Practicing international medical graduate interview questions before you face the admissions committee will help you better prepare for your residency interview. International Medical Graduates or IMGs are people who have completed their medical education outside the US or Canada but want to practice medicine within the two countries. An interview is one of the most important parts of your residency application, so it is best to prepare for it and build confidence. If you’re wondering what residency program directors look for, you can find clues in the questions they ask.
In this article, we present some examples of international medical graduate interview questions and suggestions on how to answer them.
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International Medical Graduate Interview Questions and Answers
The following are some international medical graduate interview questions, along with tips on how to answer them. If you are applying to a Canadian residency program, the strategy to answer these questions remains the same.
International medical graduates are expected to provide answers to particular questions that medical students are not asked if they study at home. As part of a residency application, they will also need to provide specific documents tailored to their case and the field they are applying to, such as an IMG personal statement.
Want to learn about 10 common residency interview questions and answers? Watch this video:
Question 1: Why did you choose to pursue your medical residency in the US?
This question is specific to IMGs and international students. As this is a question that is specific to a select group of people, it is a very important one, and your response can significantly affect your chances. Remember that there are no right answers, but you should be honest in your response.
How to answer: To answer this question, you need to have strong enough understanding of the medical system in the US and your home country (non-US citizens). The interviewer wants to know what made you decide to pursue residency in the US instead of somewhere else. So, when preparing your answer to this question, think of what the US school or program offers that is unique, as well as your aspirations. You could mention some long-term goals that you have for after your residency. You could also mention things in the US medical system that you feel could be improved upon.
Sample response: I chose to pursue a medical residency in the US because of the outstanding training opportunities and resources available here. The US health care system is one of the most advanced and sophisticated in the world, which makes it an ideal place to learn from some of the best physicians. I also believe that completing my residency here will give me the skills and knowledge necessary for a successful career as a physician. This will allow me to take advantage of all of America’s leading medical technologies and practices. With a residency at your prestigious institute, I am confident that I will be positioned ahead of my peers when seeking employment after graduation.
Question 2: Why did you choose to complete your medical education outside the US?
This question is more often asked to US citizens who complete their medical education outside the country and then return home to work. The interviewer wants to know what interested you in the college or university you studied at and what experience/skills you gathered.
How to answer: If you have an academic reason for studying abroad, to answer this question, you need to be familiar with the medical education system in the US and the country you chose to complete your education in. You will need to point out what led you away from the US for your medical education, be it availability in the field, a particular program that you wanted to pursue, or any personal reasons. You can present the answer in a way that shows the interviewer the benefits of your international education and the skills you learned that you will now be using during your residency and beyond. In the case of personal reasons, be honest and explain your situation to the interviewer.
Sample response: I chose to pursue my medical education overseas because it gave me the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of health care professionals, experience a different health care system, and also live in an unfamiliar cultural environment. I also worked with a wide range of patients from different backgrounds, in accordance with the health care regulations and insurance providers. I’m excited to bring everything I’ve learned abroad into the American health care system and grow as an innovative health care professional.
Question 3: Tell me something unique about your country’s health care system.
If you are a non-US IMG, you could be asked this question during your residency interview, and it is a tricky one. You can prepare for this question by familiarizing yourself with your country’s health care system and legalities. The interviewer wants to gauge your knowledge of a medical system that you should be familiar with.
How to answer: Take a few seconds to collect your thoughts before you start to answer. Think of what is unique about your country’s health care system and explain it with facts or interesting pieces of information around it.
Sample response: One of the unique aspects of the Indian health care system is the emphasis given to Ayurvedic medicine, as compared to Western countries. It focuses on treating patients using a combination of herbal remedies, dietary guidelines, and specific exercises, and was first developed over 3,000 years ago. It is considered to be an integral part of India's health care system because it incorporates a holistic approach that encompasses all three dimensions – mind, body, spirit – of health. An interesting fact is that back in March of 2022, WHO estimated that around 80% of the global population uses traditional medicine, so it established the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India.
Question 4: What Is your visa status? (Non-US IMGs only)
You may be asked about your visa if you are a non-US IMG. This is an important question, as without a valid visa, you will not be allowed to start your residency or start practicing medicine. In case you don’t have a valid visa, you may lose your seat to another IMG who does. Seeing how competitive the field of medicine is, you don’t want that to happen. You need a J1 visa to participate in a residency, and the good news is that it’s easy to get.
How to answer: Note that the status of your visa will not really affect your chances of getting matched with a program if the interviewers loved you, so be honest in your response. If you are on a J1 visa, let them know and assure them that you will be extending it when you get a residency offer. Mention your Green Card eligibility or the status of your application.
Sample response: Having been in the US for about five years now, I’m in the process of applying for my Permanent Resident Card. I aim to practice medicine and settle here. Currently, I’m on my J1 visa, which is valid for another two years. I have never had any issues obtaining such visas in the past, so I’m confident this time will be no different.
Want to learn about the eligibility criteria for IMGs in Canada and the United States? Watch this video:
Question 5: What made you choose this residency program?
This is another general question but a popular one. The objective of this question is for the interviewer to find out how much you know about the program you are applying to, as well as how passionate you are. They want to know of your motivations for choosing that program and what you aim to achieve by the end.
How to answer: To answer this question, think of why this program is unique for you. Think about the first time you were exposed to this specialty, as well as the skills, values, and behaviors you possess that make you an ideal candidate for the program. To do so, you will have to first research the program when preparing for the interview. Point out why the program would be a good fit for you and why you would be the right candidate for it.
Sample response: I was attracted to this program due to the variety of research opportunities and subspecialties, which is something that the residents here speak highly of. The option to work at different affiliated hospitals with a diverse patient population is also what drew me to your program. Along with the academic side of the program, I also appreciate the fact that the professors are deeply involved with the residents, and I believe I can operate at my full potential here.
