Interview Season Has Begun!

November 17, 2013

Greetings, Readers!

Brrr winter’s started creeping in! I hope you all are able to stay warm. I’m getting ready to finish my last week of rotations in NC (I will miss the mild winter weather), though even more exciting than that–I’ve started interviewing!

What a unique challenge that I did not foresee! So a bit of background information first–because most programs interview 10x the applicants for the number of spots they have (ex. 70 interviews for 7 spots), the “golden number” of interviews one needs to book to “guarantee” a match somewhere is 10. Now, that said, many places may rank you (albeit not high), but in order to statisically “beat the odds” and not have to scramble10 is what 4th years should be aiming for. Now you’d think it’d be pretty straightforward–you just say “yes” to the first 10 interview requests that come in and then say “no” from that point onwards, but it’s more complicated than that.

One factor is the cost involved in getting to an interview. I made the mistake of applying mainly to programs in the SouthEastern US (while this is where I WANT to be) but I have scheduled myself to be in Oklahoma during the busiest months of interview season. So there are places who have invited me for an interview which I would ordinarily be able to drive to, which I now MUST fly to [from Oklahoma] which is getting quite pricey. The programs are good about putting you up in a hotel room and covering the cost of your meals, but some of these flights are $500-600 RT, and you think to yourself there’s just a 10% chance that I will end up at this place. But then again, you could fall in love with this program and it could be the one who ranks you highly, so you don’t want to skip an opportunity with them unless the cost of getting there is just outrageous or you can’t fit it into your schedule.

Scheduling interviews is also tricky. The books I have read recommend scheduling yourself later in the season so that you’re more memorable, compared to interviewing first-thing when other, stellar applicants can interview after you. But then again, the more interviews you schedule during rotations, the harder it is to do well in your last few elective rotations because you’re missing so much time. This is an advantage for the kids who wait and match during their 5th year–they can schedule interviews outside of rotations at their leisure. Some folks at US schools have the privilege of taking time off during their 4th year so that they can have unhampered time to go interviewing.

The interviews themselves have been great. In general, the programs I’ve been to so far have been very excited to have applicants there and have gone out of their way to make us feel welcomed and wanted. They’re quite aware that we will be attending many interviews, so they make an effort to stand out and make a good impression. The interviews have been less formal than I feared they would be, and have lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to 1:15 depending on the interviewer’s agenda and how many questions they have for you.

In preparation, you’ll need at least 2 suits. Some folks say “I’m going to be an individual and not conform to the suit mentality” but then when I go to these interviews, everyone there is either wearing navy, black or gray suits. I have yet to interview with anyone NOT wearing a suit, so I wouldn’t deviate from this stereotype. For girls, I’ve seen about 50-50 skirts vs dress pants. I’d say whatever is most comfortable for you, though if you’re going the skirt route, bring a back-up pair of panty hose in your purse in case you get a run. During dinner with the residents the night before, it’s “casual” which I take to mean wear what you would normally wear to clinic–dress slacks and a nice shirt/blouse–UNLESS the invitation blatantly tells you to wear jeans/khakis. You’ll need comfortable shoes as most of the interviews involve a tour of the facilities. For girls, modest jewelry and a hairstyle typical of what you wear on a daily basis. Light make-up is more professional than showing off your Chanel make-up counter cat-eye skills.

Also you’ll need a portfolio–everyone has them though I don’t think we use them for much other than a professional schedule holder or to read off pre-written questions–as well as an attaché/brief case/matching purse. This last object is not a must-have, but it looks strange walking into an interview wearing a suit, carrying a bookbag. Most places, you walk in carrying your attaché case, but then leave it in the main conference area, taking only your portfolio on interviews. Because most of the time you’re flying to an interview, there is the problem of what to do with your luggage during the day of the interview when you must check out of the hotel before you leave for the morning interviews. I would recommend leaving your luggage at the hotel, locked up with the valet if possible, unless the program tells you to bring it with you. Its been my experience that the folks who voluntarily bring their carry-on/garment bag with them have clunky luggage which clutters up the program coordinator’s office/must be left somewhere less-than-opportune such as in another applicant’s car. But then I would keep your travel documents/ID/wallet with you at all times, just incase something bad happens you can at least get back home.

Hope these interview tips help–please comment with questions if they arise!

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8 Responses to “Interview Season Has Begun!”

