Things I Learned to Ask

Discussion in 'Clinical Rotations' started by kimberlicox, Jan 12, 2001.

  1. I thought students applying next year might benefit from some things we learned along the interview trail. So while they are fresh in my mind...

    1) get an Entertainment Book or other discount card. It will save you heaps on hotel bills and the like.

    2) the weather can be quite unpredictable during interview season in the North and Midwest. It won't be held against you if you are late for this reason, but if you are flying or driving to your interviews allow some time for cancellations or other travel predicaments.

    3) if you are interested in research, ask about whether you are limited to doing such work at that university or whether you can go elsewhere.

    4) if you are able to go elsewhere for your research, ask if they will fund you. Do not assume that programs will continue to pay your salary if you take a research year or two elsewhere (ie, other university, NIH, etc.)You don't want to have to rely on moonlighting.

    5) is research "suggested" which means "required" (ie, everyone but two "losers" have done a research year in the last zillion years)?

    6) social life? People feel funny about asking this, as if it appears superficial, but you want to know whether the residents socialize with each other, whether marrieds and singles intermix and what there is to do during the few hours away from the hospital.

    7)ask to see the call rooms. Are you sharing with someone or can you actually get some sleep because you have your own room.

    8)have two suits if at all possible. Many programs have you come for two events - a night before social event at which you are usually encouraged to wear a suit and the more formal interview day following. Obviously no one will really care or even notice if you wear the same thing, but it is nice to have something relatively fresh to wear at each event.

    9) don't bring your backpack, attache case, etc to interviews. Write down your notes afterwards and don't worry about where to leave your personal items.

    10) come early if you can, check out the town, etc. It might cost you an extra night in a hotel but if you are seriously interested in a program, its nice to be able to talk about the town with the interviewers and to see what amenities there are on hand (will you be able to shop 24/7, is there a Wal Mart/Target/Borders/Starbucks - whatever you consider a necessity - nearby?)

    11) what "perks" are there - are Palm Pilots provided? What about book funds, moving reimbursement, etc.?

    12) do people actually show up for the didactics? Its great if they have lots of conferences and didactic sessions scheduled for the residents, but if no one shows up to lead them then they are basically useless. How often are they cancelled?

    13) is the program in-bred? Where did the faculty train and is there a "program X" way of doing things or are other influences considered a good thing?

    14) OTOH, do people stay once they finish because they like it so much?

    15) how much help do they give you if you want to pursue a fellowship or post-residency fellowship? Will they make the calls and support you, or are you left to your own devices?

    Lots of these things fall under the lifestyle issue obviously, but can make a big difference. I'm sure I'll think of some more but encourage others to post their findings as well.

  2. SW-Adrian

    SW-Adrian Member
    10+ Year Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Likes Received:
    I think that all the questions Kimberlicox asked are very relevant. However, I would also make sure I have several questions prepared for the residents. Although they may not have much impact on whether you get the spot or not, talking to the interns in particular can be very fruitful. I, in particular, asked many more detailed and practical questions regarding:

    1. Average admissions while on call
    2. Is there an admission cap?
    3. Is there cross-cover?
    4. Is there a night-float?
    5. How is ancillary staff?
    6. How is quality of teaching?
    7. Most importantly, are the residents really happy?

    Since I interviewed in IM, I don't think all these questions apply to every field. I suggest you keep a little table of what you think is important to you such as location, schedule, teaching, family ... and rate each of these factors.

    Or else, after going through all your interviews, everything will appear to be the same.

    Good luck.

    Adrian Zai
  3. THose are all excellent questions and obviously you should have questions prepared for your faculty interviewees as well.

    My intent for this topic was to post things I learned along the way - not questions which are contained on lots of web sites or books about interviewing. For example, had a resident at one program not told me that faculty don't often show up for scheduled conferences I wouldn't have thought to ask about the cancellation rate (as I didn't see this mentioned in any of the published material out there).

    All of the questions Adrian has posted are excellent - probably most so the one about happiness. If the residents are happy, treated with respect, have resources to make their life better (ie, good ancillary staff, nice call rooms, etc.) it makes all the difference in the world - even on those q2 rotations!
  4. tussy

    tussy Senior Member
    10+ Year Member

    Feb 12, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Attending Physician
    Hey Everyone,

    I just got back in town after a week on the interview circuit. Those are great interview tips. Here's a few more things I've learned:

    1. Always attend the social events the night before the interview. These are sometimes just as important as the interview itself. At one of my interviews I spent at least a half hour talking to one of the senior residents, asking him questions, and just chatting about interviews, surgery and life etc. When I arrived at my interview the next day he turned out to be one of the 4 interviewers! The interview was really relaxed and he told the other interviewers about some of the topics we had discussed the night before. I think it really helped.

    2. If they offer drinks the night before be social, but don't over due it. Although many of the residents and even some of the faculty over did it a bit, I think the applicants that over did it on the booze hurt their chances.

    3. Always be on your best behavior at all the events, and watch who you talk to and what you say.

    4. Never ever lie in your interview. It will come back to haunt you.

    5. Read up about the city and the program. In one of my interviews they asked me if I knew what the population of the city was. I guessed and was quite close. (it was 200,000 -- one applicant quessed 700,000!!!)

    6. Pack a large suitcase with outfits for all possibilities. Pack an iron. My suits were incredibly wrinkled after flying several hours from the east coast to the west. Also, pack an alarm clock.

    7. If they offer you coffee right before your interview DO NOT TAKE IT. I was so nervous I spilled all over my suit. Luckily it was a dark colour and nobody noticed.

  5. Good stuff Tussy. Esepecially the attendance at "night before" social events. I also ended up interviewing with a faculty member that I'd spent a considerable amount of time chatting with the night before. As I walked in he said, "I feel like I know you really well already - I don't have any of my standard questions to ask you!". It definitely made for a more pleasant interview.

    Wear a suit to these events - one of the programs expressly told me that applicants who didn't come dressed as if for an interview where looked down upon.

    Don't wear perfume/after shave - it can really permeate those small interview rooms.

    In snowy climes, you might want to have a pair of old shoes to wear from the car into the building, changing into your interview shoes once inside. I had a resident tell me that he slipped on the way into his interview and was soaking wet when he got inside. Don't let that happen to you!

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