Marcus X

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I'm currently a P1 at a candidate-status public school affiliated with a state university, due for full-accreditation next year. Unfortunately, I slacked off far too much in undergrad due a chronic lack of direction leading to poor grades for which not even my 99 PCAT could compensate; having been accepted, I couldn't justify the time and money of putting off applying for another year. I am intent on pursuing a residency upon graduation, preferably also a PGY2 in infectious diseases or oncology; I'm still up in the air and, of course, keeping my mind and eyes open to other options.

I'm currently maintaining a 3.9 GPA, have been elected for an officer position in APhA next year and the following year, am serving on a committee for our chapter of ASHP (considering running for office), am working in research for a member of the faculty, and am in the process of securing (hopefully) a hospital internship for the summer. Internship opportunities in the immediate area during the school year are, unfortunately, hard to come by at this time.

Basically, I want to know what else I can do to improve my chances. It used to be said that school didn't matter much when it came to applying for residencies, but it seems like that is beginning to change. Things being what they are, I want to maximize my chances and make myself as competitive as possible.

Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions? Damnation?
 

aboveliquidice

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Be awesome - I went to a pass / fail precandidate school - we have no GPA and we attend for three years.

Several of my classmates will be starting PGY1 s this year (including myself).

Getting a residency is about a mixture of a lot of aspects - it would be a poor choice to focus on residency right now. Focus on learning pharmacy right now and what you like right now. That will guide your decision making process later.
 
Mar 3, 2010
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Grades do matter, but programs really look at how you did on rotations (or how you're doing by December) and the types of rotations you're completing. For example, if you want to do a pharmacy practice residency in Peds, it would help if you picked a couple of peds rotations.

And be very careful about the impression you make to your preceptors. Pharmacy is a very small world, and preceptors talk to each other about students during the residency process.

Common mistakes people make on rotations that may cost them a residency spot: being late, having attitude, being lazy, acting like you don't care. No matter what rotation you're on (from the most boring to the most interesting) ALWAYS show that you want to be there and that you want to learn. This will pay off when it comes to letters of recommendation, which weighs heavily on your chance of getting an interview.
 

620

Mar 23, 2010
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All over these boards, you will see people posting their GPA, their activities, their leadership positions, etc. Those are not the things that will get you a residency, those are the things that will get you an interview.
When somebody who is highly qualified on paper doesn't match anywhere, I can't help but think they didn't interview well.

I will tell you that I'm one of the people with a 3.0 who matched with an excellent, highly-recognized residency. I got interviews at 3 of the 4 (all prestigious) places I applied, probably because my CV looked pretty good. I found that most residencies cared little about my GPA. I was only asked about my grades by one person at one place I interviewed. Some may use it to screen candidates to interview, but I think it is largely irrelevant to many after that. At the most, it plays a small part in the rankings at places with objective ranking systems. In all cases, remember, they wouldn't be interviewing you if they thought your GPA didn't make their grade.

You should be excited for an interview, rather than nervous. Prepare yourself as you would for a wedding reception, not as you would for an exam. Have a good time at your interview and with your interviewers. Tell funny, even mildly embarrassing stories about yourself. Have humility, but don't be afraid to highlight your accomplishments.

I think all of the places I interviewed thought I was genuinely interested and considering their program. This is most likely because I was. I had fun with them, and explained why I was specifically attracted to both them and their location. My final rank order list was considerably different from how I expected it to be when I was sending in applications, although I really would have been excited to match at any of the programs both. While the programs all recognized that they were distinct from one another, I don't think they thought of themselves as inferior or superior to one another, just different. I didn't have a "safety" (as though such a thing exists today). I would suggest against applying anywhere you don't truly want to go; they'll figure it out.

So the thing I'd suggest you do is work on your interviewing skills. This isn't something you will learn in class. Practice with a friend. Become a good public speaker (interviewing in a room with 6 people is a lot like doing Q&A with a room full of people). Meeting with an intimidating professor outside of class is a lot like sitting in a one-on-one interview.

