In a residency interview, you’re likely going to encounter the “what do you hope to gain from our residency program” interview question. Program directors are interested in getting to know why you chose to apply to their program and what some of your short- and long-term goals are. To answer this question effectively, you must address why your career objectives align with the school’s mission. Reading different types of residency interview behavioral questions with sample answers can help you construct your answer effectively; in this article, we provide sample answers to this question and go over how to structure your answer.

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Article Contents
8 min read

Why the “What Do You Hope to Gain from Our Residency Program” Interview Question Is Asked How to Develop a Strong Argument How to Structure an Answer to this Question Sample Answers to “What do you Hope to Gain From our Residency Program” Interview Question FAQs

Why the “What Do You Hope to Gain from Our Residency Program” Interview Question Is Asked

This question is at the top of the list of residency interview questions you must know. Program directors use it to figure out if you’re the right candidate for what their program offers. Your answer can potentially show, if you conduct the right research, that matching would be mutually beneficial.

Unsurprisingly, a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) indicates that when deciding whom to interview, program directors surveyed for evidence of the following qualities when ranking candidates: professionalism, integrity, interpersonal and communication skills, and reliability and dependability. Suffice to say, the interview is a time for program directors to collect evidence for and analyze those qualities through application materials like the personal statement. This is precisely why reading residency personal statement examples will be just as important as reading interview question samples as you prepare.

When it comes to the “why” of this question, consider it from the point of view of the program directors. It’s easy to look at a student’s application and see if they are academically and professionally ready for a residency program. The difficulty is finding evidence of qualitative attributes like the ones mentioned above, which is why you should make it easy for the interviewer to capture those qualities and point to experiences where they’re demonstrated.

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How to Develop a Strong Argument

Your answer to the “what do you hope to gain from our residency program” interview question should convince the program director that you’re an ideal candidate. Here are some tips to help you develop a strong argument; keep them in mind as you start to structure your practice answers:

  1. Research the program thoroughly.
  2. Read a few of their recent publications in the area of research that interests you.
  3. Skim the list of faculty members and residents to get an idea of what they’re working on and whom you will be working with.
  4. Find out in what clinics you will be working and how rotations are scheduled; remember, these will be much different from your medical school schedule.
  5. Know what resources are at your disposal. For instance – does a certain piece of equipment or a specific patient population appeal to you about their program? Jot it down and refer to it as you practice your answers.

How to Structure an Answer to this Question

Sample Answers to “What do you Hope to Gain From our Residency Program” Interview Question

Example 1

I’ve always been immensely interested in the trends and fluctuations in neuroscience and psychiatry research; it isn’t just hearsay that there is possibly an infinite number of questions about the human brain and mind that have yet to be answered. One of your faculty members, Dr. Ben Simone, recently published an article on electroconvulsive therapy. As I was reading the paper, I was intrigued by the implications of the results showing that ECT was particularly efficacious as a treatment for elderly patients suffering from depression. It seems that mental health issues in the elderly are so often overlooked in our society. In medical school during my psychiatry rotations, I worked in a senior mental health behavioral facility. Working with this patient population was dynamic in unpredictable ways, in part because I didn’t expect so much variation within this cohort; I also had the opportunity to witness an ECT, and since then I’ve been determined to learn this technology more intimately, along with other brain imaging devices like MRI and PET.

After investigating some of the other publications from this faculty member and others, my imagination started to run wild with a dream of contributing to the intensive research projects endeavored by the eminent members of your institution. The research stream of your program is also unreplicable; the Clinician Investigator Program, which I have every intention to apply for should I get matched to your program, will allow me to develop the tools to become an effective clinical researcher in the field of psychiatry with a special focus on treatment designed specifically for the elderly population.

Example 2

I’m not from Toronto, but that’s where I completed my undergraduate studies; during that time, I volunteered at a homeless shelter, and I got to know some of the regulars pretty well. I also volunteered at a vaccination pop-up clinic where my job was to provide residents with information and answer any questions about the procedure; we drove from North York to Scarborough, and everywhere in between. I developed a soft spot for the city. It’s diverse and full of potential, just like the patient population I worked with as a volunteer. This is the first reason I want to return to the city to complete my residency training in pediatrics.

What I like about your program is how extensive and progressive it is. My academic history, insofar as it relates to my clinical experience and volunteerism in the community, has shown me that what I really want in a residency program is the ability to work in a variety of settings with a variety of patients. My adaptability has been a trait that I’ve worked on during my medical school clerkships in pediatrics; one of my most meaningful experiences was in a hospital for sick children, when I was introduced to the pediatric ward, the emergency department, and the community pediatrician’s office. Community-based care is something I want to emphasize in my training, and I know that your residency program is known for its community impact stream catering to vulnerable populations. The distribution of training across teaching sites will also allow me full access to the scope of health concerns facing marginalized groups.

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Example 3

If one day somehow and for some reason, a director wanted to make a movie about my academic career, an apt title would be “insatiable.” As boring as that movie would be, it would undoubtedly have to reveal something about my ever-evolving interests and “insatiable” craving to dig deeper and learn more. My number one priority in deciding which residency programs to apply for has been the breadth of subspecialities and access to research opportunities. Once I complete my radiology residency, I want to immediately start a medical physics fellowship, particularly in the realm of radiology diagnostic medical physics – an opportunity offered at your institution.

