Residency Interview Tips: Staying in Touch

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!!!

Alright, moving on…

When programs are building their rank lists, they want to choose people who want to go there. They want people who will be happy at that program and in that location. So, on top of your regularly scheduled thank-you notes, sometimes it’s helpful to reach out again to a resident or program director at your top few programs. We like to know if you are really, truly interested in the program. If questions come up later in the season, reach out! You will forget things, or there will be questions that you didn’t know to ask on your first few interviews. I would strongly encourage you to email someone (if you didn’t get a list of email addresses for the residents during the interview, I’m sure the program coordinator can get you one) if a question comes up. We like to hear from you, and extra knowledge won’t hurt!

I also think it’s helpful to see how the residents react if you contact them with a question. Do they respond reasonably quickly? Do they seen polite, helpful, and interested in helping you? Do they ignore you? Do they seem really kurt in their responses?

To clarify, I’m NOT encouraging you to email two or three people at every program where you interviewed, in addition to thank you notes. I AM encouraging you to reach out to one or two residents (or interviewers) that you felt like you connected well with, at your top few programs, later in the interview season (December/Jan) to ask a follow-up question or let them know that you really liked the program.

Here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts of communicating with programs after your interview:

Do reach out to someone that you connected well with, at your top few programs, to let them know that you really liked their program, or to ask a follow up question.

Don’t just send out another round of bland thank you notes to everyone you met.

Do try to ask something meaningful or say something meaningful. (“After interviewing at a number of other programs, ___ really stands out about your program and makes me want to go there.”) Say what you liked about the program or the area.

Don’t ask questions that you should already know the answers to, or could easily find. (“Hey, I forgot – how many residents does your program have again?”) It implies that you would rather ask someone to spoon-feed you information that you could find yourself, and implies a lack of respect for the value of your colleagues’ and faculty members’ time.

Do be polite, friendly, and sound interested in the program.

Don’t send really long messages – residents and attendings are busy!

Do use email if you have email contact information. Email invites the recipient to respond, and starts a conversation.

Don’t make any commitments about how you will rank the program, unless you are 100% sure you will stick to them. While your rank list is secret, if you tell a program that you plan to rank them #1 and they rank you #1, and then you match elsewhere, they will know that you were lying. That can leave a really bad taste in their mouths, and you don’t want to burn any bridges this early in your career.

Do use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation in any communication with a program.

Don’t take anything the program says too seriously. They can tell you anything they want, and none of it is binding in any way. Some programs have a habit of telling lots of applicants that “I think you would be a really great fit for our program” or something else along those lines. Chances are, just because the chair or the PD says something like that in an email, that doesn’t mean they have ranked you high enough to be guaranteed to match there.


I hope that’s helpful! Good luck to everyone who is interviewing this year, and for my colleagues going through the military match, hang in there! It’s almost military match day!

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