Also, to Jessica's point, definitely make a good impression on all of your preceptors. Your interviewer may ask you about them, and how they would describe you. I would not be surprised if one of my interviewers actually called one of my preceptors - one of the people who I didn't ask to write me a letter (although I think they would have given me a good one had I asked). Be on time, do all your work (come in early if necessary to be ready for rounds), and don't complain about working long or odd hours. Most of all, be friendly. Nobody likes a jerk.
 

MustLoveDrugs

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Just to add to the interview tips and tricks, please remember that your evaluation does not stop when you are alone with the residents. No, it shouldn't be nearly as formal or stressful as the actual interview portion, but you should still conduct yourself appropriately.

If you need to make a call on your cell phone, please give a heads up that you are calling for a ride or to wish your grandmother a happy birthday. If you don't see the resident's cell phone come out at lunch, the resident probably expects yours to stay hidden as well... unless you are using it for one of the aforementioned reasons.

Please be nice and try to make conversation with everyone from the other interviewees to the residency program directors. A lot of what we do in the hospital on a daily basis involves interacting with others. Interviews are tough... but making small talk, being nice and occasionally showing your pearly whites should not be nearly as challenging.

You don't have to be bubbly and happy all the time, but please try not to be grouchy. If you are sick, sniffle and complain a little, but suck it up. If you screw up on the case or presentation you gave in the morning, don't whine about it through the afternoon. You will drag your sniffling self into work at least a few times during your residency, and you will make plenty of mistakes that will make you want to kick yourself... show the staff that you can take take these problems in stride and keep your head up.

Going into my first round of interviews on "the other side" last year, I was told that candidates rarely improve their ranking based on the time they spend with the residents... but that some will ruin it for themselves. In all honesty, I've had one case of each... someone who wasn't all that impressive in an interview but blew me away during our casual time, so much so that I approached the program director about it. I had someone else whose CV was amazing and interview answers were standard but was just horribly difficult to interact with in a small group over lunch. Especially if there are going to be other residents in your class, interpersonal communication will be key.

Spending time with the residents and asking questions is a part of almost every residency interview day. It should be the least stressful part of your day, and it should feel different, lighter. I don't want to scare you in the slightest... Seriously, feel free to ask us whatever you want... that's what the current residents are there for, and that's not at all what I'm complaining about here. However, things that I would think are common sense - like, don't text during your interview - somehow get missed by very intelligent people.

Trust me, we've all made mistakes... I've told inappropriate stories, choked on a case presentation and almost cried during a particularly harrowing interview experience... but the trick is to learn from those things. Suck it up, be your best self for a day and see where the match takes you.
 

KARM12

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Just to add to the interview tips and tricks, please remember that your evaluation does not stop when you are alone with the residents. No, it shouldn't be nearly as formal or stressful as the actual interview portion, but you should still conduct yourself appropriately.

If you need to make a call on your cell phone, please give a heads up that you are calling for a ride or to wish your grandmother a happy birthday. If you don't see the resident's cell phone come out at lunch, the resident probably expects yours to stay hidden as well... unless you are using it for one of the aforementioned reasons.

Please be nice and try to make conversation with everyone from the other interviewees to the residency program directors. A lot of what we do in the hospital on a daily basis involves interacting with others. Interviews are tough... but making small talk, being nice and occasionally showing your pearly whites should not be nearly as challenging.

You don't have to be bubbly and happy all the time, but please try not to be grouchy. If you are sick, sniffle and complain a little, but suck it up. If you screw up on the case or presentation you gave in the morning, don't whine about it through the afternoon. You will drag your sniffling self into work at least a few times during your residency, and you will make plenty of mistakes that will make you want to kick yourself... show the staff that you can take take these problems in stride and keep your head up.

