What exactly is residency interview coaching? How does it help applicants? Does interview coaching even work? How do I know I found the right coach for me? If you, like many other students, are looking for answers to these questions, you should keep reading. Residency interviews can be intimidating, especially for students hoping to enter highly competitive specialties such as internal medicine or family medicine residency. Often, applicants aren't sure how to prepare, but they are also not sure that investing in a residency interview coach for help is worth it. The short answer to that question is yes, it's very much worth it. In this blog, we are going to elaborate on that answer. We'll tell you why residency interviews are so important, how residency interview coaching can help you ace them, and we'll give you some tips for finding the best interview resident coach for you.
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How important are residency interviews?
First off, it is important to understand that getting invited for residency interviews is an accomplishment in itself. Residency programs do not ask candidates to interview you unless they are seriously interested in you and think you have a chance at matching there. In other words, your residency personal statement, CaRMS or ERAS letters of recommendation, and all the other application components you spent time preparing have done their job. They got you on the shortlist! Now, the residency program wants to assess your soft skills and other personal traits to see if you truly are a good fit for their program.
That said, the fact that your residency interview means that you are one step closer to landing a match does not make it any less important. Applicants often make the mistake of assuming that residency interviews are just a formality, but that is far from the case. You have to remember that residency interviews are very similar to auditions. Your interviewer is there to get to know you, but only so they can determine if you are a good fit for their program and see how you measure up against the other candidates.
During your interview, your focus should be on impressing the interviewer and learning more about the residency program, but as you prepare for your residency application and residency interviews, you must remember that you are competing against hundreds of other qualified applicants. Think of it this way: a residency program might have ten spots available, but they'll receive thousands of residency applications. After reviewing the different documents submitted by applicants, such as residency CVs, they will narrow their list to a few hundred applicants and call them for interviews. It is your performance during the interview that will determine if and where you end up on the list of candidates they rank. This means that you must do everything possible to stand out during your residency interview.
Furthermore, we took a look at the latest data from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), and it confirms that your interview performance plays a significant role in the residency programs' selection process. The data shows that 98% of programs consider communication skills one of the most important factors when ranking applicants - a skill you can only demonstrate with your essays and during the interview. Additionally, 94% of programs revealed that applicants' interactions with staff and faculty on interview days also influence their ranking decisions. These numbers tell us that your interview is more influential than your USMLE scores, COMLEX scores, extracurriculars, MSPE, and many other application components when it comes to ranking.
What exactly is residency interview coaching, and does it work?
Essentially, it is an interview preparation service specifically for residency applicants. This service is typically offered by medical school consultants as part of a comprehensive residency application package or sometimes, as a separate service. There are various forms of residency interview coaching, and the approach used will depend on the consultant you are working with. Ultimately, these programs are designed to help you improve your interview skills and give you the tools and strategies you need to ace your residency interviews. How? By helping applicants with the following:
Strengths and Weaknesses
It is true that residency interviews are a conversation between the applicant and the representative(s) of the residency program, but it is also more than that. The interviewer is there to learn more about who you are and what you can contribute to their program. For you, the interviewee, the interview is a chance to sell yourself - especially if you are applying to one of the most competitive residencies.
For you to convince the interviewer that you are the best candidate for their residency program, you need to be able to not only identify your strengths and weaknesses but also communicate them effectively, which is not an easy task. If you've ever had to tackle the strengths and weaknesses interview question, then you probably already have some idea of how difficult this can be. Knowing how to showcase your skills and qualities without sounding overconfident and addressing your weaknesses while still showing that you are a strong candidate requires balance. This is something that residency interview coaching can help you with.
Residency interview coaches know the residency application process inside and out, so they know what personality traits and skills to highlight and which ones to keep away from the limelight during your interview. For example, suppose you are applying for a residency program in Canada. In that case, you may not be familiar with the CanMEDS roles, but a residency interview coach would be, and they can show you how to talk about your background and experiences in a way that highlights the competencies of the CanMEDS framework that you possess.
