic in my tone, expressed thanks for the interviewer’s time and mentioned a few pertinent and unique details from the actual interviews. I also expressed that I would feel very fortunate to be accepted into their program (if I felt that way).

Some programs will invite you for a “second look” at the program at a later date. Or, you could ask if a program offers this. It is basically a chance for you to revisit the program to “feel out” if the program is a good fit for you.

Here is a portion from an invitation email for a second look:

We are inviting a select number of applicants to return to join us at <__> in order to get a better sense of the program, meet more of the residents, and have further questions answered.  This is completely optional and if you cannot schedule a return visit this will in no way dampen our enthusiasm for you.

Further reading:

6. Beyond the interview season

After all is done, after you rank programs via NRMP, and after all of the hard work and wait, you will hopefully receive an email from NRMP on Match Day (in March) stating:

Congratulations! You have matched.

Please feel free to give me feedback about this article. Do you have further questions or things you feel confused about?

Image courtesy of FrameAngel/freedigitalphotos.net

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One Reply to “Overview of the interview season”

  1. Nastassia

    Shinji, Match season is such a nerve-wrecking time. Thanks a bunch for putting the info in one spot and sharing your experience. I’ve been following your posts and am grateful for the guidance!

    Reply

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