How many interviews is too many?
10 interviews will give you a 95% chance of matching according to NRMP data. It can be difficult to stay engaged and be interested in more than ten-so if you are in the enviable position of having more, critically look at your list and cancel those you are less likely to work for you.
What if I only have 6?
As many have discovered you only need one, but as your interview numbers go down your risk of going unmatched increases. At 6 you still have a 75% chance of matching. You should go to all 6 and discuss with your advisor if and when to develop a back up plan.
What are programs looking for?
Programs are looking for applicants who will succeed. Most have a set of traits they have noticed overtime that successful residents share. Kind, honest and hardworking top the list. The NRMP program director's survey is a great place to look for these traits.
Should I contact programs if I haven't heard from them?
This is a tough one to answer as this can pay off but can also drive program directors crazy making them less likely to offer you an interview. In general only contact a program if you have a supreme interest and you question if this may not have come across in your application. An example would be loving and wanting to move back to an area that wasn't referenced in your ERAS application.
Who should I be?
Firstly recognize you are trying on each program and they are doing the same. For this reason you must be yourself. I well dressed, non-trash talking, non-swearing best version of yourself. Avoid the pitfall of being too superficial or restrained to get to really experience each program and imagine yourself there.
How do I show I want to be there?
Be interested. This is reflected throughout your interview-you will be on stage the whole time, but so are they. Attend the pre-night social event so you can meet residents and see their interactions away from medicine. Be on time for your interview, since you will often be in a new area-leave twice the amount of time you'd expect it to take so you don't sweat through those spiffy clothes because you are running late. Have questions-genuine questions about the area, people and program. If you run out engage your interviewer in conversation.
What if I loose my luggage, get in an accident, or get lost?
Programs are real people too and we can adapt, just let them know what is going on. Then relax-stop perseverating and do what needs doing, it will make a great story.
Should I send thank you emails or cards?
Feel free to send or not send-this is pretty unlikely to change you likelihood of matching but if you enjoy doing so go right ahead.
Will programs be insulted if I cancel?
No, we understand and want applicants to focus on programs they are interested in. Just please give as much notice as possible at least 2 weeks, so the spot can be filled.
Overall the interview trail can be both exhilarating and exhausting. If you can, take time to spend a few hours in each place exploring and picturing yourself in this new area. When you go to rank your programs reflect back on how you felt and go with your instincts.
Good luck and travel well.
Lucienne Lutfy-Clayton is an Associate Program Director and Medical Education co-Fellowship Director at UMMS Baystate. While she never got lost, ended up late or lost her luggage she did spend a magical snowy night in Portland Maine and ended up living there for four years post residency.