• Rajani Katta MD and Samir Desai MD

The Residency Interview Thank You Email: What to Say

Updated: Aug 23



Residency interview thank you letters are important


Residency interview thank you letters: are they really that important? Yes, they are. Although not as important as other factors for a successful residency match, they can definitely be one helpful factor. Beyond that, it’s considered good manners to thank a program for the honor of an interview.

In this post, we’re going to outline how to write a thank you email following your residency interview, along with a few sample thank you emails.


The same format and suggestions will work whether your residency interview thank you is in the form of an email, a handwritten thank you card, or a handwritten thank you letter.


In general, when we discuss thank you notes or letters below, we're referring specifically to emails. We will address the use of handwritten communication as well.



A woman typing a thank you letter to a residency program following her residency interview.
Residency interview thank you emails are important for many residency programs.

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.



The number one rule of all post-interview communication: follow directions

Before you communicate with a program following your interview, it’s really important to follow all directions.

Thank you notes fall under the category of post-interview communication. Post-interview communication may include:

  • Thank you notes

  • Letters of intent

  • Post-interview questions

  • Other types of communication


It's important to recognize that some programs actively discourage any type of post-interview communication.


Why would programs not wish to receive thank you notes? Simply put, some programs have found themselves overwhelmed with post-interview communication, and therefore will explicitly tell applicants that they do not wish to receive any such communication.


  • If a program has stated that they do not wish to receive such communication, then it’s important to follow their wishes.

  • There are other times when a program director may tell you that thank you notes are not necessary-- without actually discouraging thank you notes.


What should you do if a program tells you that thank you emails for residency interviews aren't necessary?

In these cases, we recommend that you use your best judgment. Some program directors may say this to hint that they don’t wish to receive any communication. Other program directors may make such a statement to lessen the burden on applicants, but otherwise aren't bothered by communication. You’ll have to evaluate the situation on a program-by-program basis.


Are residency interview thank you notes helpful to your chances of successfully matching at that program?


  • Overall, yes, thank you notes may be helpful. But of course, it’s just one factor among many others, and it's a minor factor.

  • Are thank you notes helpful in terms of expressing sincere gratitude for a valuable opportunity? Absolutely.

  • Is it possible that thank you notes might harm your chances of matching at a program? As long as sending a thank you note doesn't go against any instructions provided by the program, I’ve never seen a situation where a thank you note has harmed an applicant.

Who do I send my post-interview thank you email to?

In general, we recommend sending separate emails to the program director and your interviewers. We also recommend sending a thank you email to the program coordinator, especially since they've worked so hard to ensure a good experience for the interviewees.

Do faculty members really care about thank you emails?

The short answer to this question is, yes, some faculty members do care whether or not they get thank you notes. Other faculty members don’t care at all.

I remember residency selection committee meetings when we would be discussing a particular applicant.

  • One faculty member, looking through the thank you notes she had received, commented “this applicant didn’t even bother to send a thank you note. I don’t think she’s interested in our program at all.“

  • In response, another faculty member emphatically declared “I really don’t care if people send thank you notes. It doesn’t bother me one way or the other, and I don’t think we should consider it at all.“

So yes, some faculty members care, and others don’t care at all.

Thank you emails after residency interview: what to say

The rule of thumb is to keep it short and to the point, but to include a “memory spark."


A memory spark is my term for some brief item that helps your interviewer remember you and your conversation together.

  • This could be any topic of discussion that came up during the interview.

I really enjoyed speaking about our favorite books, and I'm really looking forward to checking out "The Long Game" from my library.
  • It frequently is helpful to refer back to any topics that your interviewer initiated, such as questions about your hometown, your interests, or your past experiences.

I so enjoyed speaking about my passion for scuba-diving.
  • You might also refer back to any questions that the interviewer answered for you.

Thanks so much for telling me about the "resident as teacher" workshops that the program offers. With my background in teaching, I really enjoyed hearing about the approaches used in the workshops.
  • In some cases, these particular topics might even refer back to your reasons for wanting to match with this particular program, which would be a bonus.

I really enjoyed speaking about your research on inflammatory biomarkers, especially given my interest in making translational research a future part of my career.


