Rajani Katta MD and Samir Desai MD
These 275 Common Residency Interview Questions Will Help You Prepare For Your Interview
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
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:
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.