• Rajani Katta MD and Samir Desai MD

These 275 Common Residency Interview Questions Will Help You Prepare For Your Interview

Updated: Aug 23


We know how anxiety-provoking and challenging it can be to prepare for your residency interview. Although your grades and scores may get you in the door, multiple studies have shown that the interview is the most important factor in acceptance decisions. You have one shot at your dream program when you're interviewing, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible.


The following list of questions will help you get started.


If you're looking for more help applying to residency, we also offer our online course: The Residency Interview 101. Our expert strategies and insider tips on the admissions process can help you become a standout applicant.




How to Prepare for Residency Interviews


We've spoken and written extensively about the residency interview. In fact, we devote over 150 pages to the interview process in our book The Successful Match: Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match.


We also created our signature course, The Residency Interview 101, because this aspect of the residency match process is so high-stakes. We included before-and-after videos and our expert step-by-step approach for each of the common interview questions, because this type of preparation is so important.


How should you prepare for your residency interview?


  • We recommend learning the common interview questions and reflecting on your own experiences in order to provide strong, memorable responses.

  • We recommend practice interviews, including mock interviews with friends and with advisors.

  • We recommend learning from the experts so that you can learn the difference between common interview responses (the kind detailed in most blog posts) and the unique, powerful, compelling responses that get interviewers to really take notice of you.


Why is this type of extensive preparation so important?


Because the interview is high-stakes, and it deserves your full attention and intensive prep. You have worked hard for four intense years in college, followed by four intense years of medical school, with many, many high-stakes and high-pressure exams during those years.


It has literally taken you years to get to this point.


Now, when applicants have finally reached one of the final hurdles, some spend only a few days or weeks preparing for the interview.


That's a huge mistake.




The Residency Interview: When It Comes to Ranking Decisions and Match Day,

Program Directors Often Rank It As the Most Important Factor



Many medical students and IMGs don't realize how important the residency interview actually is. The general rule is that your grades and scores can help you with interview invitations. But once you're interviewing, those grades and scores aren't considered as important as your interview performance.


In fact, when it comes to ranking decisions, the interview is typically cited as the most important factor, as reported in survey after survey of program directors. That's why it's so critical that you give your interview prep the time and attention that it deserves.




Learn About the Variations of the Common Residency Interview Questions


Let's start with some of the common residency interview questions. "Why do you want to be this type of physician?" "Why did you choose to apply to our residency program?"


Most applicants are familiar with these types of common interview questions. Many interviewers will ask slight variations of these basic, standard questions.


However, there are many more potential questions. After interviewing hundreds of applicants, we've found that most applicants have come prepared for the very common questions. However, they struggle with two types of other questions.


  • The variations of the common questions

  • The less common (but still potentially asked) questions

We created this list of over 275 residency interview questions to help you as you prepare for your interviews.


The Most Common Residency Interview Questions Fall Into About 30 Different Categories or "Parent" Questions



Note one important point: although we've listed over 275 questions, many of these questions fall into different groups. In fact, most of these questions are variations or subsets of about 30 main "parent" questions or categories of questions. (Doesn’t that sound much less intimidating?)




Learn How to Prepare Unique, Unforgettable Responses to Common Questions



Knowing what questions you might be asked is, of course, just a starting point. Your overarching goal is to craft powerful, unforgettable responses to each of the common interview questions.


  • For a free 100+ page excerpt of our best-selling book The Successful Match, you can sign up here

  • You can also learn more here about our online course The Residency Interview 101, where we teach applicants how to quickly and confidently prepare for their residency interviews.


275 Common Residency Interview Questions, Grouped Into "Parent" Questions or Categories


How are you today?


Did you have any trouble getting here?

How do you like the weather?

Did you have any trouble finding a place to park?

How do you like [our city]? Have you ever visited [our city] before?

Was there a lot of traffic on your way here from the airport (or hotel)?

How do you like living in ____?

How has your visit with us been so far?

What do you prefer to be called?

Do you think you would enjoy living in ____?




Tell me about yourself


What brings you here today?

Tell me how you got to this point in life.

Tell me something about you that has nothing to do with academics.

Tell me your story.

Tell me about your life.

If you could sum yourself and application up in a short pitch what would you say?

Give me a one-sentence summary of yourself.

What should I know about you?

Tell me something I can’t find anywhere on your application.

Teach me something.




What are your weaknesses?


What is your worst quality?

If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be?

What are your pet peeves?

What would your friends say is your biggest weakness?

What might your last resident or attending physician want to change about your work habits?

What is your weakness that concerns you the most?

What about yourself would you change if you could?

What are your shortcomings?

What are your two worst qualities?

What is your greatest weakness?

What is one thing or trait your friends would change about you?




What are your strengths?


What sets you apart from the crowd?

What do you think your fellow medical students would say about you?

How would your friends describe you?

How would your teammates describe you?

How would you describe yourself?

Name three adjectives that describe you.

What are your key skills?

What attributes will make you a valued presence at our program?

Why are you a more attractive candidate than others?

What personal quality makes you perfect for a position in our residency program?

What are your greatest assets?

What are your positive qualities?

Do you like to work with other people?

Describe your personality.

How would you describe yourself?

What would your best friend say about you in convincing me I should rank you highly for our program?

What do you think are the most important qualities a person should have to be a good [specialist]? How do you rate yourself in these areas?

Why should we pick you over the other candidates?

What is your biggest strength, and how would it make you a better physician?

What strength would you contribute to the incoming class?

What three qualities should a [specialist] possess and do you have those?

What would your Dad say is your most impressive quality?

Name one good thing that your friends would say about you.




Why have you chosen this specialty?


How can you be sure that this specialty is the right career for you?

Why would you be particularly good in this specialty?

What led you to pursue a career in this specialty?

What stimulated your interest in this specialty?

Name a meaningful experience you’ve had and how it’s shaped you to pursue work in this specialty

What major life influences led you to your decision to pursue this specialty

Name one specific event that confirmed your desire to go into this specialty

Why this specialty over everything else?

What leads you to apply to this specialty

How long have you been interested in this specialty

What was the defining moment when you decided you wanted to apply to this specialty?

What person in your life has influenced your decision to pursue this specialty

Tell me about your path to this specialty

How do you know you want to be in this specialty?

What got you interested in this specialty and why are you pursuing it?

What is your motivation to pursue this specialty?

What is the number one reason you want to be in this specialty?




Why did you apply to this program?


What qualities are you looking for in a program?

What are you looking for in a program?

Describe your ideal residency program.

What do you believe our program would give you that another program would not?

What interests you the most about our program?

Tell me what you know about this program.

What have you learned about our program from others?

Why do you want to be a resident here?

How do you view our program?

What two or three items are most important to you in a residency program?




What will you contribute to this program?


In what specific ways will our program benefit from selecting you?


Why are you interested in training in this city/area?




What do you do outside of medical school?


Our approach to answering a similar question


What is your favorite hobby?

What extracurricular activities do you participate in?

What are your leisure-time activities?



Where do you see yourself in 5/10/15 years?


See our videos on how to respond this question:

  • Before and after response video

  • Step-by-step approach on how to craft a meaningful response video.


What are your long-term goals?

How much thought have you given to your future plans?

Are you planning to pursue a fellowship?

What are your plans after residency?

What are your specific goals in medicine?

What type of physician would you like to be?

Where do you plan to practice after you graduate?

Where do you see your career going 5/10/15 years from now?

How do you envision your career in 5/10/15 years?

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Where do you see your career going?

Is there a specific area you see yourself pursuing?

Have you thought about what particular areas within [specialist] you might like to end up in?

Are you planning on staying in ___ after your graduation?

Where do you see yourself after you complete residency?

What are your career goals?



What happens if you don’t match?


If you don't match into [specialty], what field would you go into?



Where else are you interviewing? Where have you applied other than here?


According to the NRMP Match Communication Code of Conduct, programs are no longer allowed to ask these questions. “Applicants shall at all times be free to keep confidential the names or identities of programs to which they have or may apply.”


Unfortunately, many interviewers are not aware that these questions are prohibited. We continue to hear from many applicants every year who’ve been asked these questions.


Therefore, we encourage you to consider how you would handle these types of questions. We outline several approaches on how to do so in our book.



Tell me about your research experience.


Our approach to answering this question


Explain your research as if you were trying to educate a patient without a science background about it.

Why don’t you just devote yourself to research?

Tell me about your current research.

Can you tell me about your research experience and how it plays in your future?

What are some of the things that you learned or liked from performing research?

Describe ____ research experience and the implication of your results.

How would you explain your research to a 12-year-old?

Summarize your contributions to one of the research projects you listed.

Why do you want to do medicine instead of research?




Tell me about your volunteer activities.


What specific volunteer experience was most meaningful?

What have you learned from all your volunteer experiences?

How has X experience influenced your career goals?

Out of all your experiences, which one was most important to you?

What were some of the challenges you encountered in ___?

Why did you get involved in ____?

How will your experience volunteering make you a better physician?

What experience have you found most rewarding?

Tell me more specifically what you do in [activity].

What are some satisfactions you have received from volunteering your time?

Can you tell me about some of your volunteering experiences and how they relate to medicine?

Tell me about an interesting patient you saw during your volunteer experience.

What has been your favorite volunteer experience and why?

How has your ___ experience influenced the way you approach medicine?

Explain how ____ experience helped you grow as a person.



Tell me about your extracurricular activities.


What extracurricular activities have you been involved in?

Describe extracurriculars.

How has X experience influenced your career goals?

Out of all your experiences, which one was most important to you?

What was your most meaningful experience?

What were some of the challenges you encountered in ___?

Why did you get involved in ____?

What is the overarching theme to your activities?

What experience have you found most rewarding?

Tell me more specifically what you do in [activity].

How has your ___ experience influenced the way you approach medicine?

Explain how ____ experience helped you grow as a person.




Tell me about your work experience.


Tell me about your leadership experience.


How have you shown leadership during medical school?

Provide me with an example of your leadership ability.

Tell me about a leadership position you held in college.

How are you a leader?

What leadership positions have you held?

What have you done that shows initiative?

What are you most proud of about yourself?

What do you think are the qualities of a good leader?

What leadership roles have you had and how have they impacted you?

What do you think leadership is and how have you demonstrated it?




What is your greatest accomplishment?


What is your greatest achievement?

What are you most proud of?




Why should we choose you?


Our approach to answering this question

There are so many qualified applicants. Why should we pick you?

What do you have to offer our program?

What contributions can you make to our program?

What do you have to offer that others don’t?

What will you contribute to the profession?

What do you want me to tell the admissions committee on your behalf?

What makes you unique?

What would you bring to our program?

Is there anything you would like to update the selection committee with?

If you had the chance to make your case to the selection committee, what would you say to them on why they should accept you?

What do you bring to the entering class that makes you a better choice than many of the other candidates we have this year?

What sets you apart?

What’s one thing that I should know about you?

I’m your biggest advocate to the selection committee. What should I tell them about you to prove that you are an excellent choice for our program?

Is there anything else you would like me to know about you that we haven’t talked about?



What do you perceive as the negatives about this program?




What was your least favorite course or clerkship in medical school? Why?


What rotation was your most difficult?




Why did you attend your medical school?




What was the last book you read?


Our approach to answering a similar question


What do you think about [current event]?

Tell me about a book that you read recently. Why does it interest you?

Tell me about a movie that you recently saw.

If you could be any character in history, who would it be and why?

Who is your hero and why?

Of all people, dead or alive, who would you most like to have dinner with and why?

What are you passionate about?

What things give you the greatest satisfaction in your life?

What is a book that you recommend that I read?

What do you do for fun?



What causes the most stress in your life?


What things frustrate you the most? How do you usually cope with them?

Residency is demanding and stressful. How do you usually handle and relieve stress?

Tell me about your study habits.

What scares you the most about residency?

What scares you in medicine?

What do you think you will struggle with during residency?

How will you handle the stresses of residency?

What do you think will be most difficult for you in residency?

What is your coping mechanism?

What causes burnout and how will you avoid it in your career?

How will you adjust to the rigorous schedule during residency?




Do you prefer working as a member of a team or would you rather work alone?


What type of people do you have difficulty working with?




Tell me about a time when you experienced a conflict with a colleague.


Tell me about a time when you successfully handled another person when that person didn’t personally like you.

What has been the highest-pressure situation you’ve been under in recent years? How did you cope with it?

Can you tell me about a significant challenge you had to overcome? How did you handle it?

What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of your undergrad experience?

Tell me about a time when you had to build a relationship with a person you did not like.



Can you tell me about this challenge? (“Red flag” interview questions)


I see that you had some difficulty in _____ course/clerkship. Could you tell me what happened?

I understand that you passed your USMLE Step 1 exam on the second attempt. Can you tell me what happened?

What explains this D on your transcript?

What do you think contributed to your low grades in the basic sciences?

What do you think contributed to your low USMLE scores?

Can you tell me more about your leave of absence?

Can you tell me more about your issues with professionalism?

Can you tell me more about the institutional action?

Can you tell me more about this significant time gap?

What was a challenge you experienced and how did you deal with it?

Walk me through a time you experienced a challenge.

How will the lessons you learned from adversity help you be a good doctor?

What was a mistake you made?




Behavioral Interview Questions


Tell me about a time when you displayed teamwork.

Tell me about a time when you showed initiative.

In your college years, how did you handle conflict? I’d like to hear about a specific example.

Tell me about a time when you worked effectively under a great deal of pressure.

Tell me about a particularly stressful situation you encountered in college and how you handled it.

Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.

Tell me about a time when you were disappointed in your performance.

Tell me about a situation in which you overcame adversity.

Tell me about a time when you had a difficult communication problem.

Tell me about a problem you had with a classmate or professor. How did you handle it?

Tell me about a time when you handled a stressful situation poorly.

Tell me about a time when you became really angry over a situation in college.

Describe to me a situation in which you had to break someone’s confidence.

Tell me about a time when you witnessed unprofessional or unethical behavior on the part of a classmate. How did you handle it?

Tell me about a time when you had to build rapport quickly with someone under difficult conditions.

Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.

Tell me about the major challenges you’ve faced in your college career.

Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.

Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.

Tell me about a time when you were able to successfully work with another person, even when you didn’t like them personally.

Tell me about a time when others working with you disagreed with your ideas. How did you handle it?

Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.

Describe a situation that required a number of things to be done at the same time. How did you handle it? What was the result?

Tell me about a time when you put your needs aside to help a classmate or coworker understand a task. How did you help him or her? What was the result?

Describe a situation in which your performance did not meet your professor’s or supervisor’s expectations. What happened? How did you handle the situation?

Tell me about a time when you said something or did something and then later realize it was wrong.

Tell me about a time when you worked in a group and it did not go smoothly.

Tell me about a time when you being responsible helped others.

Tell me about a time when you interacted with people who held different views than you did.

Describe a situation where you made a mistake and what happened afterwards.

Name a time when you helped improve a process.

Tell me about a time when you did everything you could and the outcome was still a failure.

Tell us about a time when you tried your hardest but you failed.

Name a time when you worked with a team and overcame an obstacle.

Tell me about a time when someone came to you with a problem that you empathized with.

Describe an encounter you had with someone that was unpleasant and how you handled it.

Name a time when you caught a small problem and fixed it before the problem became larger.

Tell me about a time when you stood up for a person in need.

Tell me about a difficult situation you encountered in your clinical experience and how you handled it.

Tell me about an ethical decision you faced and how you handled it.




Do you have any questions?


To learn more about what questions to ask interviewers, please refer to this post.


What questions do you have about our program?

What would you like to ask me about our program?



 

Dr. Rajani Katta is the creator of The Residency Interview 101, the online course that helps applicants quickly and confidently prepare for their residency interviews. She is also the co-author of The Successful Match: Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match and served as Professor of Dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 17 years.


Dr. Samir Desai is the author of 20 books, including The Successful Match and The Clinician's Guide to Laboratory Medicine. He has been a faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 20 years and has won numerous teaching awards.



If you'd like to receive a free 100+ page excerpt of The Successful Match, please sign up here.




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