Lastly, an experienced residency coach will be able to identify things (such as hobbies, experiences, etc.) in your background that you might have overlooked, but that can be helpful during your interview. For example, let's say that you are a big fan of nature, and you often go camping or hiking. When you are thinking about how to answer the "tell me about yourself" residency question, you may think that this information is irrelevant to your residency application and not bring it up at all during your interview. Meanwhile, a professional can tell you that talking about your hobbies can help humanize your application and potentially help you bond with the interviewer. Furthermore, they can teach you how to use your hobbies to discuss the transferable skills that they have taught you.
While no medical school advisor or interview coach can know exactly which questions you will be asked during your residency interview, there are many common residency interview questions that they can prepare you for. As admissions professionals, they can even help you prepare for some of the questions that are specific to your chosen specialties. For example, if you are applying to a surgery residency, they can review surgery residency interview questions and answers with you.
In addition to giving you a chance to familiarize yourself with the questions that you will likely be asked to respond to, a good residency interview coach will teach you strategies for recognizing different types of questions and tools for answering them. This means that even if you're asked a question that would have normally caught you off-guard, you will know how to approach it and come up with a strong response.
Furthermore, they can also help you prepare your answers to those common questions that they will review with you. Students often assume they don't need to prepare their interview answers in advance but working with an interview coach will help you understand why it is necessary. We're not saying that you should write down the answers verbatim and memorize them for your interview. That would actually be counterproductive. Instead, it would be best to have an idea of the general structure your answers will follow and what you want them to highlight. Having this structure in advance will help keep you on track and reduce the likelihood of you leaving out pertinent information or including unnecessary details in your answers. Residency interview coaching can give you strategies that will result in stronger, more concise, and compelling answers.
Have you started working on your residency personal statement? This infographic can help:
Earlier, we spoke about some of the things that program directors consider when they are ranking applicants, and you will recall that one of them is the applicants' interactions with the staff and faculty members. This means that the interviewer will be watching how you interact with other people and how you carry yourself in a conversation. They will also be looking at your non-verbal cues, waiting to see if you say please & thank you, and so much more. Ultimately, their aim is to figure out how well you would fit in with your potential colleagues and whether you possess the interpersonal and communication skills expected of future resident doctors.
To put it simply, residency interviews are about more than what you say. We're not saying that what you say isn't important because it definitely is, but how you say it and how you behave on interview day is just as important. Often, students are unaware of this and don't realize that their interview etiquette might be poor. Residency interview coaching can make a huge difference when it comes to this. Good residency interview coaches will review proper interview etiquette and ensure that you know what is expected of you on interview day.
They will also give you tips and strategies to ensure that you are presenting the most confident and professional version of yourself to the interviewers. For example, you might have great answers to your interview questions, but you tend to say "Uhm" a lot while answering questions or fidget when you get nervous. These non-verbal cues can lead the interviewer to think that you are not confident in your answers when that is, in fact, not the case. Residency interview coaching can give you the tools that you need to improve your delivery, thus improving your overall interview skills.
Interview behavior is an acquired skill, and the reality is that most people actually do not know if they lack this skill or not. Good residency interview coaching should include mock interviews, which are essential in helping you understand interview etiquette and improve your interviewing skills. Mock interviews simulate the actual residency interview conditions, thus giving you a chance to not only familiarize yourself with the setting, but also prepare accordingly. They also guide you on how to prepare for day of the interview.
How to find your ideal residency interview coach
If you want to maximize your chances of acing the residency interview and matching the first time you go through the process, you must find a residency interview coaching service that will provide the best value for your investment. The right interview coaching service for you will depend on factors like your location, experiences, budget, and so on. However, here are a few general things that we think you should pay special attention to as you look for a residency interview coach:
It's important to emphasize that the residency interview coaching service you select should be the one you can get the most out of. We suggest looking for a residency interview coach that will work with you in one-on-one sessions, thus ensuring that they are focusing on helping you address your concerns and strengthen your candidacy, not giving you general tips that may not apply to your specific situation.
We also recommend working with a coach that conducts mock residency interviews. We already talked about how great mock interviews are for learning etiquette, but they can also help you practice identifying different types of questions, improve your timing and pacing, and test your answering strategies and structure so that you can tweak them as needed while you still have time. The personalized feedback that you receive from these mock interviews will allow you to improve your answers and overall interview skills.
So, look for a residency interview coaching service that includes all of the above in their coaching sessions, and that will work with you until you are ready to take on and ace your residency interviews.
