Residency is that part of your medical education where you work under the supervision of experienced doctors and gain practical experience in a specialised field of medicine. It takes place after medical school and is essentially additional clinical training in a specialised field of medicine that takes place in a hospital or clinic. 

Getting into a good residency program depends on various factors—an important factor being the residency interview. The interview is important because it allows your potential supervisors to assess your skills and see if you would be a good fit on their team. After all, if they like you, they may hire you full-time in the future after you complete training. Most residency programs have similar interview questions. In this article, we’ll go over some common residency interview questions and how to stand out from other interviewees.

General Medical Residency Interview Questions

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
  • What are some of your strengths?
  • What are some of your weaknesses?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Who is your role model, and why?
  • If you couldn’t become a doctor, what career would you choose instead?

Questions About Your Professional Experience

  • Why does our residency program interest you specifically?
  • Do you have any experience in leadership roles?
  • Why did you choose this medical specialty?
  • What will be the biggest challenge you will face as a doctor?
  • What makes you different from other applicants?

Descriptive Questions

  • Describe a difficult situation in the past and how you overcame it.
  • Give an example of a time you had to deal with conflicts.
  • Describe a time in your past where your efforts were outstanding.
  • Describe a situation where you could have performed better.
  • How do you think your past experience has shaped you into the kind of doctor you will be?

How to Answer Common Residency Interview Questions

Q: Tell me about yourself.

How to answer: Before going over your medical experience, briefly describe your personal history, such as where you grew up and what your hobbies are, to show the interviewer what makes you unique.

Sample Answer: I grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and am the eldest of four siblings. Growing up in a full household has made me work effectively with all kinds of people. And as the eldest child, I’ve had to be the responsible one, often babysitting my younger brothers and sisters. I feel my childhood has shaped me into an excellent leader, which can be seen in my experience as class president in University.

Q: Why did you choose this specialty?

How to answer: Think about why you chose this specialty and what your personal statement reflects. Also consider your past experience, like what memory or event triggered an interest in this specialty? When you imagine yourself being a doctor in this field, how does it make you feel? What about this field excites you?

Sample Answer: I’ve always loved going to my pediatrician as a kid. He helped me feel at ease, and was great with kids overall. As I got older, I realised the impact a good pediatrician can have on a child’s health. I want to be that doctor who helps make children feel at ease when they visit me. I believe I can have an impact on improving the quality of children’s lives.

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

How to answer: Describing your strengths is the easier part of this question, which is all the more reason why you should be careful how you answer it. Think of specific instances you’ve performed well and the skills you possess that helped you perform well. This allows you to back your answer with strong evidence.

Talking about your weaknesses is the trickier part of this question. Identifying a weakness that won’t hinder your chances of bagging the opportunity is key. It’s okay to talk about a weakness or an instance you failed in, but make sure to cover it up with how you’ve learned from it and are working on turning it into a strength.

Sample Answer: One of my strengths is the ability to work under pressure. In the second semester of med school, I was working on a group project when one of the group members suddenly fell sick. While it would’ve been easier to ask for an extension on the deadline, I took up the additional responsibility of finishing what my group member was supposed to do. I remained calm and methodically finished the tasks. I believe that my ability to keep my composure under stress helped me and my teammates score well on that group project.

One of my weaknesses is that I struggle to say ‘no’. I love helping people and sometimes that makes it hard to say ‘no’ when I’m asked for help, and I end up taking on more than I can handle. I’m trying to fix this by giving people who need my help a realistic timeline of when I’ll be able to help them with the task, rather than immediately offering to help.

Q: Describe your working style with patients.

How to answer: Interacting with patients is an essential part of being a doctor. It’s important to be patient and clear when communicating with your patients. Think about the ways in which you have interacted with patients in the past and how they responded to you. You can also think about the times you’ve noticed a doctor talking to a patient and the patient’s reaction. Was the doctor being clear and empathetic? Did the patient feel comforted or confident in the doctor’s abilities? You can also support your answer with examples from your past.

Sample Answer: I believe I can communicate effectively and patiently which allows me to interact with patients well. As an empathetic doctor, I can provide the reassurance and confidence that patients seek in doctors. During my clinical rotations, I worked with a patient who had a complicated medical issue. I explained to them their condition and the treatment options in detail. When the treatment was over, the patient came and thanked me personally for being so kind and answering all their questions clearly.

Q: Why do you want to join our residency program?

How to answer: List out reasons why you think you’d fit into the program well, as well as reasons why you applied to the program in the first place. Also think about why you chose this program. Was it the doctor you get to work under? Was it the opportunities the hospital has to offer? Does the hospital require someone like you?

Sample Answer: What got my attention about this program is the hospital’s focus on research. As a person interested in research, I believe this program provides me with the opportunity to be at the forefront of the latest developments in medicine. My experience with lab research in medical school makes me a strong candidate for this program.

Tips for Nailing the Residency Interview

Research the program thoroughly before your interview. Knowing the values and vision of the institution will help you tailor your answer for each program.

Do mock interviews with a peer or a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask your professor to ask you interview questions and help you with your answers.

At the end of the interview, don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer questions. You can ask questions about specific opportunities, or ask them advice on navigating residency. It’s also okay to ask them to give anecdotes about their experience as a resident.

Don’t forget to send a thank-you email to the interviewer. It’s always nice to thank them for their time and show them that you’re grateful for meeting them.