Residency applicant thinking what to write in his residency interview thank you email
In writing your thank you email, it's helpful to include a "memory spark" to help your interviewer better remember you and your conversation. This might include a topic of discussion or questions that the interviewer answered for you.


Should I tell the program how I plan on ranking them?

No. A thank you note is simply to thank the interviewer for spending time with you.


Conversations related to ranking decisions would fall under the category of a letter of intent. Letters of intent typically go out later in the interview season and are classically sent to the program director of your top choice residency program, or perhaps your top three choices.

A thank you note, on the other hand, would go out (ideally) to every single program at which you interviewed.


Note that there may be some exceptions to this rule, based on the timing of your interviews, but this is the general recommendation.


Sample thank you email after residency interview at an internal medicine program:


Dear Dr. Desai,

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me on Thursday. I was honored to receive an interview to the Baylor College of Medicine Internal Medicine program, and I was so impressed by my tour of the Texas Medical Center, as well as my conversations with the current residents. I really enjoyed our conversation about my love of TexMex restaurants, and I can’t wait to come back to Houston this summer to check out some of your recommendations. Thank you again for your time.

Sincerely,

Allison Jones

Sample thank you email after residency interview at a dermatology program:


Dear Dr. Katta,

I was so honored to receive an invitation to interview at the Baylor Dermatology program, and I wanted to thank you for the opportunity and for your time. I also want to thank you for sharing your valuable insights; I have long had an interest in creative nonfiction writing, and I really appreciated hearing about your path to writing and publishing a book. I had a fantastic time speaking with the residents and learning about the program, and was so impressed with all of the sub-specialty clinics and the wide breadth of faculty interests.


Thank you again for speaking with me and for your insights – I am very grateful.

Regards,

James Okawa

Should I send a residency interview thank you email or a handwritten thank you letter?

Typically, an email thank you note is sufficient. It can be written soon after the interview and can reach the faculty quickly.

Having said that, there are times when a written thank you note is beneficial. For example, if you’re interviewing at your home program, and it is one of your top choices, you may be able to drop off handwritten thank you notes for the faculty. These certainly take a long time, but they can make a strong impression, especially among a sea of emails.

If considering handwritten thank you notes, you’ll need to make sure that you have the correct address and that they will actually reach the faculty member. Remember that some programs have multiple mailboxes before reaching a faculty member, and a note mailed today may not reach them for another four weeks in some cases.

When to send thank you emails after a residency interview: as soon as possible

Thank you emails are not letters of intent, so there's no need to wait to send them. As soon as possible, you should compose and send your thank you notes.


  • In dermatology, I found that many applicants were able to send these within 24 hours of an interview. (They were composing thank you notes on the plane home).

  • Dr. Desai, on the other hand, has found that applicants to many other specialties had a much longer turnaround time.

Our recommendation is to do your best to send your thank you emails within 24 hours of an interview. You're more likely to stand out. And, as a bonus, the thought of writing your thank you notes won't be hanging over your head.

What if I can’t find my interviewers' email addresses?

In most cases, you won't be provided with the email addresses of your interviewers, and we don't recommend that you ask your interviewer for this information during the interview.

Instead, you can email the program coordinator and ask how best to send your thank you notes.


Dear Ms. Anderson,


Thank you so much for your help with arranging my interview on Thursday, and thank you for all of the information. I had a fantastic interview, and I wanted to send a thank you note to Dr. Katta and Dr. Desai. Would you be able to forward my notes, or would you suggest that I email them directly? If so, what email addresses should I use?

Thank you again for the wonderful experience.


Regards,

Sarita Sanchez


The bottom line: Residency interview thank you notes are considered standard practice

These thank you notes are an expression of gratitude for the opportunity to interview at the residency program. They are sent to the program director, program coordinator, and typically to your interviewers. However, it’s important to follow all instructions: If the program has indicated that they do not wish to see any post-interview communication, make sure that you follow those directions to the letter.

Will a thank you note affect your chances of a successful residency match? It’s unlikely to be the deciding factor, but it can certainly reinforce the program's impression of you as a mature, polite, professional applicant. It can also serve to reinforce a particular memory.


 

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 award

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