CaRMS Interview Prep: The 2021 Guide

Updated: January 1, 2021

You're coming to the end of medical school and residency is just around the corner, but before you can get there, you need to ace your CaRMS interview prep. This blog will cover all aspects of CaRMS interview prep including exactly what you need to do before your interview to ensure you're ready to match to your dream program. Applied to residency in the US? Visit our ERAS blog.

Click the links below to navigate to specific sections:

1. Respond & Schedule

2. Prepare & Practice

Would you like us to help you prepare for your residency interview?

1. Respond and Schedule

Responding to programs and scheduling your interviews is the first step in your CaRMS interview prep. In general, you'll know whether or not you've been invited for an interview in late December to early January. Each program you apply to will update their interview offer status through CaRMS to let you know if you've been selected for an interview or not. If you haven't been selected for an interview, you may receive an explanation from the program but, unfortunately, not all programs inform applicants of why they were not selected. If you have been selected for an interview, you will receive an email from the program within a few days of your status changing which will confirm your interview and will include information about the interview such as interview type, location, duration, etc. If you don't hear from the program via email by the start of the interview period, between mid- January to mid-February, but your status on CaRMS shows that you've been invited to interview, be sure to get in touch with the program as you may have been missed from their email list. It's very important to keep this email safe as you'll need to reference this information as you begin scheduling your interviews.

Be sure to reply right away to all email invitations you receive, thanking each program for the opportunity. Some interviews will be over video chat or the phone while others will require you to be in person for the interview. It is expected that programs will give at least three weeks notice for an in-person interview to allow time for you to make travel and accommodation arrangements. If you have multiple in-person interviews, try to schedule your flights in an order that makes sense. For example, you definitely don't want to fly from BC to Newfoundland to Alberta to Nova Scotia all within a couple of days turnaround. Try to schedule your flights from east to west or west to east so that you're not doing any unnecessary travel in between. Interview season can be exhausting, so make sure you simplify the areas that are within your control.

It's also a good idea to arrive at least a day before your interview. First, this is a good idea as many programs will have socials the night before that are worthwhile to attend if possible. This becomes much more important, or even expected in small, intimate programs. Residents and faculty want to select individuals that they get along with and feel comfortable working with closely for the next 3-7 years of residency so socials are a good way to get to know applicants on a more relaxed basis. The same goes for you, you have a chance to assess the environment and personality of a program. You'll be spending just as long with your colleagues as they will with you, so it's important for you to determine if you think their program is a good fit for you. Second, you don't want to burn out and throw all of your CaRMS interview prep out the window simply because you're exhausted. Arriving the day before gives you a chance to check into your hotel, do a run-through of your route from the hotel to the interview, determine parking, and most importantly, wind down and clear your mind so you can get a good night's sleep.

2. Prepare & Practice

As soon as you have an interview invitation, you need to begin your CaRMS interview preparation. Securing an interview is a huge step towards matching with your dream program, but the reality is, all the time and effort you put into your residency application will be irrelevant if you don't ace your CaRMS interview. Remember, The Match works by matching medical students and residents to postgraduate training programs based on these three factors:

1. Number of available positions for each program

2. List of preferred applicants from each program

3. List of preferred programs from each applicant

The first factor is out of your control, but you have the power to influence the second and fully control the third. Your main two goals when attending CaRMS interviews are to determine if you're interested in the program and to convince the program that you're the best match for them. The only way to do this is to perform extremely well during your CaRMS interview. So how can you do this? Follow these important steps below.

Participate in mock interviews.

Mock interviews are like the golden goose of CaRMS interview prep. You know how an athlete doesn't become good at a sport without practicing and how a presentation can be painful if the speaker didn't adequately prepare? Well, the same goes for doing well on your CaRMS interview. There is no better way to prepare for your interview than by participating with real-life mock interviews that will simulate the actual interview environment you'll be experiencing. First, participating in a mock interview will help you practice accurately with the correct interview format. CaRMS interviews can be conducted in a variety of different formats. They can be conducted over the phone, virtually, and in-person. The in-person interviews could be a traditional interview, where you are interviewing one-on-one with your evaluators. A more common type of residency interview, however, is the panel interview, where you'll be interviewing with multiple evaluators, known as a panel. Lastly, the multiple mini interview (MMI) is also popular for residency interviews and with this format, you'll be rotating between a variety of different timed stations, meeting multiple evaluators one on one and discussing or answering prompts placed outside of the interview room.

As you can tell, all of these formats are very different, so simulating the appropriate format is essential in preparing effectively. During excellent simulations, you'll have the opportunity to virtually meet with trained admissions consulting team members, have them ask you questions, practice answering these questions, all while practicing in the correct format. This means that if your residency interview will be a MMI, your simulation will be in the MMI format. Each response will be timed, evaluators will not respond or gesture in any way, and you'll be automatically moved to the next station when the time runs out. Practicing in this way is particularly necessary to perfect not only the content of your response but the timing. Depending on the program, interviewees will have between 4-8 minutes at each station to discuss the prompt. If you haven't participated in mock interviews, you'll have a very difficult time getting the timing of your response right without rambling or finishing after speaking for only a minute or two. These simulations will also cover very common residency interview questions that you can expect to come up during your actual interview.

