By Fady Akladios
We have previously addressed the interview experience (potential questions, approaches to answering, etc.). For those of you who have not been on the interview trail yet, I will try to describe the few hours before the interview itself and offer some advice based on my own experience. Hopefully you will then be mentally prepared for your interview.
The Day Before
Arrive as early as time permits. Your schedule will get hectic at some point as you juggle multiple interviews on consecutive days in far off locations. Get settled in an affordable hotel/motel close to the facility. One great thing about the interview trail is racking up points on your hotel membership cards (get one if you don’t have one already!).
The Pre-interview Dinner
Many programs invite applicants out for a casual dinner with the residents the night before the interview. Be polite in your interactions, and use this as a chance to understand how the residents really feel about the program/facility as well as a chance to show the residents how interested you are in the program.
Ask about the work schedule, how supportive the faculty is, and about research opportunities. Observe how the residents interact with each other during the dinner as well. There is no need to wear formal clothing (unless instructed to do so).
Whether or not you drink during dinner is highly dependent on the specialty and program you are applying to (i.e. some are casual, while others are more strict). Go ahead and order a drink if the residents order them. Finally, since the residents will pay for your dinner, try to order a meal that is similarly priced to the dinners ordered by the residents.
Bottom line is you want to avoid sticking out in a bad way.
The Night Before
It is likely that you will be pretty stressed out during your first few interviews. So many ideas and questions will be rushing through your head. Read up on your program and practice the answers for the most probable interview questions.
Head to bed early.
Rise and Shine
Wake up a good two hours before your first interview. This will give you enough time to go through your morning routine, put on your formal attire, eat your breakfast, and arrive at the facility. Make sure you have a decent breakfast before you go (hypoglycemia and interviews do not mix well – I know this from personal experience) even if the program offers breakfast during the interview day. Quite frequently, programs serve breakfast right before the interview with the faculty, shifting blood away from your cerebrum when you most need it.
Assuming that you arrive early to the conference room, you’ll need something to do. All the applicants around you are probably just sitting silently, staring into space. Spark up a friendly conversation with someone, ask where they’re from, their school, etc. You may find that some applicants have personal knowledge of the program, which can be immensely helpful. The program coordinator will usually come in early and introduce a few residents, leaving you to converse before the interviews start. Many times, the program will schedule you to attend some of the didactic sessions as well. Use all these chances to learn more about the program (morning conference, tumor board, lecture).
To all of you about to go on your interview trail and all of you who are already there, I wish you the best of luck!