This may seem obvious, but you want to make sure that your residency interview coaching is being provided by a qualified professional. If you are going to spend your hard-earned money on their services, then you need to be confident in their abilities. The person guiding you through your residency interview prep shouldn't just be someone who once attended a residency interview. It needs to be someone who is experienced and highly knowledgeable about the entire process.
A good residency interview coach will know the matching process inside and out, either because they have gone through it themselves or because they have worked as an interviewer or evaluator, and they must be trained to provide interview training. We highly recommend that you take the time to check the websites of any consultants or coaches that you are considering. Learn about them and their team or the company they work with. Make sure they have the knowledge and expertise required to offer residency interview preparation advice.
Qualified professionals should be comfortable telling you about their credentials and what qualifies them to provide their services, so this information should either be readily available on their website or easy to obtain when you get in touch with them. For example, here at BeMo, we have no problem sharing information about the experts we work with. This is because we know that they are qualified. In fact, less than 5% of advisors who want to work with us actually get hired because we only want the best for our students, so we work with knowledgeable professionals who are willing to go through our very rigorous training. You can read all about it in our about us section if you want to find out why BeMo Academic Consulting is worth it.
If you are preparing for your residency interviews, chances are you know someone who is also doing the same or who has done it in the past. So, ask them about any preparation services that they have used. If they had a good experience, they will most likely refer you to the person or company that they worked with. You should also ask those who used an academic consulting firm for their application. Most firms that help with residency applications also offer residency interview coaching services. That said, while the advice of your friends and family is a great place to start, you should also interview the coach or company in question for the position and verify their qualifications and teaching format.
You should also try to find out what previous residency candidates have to say about their experiences with the individuals or companies in question. Look for success stories and independent reviews on reputable websites like Trustpilot. Do their students have good things to say about them? What was their experience like while they were working with these consultants? Did they provide actionable tips that made a difference?
We suggest you also pay attention to the number of reviews the company or person has on these platforms. Looking at the number of reviews will give you some idea of how experienced they are. If a coach has been helping students for five years and only ten students have taken the time to review their services, then that's a sign that their students were probably not that impressed with the service.
Curious about the types of questions you’ll be asked in your residency interview? Check out this video:
Residency interviews can be intimidating, but the key to acing them is to be well-prepared. You have to remember that you are competing with hundreds of other qualified students for a very limited number of spots and that residency program directors have confirmed that interviews play a huge role in their selection process. Residency interview coaching gives you the tools and strategies that you need to improve your interview skills and stand out as a top candidate. So if you are looking for a way to get a competitive advantage, then you should follow the tips outlined above to find the ideal residency interview coaching service for you.
1. How important is the residency interview?
Residency programs are looking for applicants who will fit well with their individual programs, so they need to look at your communication skills and personality to try and determine if you are a good fit. Your residency interview allows them to do that, making it one of the most important steps in the matching process.
2. When should I start preparing for residency interviews?
We highly recommend that you don't wait until you receive an interview invitation to start preparing. It would be best if you began your CaRMS or ERAS interview prep as soon as you submit your application.
3. Why should I start preparing for my interviews well in advance?
Interviews can be nerve-wracking, and residency interviews, in particular, are full of deceptively complex questions. It is best to take the time to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that you should expect and prepare as much as possible so that you can increase your chances of doing well.
4. What is interview coaching?
Essentially, it is when professionals teach you strategies, skills, and techniques that help you improve your interview skills. Residency interview coaching is typically offered by academic consultants.
5. Does interview coaching actually work?
In short, yes! Interview skills are acquired over time, but applicants often either don't have much experience or do not know which aspects of their interview skills need improvement. Working with a professional can make a huge difference.
6. Is residency interview coaching expensive?
The cost of residency interview coaching depends on the fee structure of the company or individual you hire and the services that you need. The most expensive coaches aren't necessarily the best ones. Look for a company that is affordable and transparent about its prices.
7. Can I prepare for my residency interview on my own?
You certainly can. Residency interview coaching is not necessary for everyone, but it is recommended for those who want to maximize their chances of acing residency interviews.
8. What should I look for in an interview coach?
You should look for one that is experienced, highly recommended, or has good reviews, and one who offers one on one sessions with personalized feedback.
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