The Residency Interview: Questions Not to Ask in an Interview
Updated: Jan 24
One of the most common questions in the residency interview is this one: "What questions do you have for me?"
You might not be anticipating this question, and you may not realize how important it is. By asking thoughtful questions that are customized to this program and that reflect your genuine interests, you can stand out. This blog post goes over how to craft powerful questions in more detail.
In this post, we'll review one important topic: the types of questions to avoid asking your interviewer.
Don’t ask questions to which you should already know the answers
If the answer is readily found in the program’s brochure or website, the interviewer will assume that you didn’t bother to read the material, and that you’re clearly not all that interested in the program.
Therefore, the first rule of asking the right questions is to research the program before you arrive.
You need to:
Read the brochure
Read the program information that’s sent before the interview
Study the program’s website
Read the profiles of the faculty members
Avoid asking faculty about issues pertaining to vacation, call schedule, salary, insurance, or benefits
The image you wish to portray is that of an individual who’s hard-working, even in the face of long, stressful hours. That’s hard to do when you’re focused on how much you’ll be paid and how much time off you’re going to get.
This information should be available in the program information sent to you. If not, save these questions for the house staff.
Other types of questions during the residency interview may be perceived in a negative fashion
Don’t get so personal that you make an interviewer uncomfortable. “Are you married?” “How many children do you have?” (Applicants have actually asked me this.)
Do not reveal your biases. “Will I be working with a lot of HIV patients?”
Do not exhibit a poor sense of taste or strange sense of humor.
Don’t ask questions that make you appear too aggressive. Be especially careful with “why” questions. “Why doesn’t the program have a liver transplant program?
Questions that are specific to this program are far more powerful than general questions
While you’re free to ask general questions about the program, specific questions that demonstrate that you’ve researched the program will have more of an impact. Having said that, it's fine to ask a mix of general and specific questions, if these general questions aren't answered elsewhere and if they cover topics that you're especially interested in.
This post describes in more detail how to take a general question and turn it into a unique, compelling question.
Don't Extend the Interview by Asking More Questions If Your Interviewer is Signaling That Time is Up
One last, very important point: recognize that depending on time limits, you may only have the chance to ask one or two questions. Plan accordingly and use your judgment to decide when to ask your last question. Keep track of the time and pay close attention to your interviewer’s body language. If you sense that your time is up, proceed to your closing statement.
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.