You will need to come up with a why should we choose you residency interview answer. That question, or something very similar to it, is guaranteed to come up in your residency interview, so your medical needs to account for it. While you should prepare for all , this question is crucial because it will come up, and the reason is because it covers some of the most fundamental, important elements of your application. Just like with the question, “,” this question is commonplace and integral to your interview.
There are two primary reasons your interviewers will ask this question:
- Why are you perfect for this specialty?
- Why are you a perfect fit for this program, its missions, and its goals?
Want to know the most common residency interview questions and answers? Watch this video:
Let’s cover the first aspect:
Why are you a perfect fit for this specialty?
You need to show why you have chosen your specialty above all others. There are numerous areas of specialty you could attempt to enter as a physician. What is it about your choice that is perfect for you?
How can you demonstrate this? Not just talk about it or claim it, but demonstrate it? Select one or two crucial aspects to your chosen specialty – ideally two aspects that drew you to the discipline – and show through stories or experiences you have had how you fulfill those aspects. It isn’t enough to say, “I’m good under pressure.” Rather, tell a story or relate some specific reason for why you know you perform well in stressful situations.
Why are you a perfect fit for this program, its missions, and its goals?
You aren’t just matching to a specialty; you are matching to a program. That program has elements about it that are unique – just as you do – and your goal here is to demonstrate why you match with the program.
This could be ideological, related to research, about the location, or facilities, or ideally everything. Remember to demonstrate where possible. If you want to show how you resonate with the program’s push for diversity, talk about being a member of an underserved population and living this diversity they are talking about. There are lots of ways to demonstrate compatibility with the program you are applying to; find as many as you can and hit all of them.
Example No.1: Family Medicine
I come from a very small town so far off the beaten path that GPS is almost guaranteed to send you down the wrong road. You’re better off asking directions from the Flap brothers, who have owned the gas station at the outskirts of our town for decades. My community might be small, but we still require medical assistance, regular checkups, preventative medicine, and occasional trauma care from an incident involving wildlife or a hunting accident.
I want to study family medicine so that I can return to my home community and provide local, affordable care to people there. Family medicine is the most-needed specialty that would cover almost all the health care needs of my town.
Knowing that this would be my goal, I have carefully applied myself in my clinical rotations, and I accepted a rotation in family medicine at a small clinic, very similar to the kind my community would need. I got to participate in the day-to-day operations of the clinic and learned a lot about what community medicine is. My particular focus is on maintenance and prevention, which are invaluable in small communities to prevent health crises from occurring far away from major hospitals.
I know that your program is focused on rural medicine and that you provide residents with experience working in an environment that is often isolated and cut off from larger hospitals. I need this exact experience to continue my focus and provide for my community. With my background experience, clinical knowledge, and your perfect precursor to my future role as a local, rural physician, I believe that we are a perfect fit.
Example No.2: Anesthesiology
When I joined my first hockey team, I saw myself as the next Bobby Orr, a star player scoring goals, but I quickly learned that a star-oriented mentality makes everybody – including myself – suffer in the long run. Teamwork had to come first.
In medical school, I remembered the lessons of the sports teams well, and I sought out programs with small group-oriented learning. Your program for residency has small groups as part of your intrinsic philosophy, and I know that being part of a team will make me a better physician. Day-to-day, I will provide better care with the resources of my team at my disposal. Long-term, I know that I will take lessons from these people I work with and grow faster than I would alone.
My specialty of choice is even related to my teamwork mindset. Anesthesiologists are part of a team of health care professionals providing care for their patients. Although integral to the healing of patients, anesthesiologists cannot work alone, nor can the surgeons and physicians who work with anesthesiologists provide their care without the pain prevention that we provide.
I want to continue my philosophy of teamwork into my very discipline. I know that your program, oriented toward team-building and small groups, will provide me with the perfect environment to learn and an ideal place for me to contribute my best work.
I don’t have as much time for hockey as I once did, and my dreams are now to be a key part of a health care team, not the star player, but I think in many ways I’m still playing out the lessons I learned all those years ago.
Example No.3: Pathology
When I was young, I received a chemistry set for my birthday. Since that moment, I have never looked back but have always pursued science. Science is most valuable when it helps people in their daily lives. Your vision statement includes “patient-centered care,” and my goal is to take my passion for science and use it to care for others.
I have been working through an precisely because I am focused on the scientific aspects of medicine, and I believe that your program will help me continue in my goals and dreams. Furthermore, I believe that I can contribute something very meaningful to your program and that my participation would be mutually beneficial.
My MD-PhD program requires that I participate in research programs, and my focus has been on faster methods of diagnosis within a laboratory environment, specifically through the use of artificial intelligence. I have worked with several pathologists in my research and studies, and I know that my research will be greatly improved through pathology studies.
In my clinical rotations for pathology, I found myself grateful for the opportunity to directly apply scientific knowledge and laboratory procedures to make the lives of patients better. I will never forget the first patient I helped diagnose. We used tissue samples to discover, by process of elimination, the source of a severe, persistent bloating and pain she was experiencing. Within a day, the bloating had subsided, and her pain had diminished to almost nothing. This hard-won result was satisfying and the precursor to several more like it; pathology will help my research and will let my research help people.
Your program gives me access to state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories, which will greatly accelerate my research capabilities. Furthermore, as a research-oriented program, your values and goals line up perfectly with my own.