  1. Shannon said

    Hi Jenn,

    Its Shannon again. First I want to wish you luck on your interviews!!! Now here comes the questions :). When you first arrived to MUA, did you have a one-way ticket or round trip? Also, did you travel home during every break? How did the shipping of your items to the island and back home work? Do you think its possible to live on the island without a vehicle? At least for the first semester? What was your impression of the MUA bus that transported students to and from campus? What was your impression of the taxis? I am thinking of maybe just seeking one taxi person to take me back and forth in the beginning, do you have any suggetsions for reliable cab drivers on the island? Approx. how many times a day did the ferry transport passengers to Nevis from St.Kitts? Lastly for Med 1 & 2 what books did you find utterly essential and utterly useless so that I can avoid them. Thank you as always.

    Shannon

    • Cojax said

      Why don’t you go and read her extensive, very informative blog which answers every question and much much more.

    • jenningers said

      Hey Shannon,

      Thanks for the well wishes on my interviews–next one is next week in FL so I’ve been studying up on the program. Ok, question time:

      Yes, I had a round-trip during the first time down to the island but haven’t had one since then. The issue is you have to guess when you’ll be eligible (your class’s exams are over) to come back home and every day you’re over on that estimate is horrible. All of your friends go home and you’re stuck on the island, during an already brief vacation. You won’t find out the exam schedule until you’re already on the island, but as soon as you do, that’s when we book the return flights–usually the day of the last exam if we can get over to kitts quickly enough (we usually pool together and get a speedboat over there and split a taxi to the airport–there will be other folks on the flight as there are only a few flights which leave kitts daily). Either that or we will share a villa at the Marriott on kitts our last night so that we can have some fun and a little civilization.

      The round-trip ticketing issue is that on one of your immigration documents, they want to know the number and date of your return flight–it’s a visa issue for visitors. Since you’ll be getting a student visa which will be good for years, it’s not really important so most of us just made up numbers.

      Originally I did not intend on going home every break but when you get down there, you’ll see that you’ll really want a couple weeks off the island every now and then, but yes, I did end up going home every break.

      There are many posts on shipping including information on the MUA Mentors fb page which I wrote immediately after the experience. If you’re particular about your things, I recommend it. If you can handle low-quality, over-priced imported stuff, then get everything on-island. I would ship stuff down again if I had it to do over.

      It’s possible to live on the island without a vehicle but you’ll spend much of your life waiting and frustrated. Get a car if you can. I would live in a crappy apartment if it meant I could afford a car–it was that nice having one.

      The MUA bus is fine, it gets the job done. I lived at Potworks in a single first semester so I walked to school, but then after the first Saturday morning when I had to wake up at 6:30 to go to the store and then was stuck in town waiting on the bus until 11 am, I decided I wanted a car. Do not take a taxi, take an H-bus. They look just like taxi’s except have a green license plate which begins with H. HUGE price difference. Unless you get an h-bus driver’s number you’ll just have to go stand out on the side of the main road and wait on an h bus to pass and hopefully stop. Again, tried this my first weekend and ended up walking home from the airport. Very angry.

      Ferry times vary on days–there’s another post where I took a photo of the passenger ferry schedule. Also the SeaBridge times are listed in earlier posts.

      Buy Netters anatomy, this is essential. The rest can be found on-island as pdf’s.

      J

  2. writer414 said

    Jen what specialty did you end up choosing?

  3. brien stelzer said

    Hi Jen,

    Great blog. I just discovered it.

    Regarding your start date. Did you start in Sept, Jan or May?

    I’m currently in the process of decided between Jan or Sept.

    If I start Sept 2014 I’ll start residency 1 year earlier. But some people say starting in Jan or May is better despite the extra year because you have more time to study and be selective in your rotations.

    What is your opinion?

    • jenningers said

      Hello, Brien,

      Glad you’ve found the blog and are enjoying it.

      I was originally approved to start in May but ended up starting in September (it was really short notice to start in May). Hmm…if I was in your predicament, I’d go with the January start because it’ll give you a more favorable timeline for the match. It’s really difficult and rushed to match in 4 years if you start in Sept. It’s not that the folks who start in September and match in 5 years are lazy but here are a lot of scheduling delays which just aren’t within your control as a student. I did not have to do the rlra research paper or these massive study plans for each of the steps (which involve taking required time off) and I will barely make it–go with Jan.

      Happy Reading,

      J

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