Going into my first round of interviews on "the other side" last year, I was told that candidates rarely improve their ranking based on the time they spend with the residents... but that some will ruin it for themselves. In all honesty, I've had one case of each... someone who wasn't all that impressive in an interview but blew me away during our casual time, so much so that I approached the program director about it. I had someone else whose CV was amazing and interview answers were standard but was just horribly difficult to interact with in a small group over lunch. Especially if there are going to be other residents in your class, interpersonal communication will be key.

Spending time with the residents and asking questions is a part of almost every residency interview day. It should be the least stressful part of your day, and it should feel different, lighter. I don't want to scare you in the slightest... Seriously, feel free to ask us whatever you want... that's what the current residents are there for, and that's not at all what I'm complaining about here. However, things that I would think are common sense - like, don't text during your interview - somehow get missed by very intelligent people.

Trust me, we've all made mistakes... I've told inappropriate stories, choked on a case presentation and almost cried during a particularly harrowing interview experience... but the trick is to learn from those things. Suck it up, be your best self for a day and see where the match takes you.

What she said! Excellent post.
 

xiphoid2010

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I personally believe that GPA and CV strength matter more than what people like to admit. And with the residency program expected to get only more competitive, their significance probably will only increase. So be safe rather than sorry, party a little less and keep that GPA up, I say a 3.5ish is a good safe place to be.

For the interview, I want to add that there will be clinical questions that comes up in many places. You don't have to get everything right, but you should be able to answer parts of it. And if you don't know, don't BS, tell them HOW you will look it up for them. And ask for their permission to entertain your thoughts -- e.g "I will look it up in Lexi for you. But until I do, would you like me to take a crack at it?" This give you a chance to show them your thought process. For example, during the Q&A after a presentation, one interviewer ask what kind of patients shouldn't be put on plasmaphoresis. I reasoned it involves a similar process as dialysis, which takes up a significant blood volume, so hypotensive patients? Ding ding. They don't expect you to know everything, but they want to see how you think.

Also having an good portfolio. Lots of people can talk all day, but when you show them what you are talking about, that leaves an impression. And use it to turn a negative to a positive. They will ask you what's your least favorite rotation. Tell them why, but pull out the portfolio and show you accomplished a ton of stuff that month despite that.

Don't be nervous, relax and be yourself (just be your good self). Being a nervous stiff wears yourself out and make them not sure what to think either. Don't change what you do on an interview day. E.g, I'm a coffee drinker. I went to one interview without a drop of coffee that day... I was in withdrawal and felt miserable. On the same token, if you don't drink coffee, don't try to use it as a performance boosters. Talking fast and bouncing off walls isn't how you want to be remembered.

Don't interview at the top 3 places first. Use the least desirable places as practice runs. Many of the same questions will be asked, and you would have refined your answer by then.
 

MustLoveDrugs

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I personally believe that GPA and CV strength matter more than what people like to admit. And with the residency program expected to get only more competitive, their significance probably will only increase. So be safe rather than sorry, party a little less and keep that GPA up, I say a 3.5ish is a good safe place to be.

For the interview, I want to add that there will be clinical questions that comes up in many places. You don't have to get everything right, but you should be able to answer parts of it. And if you don't know, don't BS, tell them HOW you will look it up for them. And ask for their permission to entertain your thoughts -- e.g "I will look it up in Lexi for you. But until I do, would you like me to take a crack at it?" This give you a chance to show them your thought process. For example, during the Q&A after a presentation, one interviewer ask what kind of patients shouldn't be put on plasmaphoresis. I reasoned it involves a similar process as dialysis, which takes up a significant blood volume, so hypotensive patients? Ding ding. They don't expect you to know everything, but they want to see how you think.

Also having an good portfolio. Lots of people can talk all day, but when you show them what you are talking about, that leaves an impression. And use it to turn a negative to a positive. They will ask you what's your least favorite rotation. Tell them why, but pull out the portfolio and show you accomplished a ton of stuff that month despite that.

Don't be nervous, relax and be yourself (just be your good self). Being a nervous stiff wears yourself out and make them not sure what to think either. Don't change what you do on an interview day. E.g, I'm a coffee drinker. I went to one interview without a drop of coffee that day... I was in withdrawal and felt miserable. On the same token, if you don't drink coffee, don't try to use it as a performance boosters. Talking fast and bouncing off walls isn't how you want to be remembered.

Don't interview at the top 3 places first. Use the least desirable places as practice runs. Many of the same questions will be asked, and you would have refined your answer by then.
I'm just curious... Were you asked to bring a portfolio to your on-site interviews?
 

xiphoid2010

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I'm just curious... Were you asked to bring a portfolio to your on-site interviews?
3 out of 7 told me to bring the portfolio specifically. 2 of 7 had me present. But I brought my portfolio to all 7, one for just in case, and two because I figured show and tell is better than just tell.
 

izzie516

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Just to add to the interview tips and tricks, please remember that your evaluation does not stop when you are alone with the residents. No, it shouldn't be nearly as formal or stressful as the actual interview portion, but you should still conduct yourself appropriately.

If you need to make a call on your cell phone, please give a heads up that you are calling for a ride or to wish your grandmother a happy birthday. If you don't see the resident's cell phone come out at lunch, the resident probably expects yours to stay hidden as well... unless you are using it for one of the aforementioned reasons.

Please be nice and try to make conversation with everyone from the other interviewees to the residency program directors. A lot of what we do in the hospital on a daily basis involves interacting with others. Interviews are tough... but making small talk, being nice and occasionally showing your pearly whites should not be nearly as challenging.

You don't have to be bubbly and happy all the time, but please try not to be grouchy. If you are sick, sniffle and complain a little, but suck it up. If you screw up on the case or presentation you gave in the morning, don't whine about it through the afternoon. You will drag your sniffling self into work at least a few times during your residency, and you will make plenty of mistakes that will make you want to kick yourself... show the staff that you can take take these problems in stride and keep your head up.

Going into my first round of interviews on "the other side" last year, I was told that candidates rarely improve their ranking based on the time they spend with the residents... but that some will ruin it for themselves. In all honesty, I've had one case of each... someone who wasn't all that impressive in an interview but blew me away during our casual time, so much so that I approached the program director about it. I had someone else whose CV was amazing and interview answers were standard but was just horribly difficult to interact with in a small group over lunch. Especially if there are going to be other residents in your class, interpersonal communication will be key.

Spending time with the residents and asking questions is a part of almost every residency interview day. It should be the least stressful part of your day, and it should feel different, lighter. I don't want to scare you in the slightest... Seriously, feel free to ask us whatever you want... that's what the current residents are there for, and that's not at all what I'm complaining about here. However, things that I would think are common sense - like, don't text during your interview - somehow get missed by very intelligent people.

Trust me, we've all made mistakes... I've told inappropriate stories, choked on a case presentation and almost cried during a particularly harrowing interview experience... but the trick is to learn from those things. Suck it up, be your best self for a day and see where the match takes you.
I agree 100% with you. I got to sit on the other side of the table this year as a PGY1 resident.

I had one candidate who would not stop complaining about her last interview. I sat there and wondered what she will say about our hospital on her next interview. I crossed her off my list, and we decided she was un-rankable.

Another candidate had the most amazing CV. I was looking forward to finally meet her in person. It turned out that she barely spoke a complete sentence to me. My co-resident and I took her to lunch, we ate in silence after we ran out of things to say because she was so quiet. It was the longest lunch hour of my life. We decided to make her un-rankable as well.

As a soon-to-be PGY2 resident who had to go through the match twice and who got to see both sides of the table, I have to admit that graduating from a reputable pharmacy school with a decent GPA and CV can only take you that far, what people remember the most about you is still your personality. :)