Residency Interview Thank You Notes: What you need to know

Continuing on our theme of “things I wish I had known when I was interviewing for residency,” let’s talk about thank you notes. Everyone tells you that you need to send thank you notes every time you interview, to every person who interviews. Let’s talk a little bit more about how to write effective thank you notes, and what role they play in the interview process. Ready?

Wait, what? I’m supposed to write thank you notes??

Yes, it’s pretty much an expectation at this point that you will write a thank you note to each person who interviews you, at each program where you interview. Annoying? Yes. Just like the interview suit, writing a thank you card isn’t going to set you apart from the crowd, but not writing them might hurt you.

When should I send them?

Aim to mail them about a week after your interview, so they will arrive a 1-2 weeks after your interview, right as people are starting to forget about your batch of interviews and think about the next round.

Who should I send them to?

At a minimum, you should send a thank you note to:

  • The program director
  • Anyone who interviewed you

It’s also not a bad idea to consider sending thank you notes to:

  • Other residents who you had significant interactions with (people who led the tour, people who drove you to a dinner, people who you talked to a lot during the dinner or lunch, etc)
  • If a meal was hosted at a resident’s house, send the host a thank you card
  • The program coordinator, who put a lot of work into the interview day

Do they need to be handwritten, paper cards?

Paper cards are nice, but an email is probably sufficient in most programs. Several people that I talked to sent emails to residents and paper cards to faculty. Your mileage may vary. Do what feels right to you. If you have terrible handwriting, it’s worth either taking extra special care to make sure your cards are legible, or sending emails.

What do I say?

The thank you note is your chance to remind the interviewers (who met a whole lot of people in one day) about something you want them to remember about you. It can be helpful to talk about something you discussed during your interview, especially if it was unique. For example, if you talked about a hobby, you could mention that you really enjoyed chatting about xyz (hiking/ cooking/ basketball/ etc).

The thank you note also gives you a chance to mention something you really liked or learned about their program or the location, or to mention things that happened after the interview. “I really enjoyed spending the weekend after my interview exploring the area. It was a nice change from where I’m living now because _____. I would love to spend the next 4 years in Cityville!”

You could also mention things you are looking forward to doing if you match there, like participating in a special program that they have.

Are there things I should avoid saying?

Of course! For one, the thank you card should be short and to the point. There is a reason why the thank you cards that you buy at the store are so tiny – you aren’t supposed to write the Great American Novel in them.

Other things to avoid:

  • Any promises about how you will rank the program. Unless this is your last interview of the season, how could you know how they will stack up against the other places you go?
  • Negative statements about the program, of any kind
  • Reminders or explanations of anything awkward that you said or did in your interview. Just leave it be and move on.
  • Repeating your CV

How do I choose the right cards?

Simple, classic, non-offensive. Don’t try to be funny. Target has a great selection of LARGE boxes of thank-you cards for cheap. Get a couple of boxes of a couple of different motifs and have at it.

What else do I need to know?

When we sit down to make the final rank list, thank-you cards don’t really come up in discussion. What does come up is if an applicant has reached out to residents since the interview day and thank you card. Did they email someone with more questions? Did they ask to come back for a second look? Those demonstrate special interest in a program, and it’s worthwhile to take the time to reach out again to your top few programs as the interview season draws to a close. More on that as we get closer to rank list season.

On a silly note, get some good pens that write well in a non-obnoxious color. Black gel pens are usually a good bet. Pink and sparkly is not, and the free hotel pen is usually not a good plan. If your pen runs out mid-card and you have to switch to a different pen that isn’t an exact match, just toss it and start over.

 

Alright, I know it’s a boring subject, but I hope that gave you the information that you needed to get out there and start writing those dreaded thank you cards. I probably wrote an average of 6 thank you cards per interview, or about 100 cards by the end of the season. Dull, boring, but all part of the process. 

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