Question 6: Can you explain your low USMLE score / gap in CV?
If you got a lower score on your USMLE or have a gap in your CV, you may be asked to provide an explanation of it. With this question, the interviewer wants to know if you can address the issue with confidence and have the potential to learn from your mistakes, a trait essential for residency and the practice of medicine.
How to answer: Be honest! You don’t want the interviewer to feel as if you are making excuses for your performance. If you had a specific reason, like a personal issue, that hindered your performance in any way, mention it briefly. You can turn the question around by talking about subsequent achievements or scores that show improvement. You can also mention other aspects of your application or CV that make you stand out, such as any research, volunteering, or extracurriculars.
Sample response: Yes, I do have a year's gap between high school and the start of my undergraduate degree. I had to go back to my hometown to assist my father in taking care of my mother who had been diagnosed with leukemia. It was a tough time for all of us, but I’m proud of the recovery she has made in the past four years. I did learn quite a lot about the medical system in my country and how such cases are handled.
Other International Medical Graduate Interview Questions
International medical graduates, like other candidates for residency, will need to answer common questions that are not specific to their IMG status, such as the “what are you looking for most in a residency program interview question”, interesting case residency interview question, or “why should we choose you?” residency interview question, among others.
You can also take a look at residency interview questions you must know to familiarize yourself with the different types of questions and practice your timing when answering them.
What Makes an International Medical Graduate?
As the name suggests, an International Medical Graduate (IMG) is someone who has completed their medical education outside of the US or Canada and wants to practice medicine in the two countries. Being considered an IMG works independently of your citizenship, which means a US or Canadian citizen can be considered an IMG in their own country if they complete their medical education outside the country.
In the US, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) assesses the eligibility of IMGs for residency programs. ECFMG certification is a must before you take the 3-step United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, USMLE Step 3), taken by most medical students whether they are US citizens or international medical graduates.
You will have to create your residency rank order list (ROL) of preferred programs, and if you are applying for residency in the US, this list will be managed by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Similarly, in Canada, this ROL will be submitted to the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). Using an algorithm, these services “match” IMG candidates’ ROL to the program directors’ ROL of preferred candidates for US or Canadian residency programs.
You can try out our Residency Match Calculator to find out where you potentially stand.
Preparing for International Medical Graduate Interview Questions
Be ready for a wide range of questions. While some of the questions asked during your residency interview as an IMG will be common ones that everyone is asked, such as “tell me about yourself,” there will be a few specific to your journey as an IMG. It is ideal to prepare for these questions before you sit for your interview, as there is a very high chance of them being asked. If you are prepared, you will respond with confidence, which the interviewer will appreciate.
Preparing for your interview can be challenging, but it is necessary. There are a few steps you can take to ensure you are getting the best help. If you’re wondering whether residency interview coaching is worth it, we can confirm that coaching gives you the tools and strategies you need to upgrade your interview skills and stand out from the competition. Various types of residency interview preparation services and IMG residency interview prep exist to support you in achieving a successful interview and match.
International medical graduate interview questions can be challenging, so it is a great idea to familiarize yourself with some sample questions and learn how to answer them. IMGs bring unique academic and even professional experience from outside the US and Canada the interviewers from these countries want to know about before they accept candidates into their residency program. Consequently, there are some specific questions that are unique to IMGs, as explained in this article.
1. I have US citizenship, but I completed my medical education in the UK. Am I an international medical graduate if I’m applying for residency in the US?
Yes, regardless of your citizenship, if you have completed your medical education outside the US, you will be considered an international medical graduate.
2. As an international medical graduate, are there specific questions that I can be asked during an interview?
Yes, there are specific questions that international medical graduates are asked that allow the admissions committee to better assess your potential and achievements. These questions could include why you chose the country for residency, how the medical systems of the two countries are different, what the medical system in your home country (non-US citizen) is like, and other such questions, as mentioned above.
3. How does the matching system for IMGs work in the US?
In the US, when applying for residency, you will have to submit a Rank Order List (ROL) of preferred programs. This list will be entered into the National Residency Match Program (NRMP), and the Match system will match the candidates’ ROL to the program directors’ ROL of preferred candidates.
4. What if the interviewer asks me about my rank order list?
This is an unlikely question for US programs. However, in case the interviewer asks, tell them that you appreciate the program and enjoyed meeting the faculty. You can then respectfully mention that you are waiting for all your interviews to finish before you decide on your rank order list. For CaRMS (Canada), programs and applicants are not required to discuss their ROLs.
5. How can I stand out in my residency application?
Gain clinical experience where you want to practice, participate in observerships, acquire research experience, strengthen your extracurriculars, demonstrate core competencies, and craft an eye-catching personal statement. These are the steps you can take to stand out in your medical residency application.
6. What should I do after my interview?
Sending thank you letters to program directors within 48 hours after your interview is recommended. The letter should have your name, the date of your interview, and the names of your interviewers if possible.
7. What if I don’t have a valid reason for a gap in my CV?
If you have a gap in your CV, you may be asked to explain it. Be honest in your response, as the interviewer wants to know if you can address the issue with confidence and have the potential to learn from your mistakes. If gaps concern you or you wish to improve your CV, you may wish to consider residency CV editing services.
8. Is postgraduate training abroad an advantage?
Postgraduate training abroad is not necessarily an advantage, but it does give you a broader experience of practice. It also helps you acquire skills or qualifications that would not be possible in your own country. For expert advice, ask other IMGs about their first-hand experiences, such as this international medical graduate who reveals his top tips for securing a residency position abroad.
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