One of the research projects I worked on during medical school was on the topic of radiation doses and cancer risks from breast imaging studies. Regarding the mammographic innovation hosted by the fellows and researchers at your institution, I would like to explore the advantages of using artificial intelligence to enhance the precision of breast imaging. This is a rare opportunity not allotted by other residency programs, which seem to rarely have access to such advanced computer-based detection methods; or perhaps it’s just that they don’t see its potential to revolutionize diagnostics. Breast imaging is a particular interest of mine, though the host of other projects in advanced body imaging and nanomedicine remain two (close) secondary interests – two of your renowned researchers, Dr. Alderson and Dr. Walworth are leading researchers in those fields, and I would be thrilled to work with such eminent contributors to the field of diagnostic radiology.

Example 4

When I picture myself graduating from a residency program and transitioning into the field of professional work, I’ll undoubtedly need the knowledge to handle a diverse patient group. I live close to the location of most of the affiliated hospitals in your program, and one thing I know about the community is that it’s a cultural melting pot. And while I can’t ignore the inequities waved over the heads of certain groups, what I admire about this city is that it’s welcoming; anyone can come here and start a life if they want to, and I think our health care system is something other communities strive to replicate. This is exactly what I’m drawn to in your program – a commitment to training residents to deliver compassionate, culturally sensitive care for dermatology patients. I also think it’s important to understand the social conditions that impact a patient’s experience with certain skin conditions, and I want to learn more about how to navigate this issue starting in R1.

The unparalleled diversity of the clinical rotations in this residency program will allow me to develop the acuity to identify physical and social vulnerabilities to skin conditions; the pediatric dermatology division, the surgery division, the inpatient consultations, and more will broaden my expertise and adaptability. I want to open my own dermatology clinic with a deep understanding of treatments that I can employ in my own practice. I know that current research topics are extensive in this program – to name a few: infrared imaging of pigmented lesions, teledermatology, and microbiome. And the optional research rotation will instantiate the knowledge that I require to successfully integrate pathophysiology, clinical presentation, and therapy for conditions, including potential comorbidities.

Example 5

What I want to gain more than anything from a medical residency is the skills I need to become a teacher. In addition to becoming a licensed expert in my field, I’ve always been interested in an academic career that combines my research and didactic leanings. I first discovered this passion, if one could call it that, as a tutor for undergraduate students when I was completing my medical degree. I also knew from the first year of my MD program when I was completing a summer research internship in which I studied temporal and spatial changes of DNA methylation in neurodegenerative diseases, that I wanted to develop a strong research background in order to teach.

Your program offers more teaching opportunities for residents than I’ve seen from other programs. In particular, the pre-clerkship and foundations in teaching opportunities are impressive. Having a strong mentorship system through the conference and family medicine seminars will allow me to ask questions about the profession, and becoming a preceptor teacher will be good practice of the teaching basics. If I match with your program, I intend to take full advantage of the other clerkship teaching opportunities provided in the form of hospital-based seminars, Department of Family and Community Health seminars, and family violence seminars. Ultimately, my aim is to fulfill the course requirements needed to earn my certification in this teaching program, which I will leverage to become a medical school lecturer.


1. How do I prepare for a residency interview?

You should have a detailed understanding of the programs you’re applying to, what your goals are, and what you hope to gain from the program. Once you establish a good understanding of these critical points, you can start reviewing sample questions and answers.

2. Why do programs want to know what I hope to gain from their program?

They want to evaluate your fitness for their program. If, for example, your interests and goals don’t align with theirs, they will typically eliminate you from their rank of candidates. This is why it’s important to conduct thorough research and be certain of your own expectations.

3. How can I structure my response to this question?

You can break your answer down into three parts: discussion of relevant medical school experiences (mainly clinical) that inspired your residency program objectives; what the program offers that will help you attain those goals; and evidence of how/why your goals align with theirs.

4. Will I have an opportunity to ask the program director questions in the interview?

Yes, you can ask the program director and other faculty members questions at the end of the interview. One good question to ask would be, “what makes your program distinct from others?” Check out more of the best questions to ask residency programs.

5. What do program directors look for in candidates?

According to an AAMC survey report, the most important goal of the selection process is to identify candidates who will fit their program’s culture. This is why it’s important to make sure you’re applying for programs that align with your objectives.

6. What are some other common questions asked during the interview?

You should prepare for these common interview questions:

  • What are the strengths or weaknesses of this program?
  • How will you contribute to our program?
  • Why should we choose you?
  • Explain the last time you had a conflict during your clinical experience.
  • “Tell me about yourself.” 
7. How do I find out about the research being conducted at an institution?

Find the faculty page of the residency program you’re reviewing. Most of the profiles will include a blurb of research interests and publications, but you can always search their names in a research journal database to see where they’ve been published.

8. How long should my answers be?

Aim for a detailed, thorough answer that doesn’t exceed about 2–3 minutes. Time yourself during your practice to see how you can adjust your pacing or the content of your answer.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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