Want to learn more residency interview questions and answers? Check this infographic:
Example No.4: Psychiatry
I am neurodivergent. This label gave me great pain when I first heard it pronounced, like a death sentence in a doctor’s office many years ago. I had been informed that I was on “the spectrum,” and that spectrum specter loomed over me and made me think I was doomed.
Of course, I have matured a lot since that initial diagnosis, and I have learned to embrace my condition, which I credit with bringing me to where I am today. My interest in mental health was, in some ways, forced on me, but I don’t worry about that. I am too busy enjoying my learning process and looking forward to helping other people cope with their wonderful minds.
Because of my neurodivergence – not in spite of it – I have had to make a study of human behavior just to get around in life. When I was taking psychiatry courses, I felt right at home. My clinical rotations further cemented my love of human behavior and how to properly treat patients who have neurodivergent backgrounds.
I believe that my personal experiences bring empathy to my work and provide me with intuition regarding mental health that I would not otherwise have. My dream is to contribute to the psychological understanding of all persons to allow us to treat patients effectively and efficiently, without interfering with their wonderful brains, except for the prevention of harm. We must stop looking at neurodivergence as a hinderance and start looking at it as just another way for a human being to exist.
Your particular program appeals to me because it emphasizes diversity in all its forms. I know that you will welcome someone with my state of mind and goals because they are the goals of your program as well.
All interview questions should relate to your selection of this discipline, specialty, and program. You might not be able to hit all three in each answer, but you should try to cover one or two at least. You might also do this in a less direct way. For example, if you are applying to a surgical program, you might answer a question like, “What are your hobbies?” with your hobby of photography; in so doing, you could discuss waiting patiently for the right angle and lighting, working for long hours with tremendous precision to emphasize transferable skills.
In the specific case of the “Why should we choose you?” residency interview answer, you need to address both of the above-stated goals: why you fit the specialty and why you fit the program. Always keep those points in mind as your primary goal.
The other element to keep in mind is what other questions you have been asked and how much information the committee already has. This is why it’s important to remember your content but not the exact wording of answers. If you have already answered a question like “Why oncology?” you won’t need to spend as long on that aspect of this question. If you memorize your content, you know you’ve already covered that, and you only need to touch on it here – or tell a different, new story of your connection to oncology. If you had memorized your wording, you’d be stuck repeating the same ground you had already covered, and you wouldn’t be a dynamic or interesting interviewee.
Structure is very important to keep in mind when forming your answer. You can always start with a quick, “Thank you for this important question,” but you don’t want to do that with every answer.
When it comes to your direct answer, structure it in this way:
- Introduction where you briefly set up what you’re going to talk about in the rest of your answer.
- Cover each story or experience in a short “paragraph,” so you make sure to cover both key aspects of your answer.
- Wrap up at the end by quickly summarizing your previous statements and how they directly connect you to your specialty and program of choice.
When thinking about structure, you probably will also want to put events in a loose chronological order. If your example about why you selected your specialty comes from an earlier time in your life than your example on why you have picked this program, talk about the specialty story first. Chronological order will help you keep your answer straight in your head while you’re talking about it. It’s also easier for the interviewer to follow.
When you have looked over the sample answers and studied these answering tips on purpose and structure, practice your interview technique. While practicing answering at home is good, it isn’t as good as the real thing. Of course, you can’t quite get that until your interview day, but you can engage in a , which professionally mimics the actually circumstances of your interview, provides you with quality feedback, and gives you the best preparation possible. You can always acquire a , and those are useful, but if you do just one thing, go for the mock interview.
Armed now with samples and tips, you now know and supply your own, perfect "why should we choose you" residency interview answer. Remember to keep structure and focus in mind but most of all, to include the two primary ideas: connect yourself to the discipline and focus you have chosen and provide proof of your matching with the program you are applying to. Specificity will win the day with your answers.
Following these tips and reading these samples will give you the tools you need to practice; you can then produce your own answer to this question. This will help you ace your interview and acquire the residency match of your dreams.
1. How long should I take to answer the question?
Typically, your answer will be 2–3 minutes, which is enough time to cover the two main points in detail, but without dragging on.
2. Can I memorize my response?
Even if you can, you shouldn’t. Your memorized answer is inflexible and therefore doesn’t apply to variant versions of the question. It will also make you sound stiff and robotic.
3. Will this question about “Why should we choose you?” always get asked?
There are no guarantees, but this question – or a similar question – are in most residency interviews.
4. If I have already answered part of this question, how should my answer change?
If you had another question that covered “Why this program?” for example, you don’t have to give as much detail in this answer about that aspect. However, you should still include it. Your best bet is to provide a new story to prove yourself.
5. What should I wear to the interview?
Business-casual attire is professional without being stiff or uncomfortable.
6. If I forget part of my answer, can I add it later?
It’s awkward to double-back on a question. If you really forgot a crucial element, it might be advisable to say, “I forgot to mention,” and add it, but you’re better off just practicing with a mock interview and preventing this mistake in the first place.
7. Should I mention other programs I have applied to?
Only if asked about it. This isn’t information you need to hide, nor is it something you need to offer up to the interviewers.
8. Are interviews really important?
They are, yes; every aspect of your application process is there for a reason, and you should treat them all as very important.