Monday, December 10, 2012

How many is too many?

When it comes to interviews we each have a limit on how many we can physically, emotionally, and financially stand to do.  What I want to address is not how many you can do, but how many residency interviews you should do.

The objectives of your entire interview process is to consume as much information about your residency options as possible and to interview frequently enough to match.  If you are thoroughly enjoying the process then by all means check out as many programs as you can afford.  If your resources are more limited, you need only do as many interviews as it takes to make sure your envelope is full on match day.

There is no magic number that guarantees matching in EM, but it is exceptionally rare to not match if you complete 8 - 10 interviews.  And many people successfully match after less than that.  It only takes one Program Director who feels you are the right fit.  Each program, and sometimes each interviewer, has a different idea of what the ideal applicant "looks" like.

There are, of course, exceptions to the 8 - 10 rule.  The first is that if you give truly awful interviews, but look good on paper, you could get a lot of interviews and not be ranked highly by anyone.  A truly awful interview is not nervous and sweaty, or unprepared, or falling asleep during the Program Director's pitch.  Truly awful is where you meet the interviewers diagnostic criteria for Personality Disorder.  

The other circumstances, besides carrying an Axis II diagnosis, in which you should break the 8 - 10 rule are circumstances where you need to be exposed to more programs.  The best example is the couples match.  One of you is "the anchor", the half of the couple in the more competitive specialty and thus the one who will pull you both down your rank lists.  As the partner applying to EM there is a good chance that you are the anchor and thus do not need to do extra interviews.  Conversely, if you are matching with a future dermatologist, orthopod or another EM applicant you may need to do a few more to feel safe.

The number of interviews you go on is important to more than your physical, mental, and financial fatigue.  Every interview you cancel at a program you do not really want or need to rank is an opportunity for someone else who may need that interview a whole lot more than you do.  And according to your Personal Statement, you are interested in helping people in their time of greatest need.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

There are no bad questions...

...but some are better than others.  EM interview season is now in full swing, so something interview related makes the most sense for a first post.  Just today I was asked for one piece of advice for someone going to an interview.  My answer was to have "good" questions.  Sounds bland and useless but I really think this is important.  If you get me rolling on your questions I may never get around to my standard list of tough questions.
So what is a "good" question?  This is best summed up as a question that truly matters to you.  Interviewers often get generic, safe questions, answerable by perusing the website.  Less appealing are the "stalker questions" targeted to get the interviewer rambling about their professional interests and activities.  If you want to create a favorable impression with the interviewer, challenge them with a question you actually want to know the answer to.  Ask about something you are passionate about.  Or something you are really concerned about.  Your genuine interest will show through in a way that does not happen when asking about something you have been told you are supposed to ask about.  And it is perfectly fine to ask every interviewer the same question.  You may get some insightful variation in their answers.  
Nothing shows disinterest more than having no questions.  Generic is certainly better than none at all.