Finally, participating in CaRMS mock interviews is beneficial as you'll receive personalized feedback on your responses. While finding a list of residency interview questions to practice with is a good start, if a professional isn't evaluating your responses, how will you know if your sample answers are considered strong or weak? What if your response isn't really answering the question appropriately? What if your answer would be red-flagged for being morally or professionally inappropriate? What if it doesn't show the best version of you? What if it comes across as insincere or robotic? The reality is, you are not a professional trained admissions expert, and most likely, neither are your friends or family members. The best way to ensure your responses are excellent is to receive feedback that is specific to your answers. This way, you'll know exactly which areas you need to improve so you can reduce or eliminate your weaknesses and ensure no matter what question is thrown at you in the interview, you'll be able to nail it.

Practice with sample questions.

Practicing with sample residency interview questions is a great way to supplement your mock simulations. The more common interview questions you can practice with, the better because it will help you continue practicing the strategies and techniques you will have learned in your mock simulations. Namely, you'll have the ability to answer any interview question, no matter what type it is. You absolutely need to be able to answer some of the more common interview questions such as why do you want to be a doctor and the residency interview question tell me about yourself. It's also important to recognize different types of MMI questions you may receive, so you can successfully answer all MMI questions during your interview and attack them with the approach you've learned in your mock simulations. For even more questions, take a look at our CaRMs interview questions blog which has a list of questions and answers to help you in your CaRMS interview prep. You can even take a look at some medical school interview questions to practice answering some of the most common interview questions in the medical field. 

Can you answer the interview question "tell me about yourself" effectively? Let our video below guide you:

Research and compile questions.

That's right, part of your CaRMS interview prep will involve having some questions prepared to ask your interviewers when they turn to you and ask “So, do you have any questions for us?” Not only does having good questions prepared to ask your interviewers make you look good to the evaluators, but it's also a tool that you possess to help you determine if you're truly interested in their program, and to what level. What's unique about CaRMS interviews is that while the interviewers are interviewing you, you also have the opportunity to interview them. In order for a match to happen, both parties need to be interested and rank each other highly. It's therefore important for you to do your research prior to the interview. Go onto each school's website and research the programs that you've applied to and compile relevant questions. You could ask questions about the program, location, city, province, staff, and residents. Once you finished your interview, try to note down the responses to some of these questions. If you're lucky and have many residency interviews to attend, it can become difficult to distinguish one program from another and your experience at each when you're creating your rank order list. You'll find the ranking process a lot easier if you have notes to look back on to help jog your memory.

Here's a list of sample questions you could ask your interviewers:

  • Do you feel like there is a good balance between providing service and learning for your residents? 
  • What can a resident do to ensure success in your program?
  • What are recent graduates of your program currently doing?
  • What support systems are in place as residents navigate the stresses of being on-call?
  • What are the research opportunities available for residents to pursue?
  • How often are residents evaluated?
  • What teaching responsibilities for medical students are expected of residents?
  • What are the required rotations for the first year? Subsequent years?

Lights, camera, action.

Ok, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but you're almost there and it's almost go time! To fully round off your entire CaRMs interview preparation, you need to practice repeatedly, until you can answer any interview question confidently. The right practice really can make perfect, or as near to perfect as is possible. The most important part of your practice is that you don't want to recite your residency personal statement and residency CV or memorize your answers at any point. Memorization is bad news all around and memorized answers come across exactly as you'd expect: canned. The whole purpose of a residency interview is for program directors and residents to get an idea of who you are as a person, what your experience is, what motivates you and ultimately if you'll be a suitable match for their program. To gauge all of these factors, they want to get to know the real you and want your genuine response to their questions. Memorized answers unfortunately just don't come across as genuine, and they can really hurt your chances of getting into your dream program. In addition to being insincere, memorization often backfires because if applicants are asked different variations of questions they prepared, their stilted answer is often not appropriate. Lastly, it's very easy to experience memory blanks with memorized answers. If you end up missing a word or a sentence, which is especially likely under the pressure of an interview, it can be near impossible to pick back up where you should because your mind has learned to memorize in a certain way. Once you're thrown off, you could be thrown off for good.

So, instead what you want to do is rehearse, ensuring you're hitting a few target points that you've jotted down. During your rehearsals, you should notice that your answer is flexible and dynamic. Yes, you want to ensure you're hitting those important points, but the rest of it can flow naturally. It's a good idea to practice either in front of a mirror or in front of a camera. The reason being is that you want to be on the lookout for any nervous behaviors such as touching your face and hair, pacing or even fidgeting. On your interview day, you want to come across as confident and you don't want to be distracting your interviewers from hearing what you have to say. You want to be remembered by your fantastic responses and unique personality, not as the girl who kept playing with the buttons on her shirt!

If you want this broken down into 5 easy steps, check out our video:

Would you like us to help you prepare for your residency interview?

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting