IMG Info: Tips to Answering Common IMG Interview Questions

By Sasmit Sarangi, with Dr. Aditya Bardia

About a year ago, Sarah did an excellent post on common IMG interview questions. Now that we are firmly into interview season, I felt that it would be helpful to revisit this topic and add more questions that could be encountered by IMGs. Many IMGs get only a limited number of interviews, so it is even more important to stand out and make a positive impression on the interviewer.

Here are some questions you may encounter and what you should think about before you answer them:

1. Tell me about the health system of the country where you have trained and how it compares to the health system in United States.

This sounds like a simple question but it is one where you should tread carefully.

  • Don’t try to be excessively critical of your home country and overenthusiastic about the American system.
  • If you have any US clinical experience, this is the opportunity to bring that in and compare the experiences.
  • If you do not have any US clinical experience, it’s ok to mention you are not in the best position to make a comparison. You can say that “based on what I have read and heard, I would think that…” and then give your opinion.
  • Try to be unbiased and truthful as much as possible. It will come across.

2. Discuss a case that challenged you during your Externship/Observership.

  • This question may be used by an interviewer to gauge both your communication as well as clinical presentation skills.
  • The case you cite could be challenging from a diagnostic, therapeutic, or ethical perspective. It is your choice as to what you feel most comfortable with.
  • Best to start with something like “Good question…” or “Gee. Let me think…” Don’t just jump in as if you were waiting for this question and have rehearsed your answer. Doing so would come across as mechanical and easily recognized as something that you have prepared in advance.
  • Give a brief clinical presentation. “…A 50 year old female who presented to the ED with…” then talk about the case and finish with how the case was challenging.
  • Try to demonstrate what you have learned and how the experience was educational.

3. Why should we pick you over an American trained graduate/other more academically accomplished candidates?

  • Difficult question. Never say that you are better than American trained graduates.
  • Mention your own abilities and interests; try to focus on “you” and not others.
  • Highlight how, as an IMG, you can bring in diversity and a different perspective.
  • Talk about your long term goals, if appropriate, and try to find what the program’s expects from its residents.

4. Tell me about your current research (for candidates with research experience).

  • This is a very important question for academic programs. This is designed to judge your spirit for scientific inquiry and your research presentation skills.
  • You could talk about a specific research project you are passionate about. Start with why you got involved, the specific things that you looked into, the key results, and future directions. Remember, it is more important to convey your excitement about research than the actual results of the project.
  • If you know of a specific faculty at that institution whose research overlaps with what you have done, or a specific research program at that institution, this would be the opportunity to bring that up. Commitment to research can be seen as a plus in several programs so make sure to utilize this in the appropriate program.

Interviews can be stressful for IMGs, particularly when English is not your first language. The most important thing to keep in mind is to be confident, and try not to be rattled by questions that surprise you. Always remember that there is no perfect answer. Just try to give an honest answer that reflects your true feelings and not some rehearsed cliché.

Best of luck!

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