MedCAREERS - Phase 4 - Interview Guidelines

Interviewing Guidelines, Tips and Techniques

You are all survivors of your medical school entrance interview. Now you must prepare for the next most important interview in your life! Here are some important considerations in preparing for this.


Remember that the interview begins when you walk in the room – FIRST IMPRESSION – how you stand, sit, dress! Look PROFESSIONAL, CONFIDENT and IN CONTROL.

Be aware of:
  • Posture – eliminate distractions
  • Appropriate energy (conveyed through gestures, facial expressions and eye contact)
  • Speech habits
  • Focus – stay focused and convey thoughts and feelings with enthusiasm
  • Closing statements

  • Don’t twiddle your thumbs, don’t cross your arms.
  • Use your hand movements as you would ordinarily and they will “talk” appropriately.
  • Use gestures to help you stay focused and avoid distractions:
          o compare and contrast statements (on one hand, and on the other)
          o numbers or lists can be reinforced by hand gestures.

  • Keep a pleasant look
  • Match your face with what you say
  • Look for opportunities to show emotions

  • Communicate that you are happy to be there
  • Hold gaze with interviewer for 3-5 seconds or until the thought or sentence is completed - this involves the interviewer, shows confidence and interest
  • Avoid shifting or darting their eyes, or staring down the interviewer

  • Match your word inflections with your body language

  • Avoid “padding” with:
          o Non-words: um, aah
          o Non-working words: well, so, basically
          o Connectors: and, but, or
  • Instead use:
          o Silence or a pause (but don’t overuse it) until the intended word comes to mind
          o Use complete sentences
  • Tape-record one of your conversations or listen to yourself on the phone
  • Make sure your words, voice and body language are congruent to send the intended message.
  • Make your voice loud (for emphasis) or soft (for authority) as appropriate
  • Keep your head up and avoid mumbling
  • Stop talking when the point is made

  • You should prepare the close of your interview by thinking about what you plan to say.
  • This is the last chance to give the interviewers something to remember.

  • Throughout the entire interview, speak about areas you know best or feel passionately about.
  • Enthusiasm and interest show in your voice, facial expressions and gestures.
  • Try not to be thinking ahead to what you are going to say next – trust your instincts


Prepare as much as you can in advance. If possible ask in advance what the interview will be like and if there is anything in particular for which you should prepare.This pre-interview information may not be available but take advantage if it is. When preparing there are several areas on which to focus. These include your own background, what you will need to bring with you, the training program itself, interview logistics, questions, attire and appearances.

Know Your Own Background

Read and re-read your CV, personal statements and any correspondence you have had with the residency director and staff. Be able to discuss why you want this particular residency at this particular location. Be able to discuss your past experiences in clerkship and any research experience. Be prepared to field questions about how your past experience will be relevant to your experience in their residency program. Be able to discuss your career direction, What you see yourself doing in five to ten years. Prepare an answer to the question “Tell me about yourself”. The answer should have a medical and specialty focus and should not be more than two minutes long.

Know What You Need

Have all relevant papers with you, including copies of your CV, all correspondence, letters of reference (if available) and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your references (in case they are requested). The program will have received these from CaRMS, but it never hurts to have them just in case and it gives you an opportunity to be familiar with your own material.

Know the Residency and Specialty Area

Know who’s interviewing you, the major characteristics of the residency program, and the primary mission and direction of the site; and of course, be prepared to show how you will fit into the system. Do as much research about the residency program as you can. Advance preparation in this area will help you convince the residency program director that you could fit well into the program and contribute significantly to the program. Knowledge in the specialty area shows that you are current and up-to-date on the latest trends and needs of the field. Don’t ask questions that you should already have been able to find out.

Interview Logistics

Know where you are going and arrive early. If possible make a trial run the day before. Make sure you are aware of the time commitment for the interview, there may be extra activities involved that will extend the time commitment.If you have booked another interview the same day this will cause a conflict for sure.

Appropriate Attire and Appearance

The generally accepted practice in interviews is to dress to the organization. Overdress rather than “underdress” and tend towards the conservative. Usually, a dark suit for men and women or for women a conservative dress is fine. Hair, makeup and jewelry should be flattering but not distracting. You want to impress the interviewers with who you are not what you look like.


If you feel nervous about the interview, practice your answers at home, in from of a mirror or video camera. You can contact a mentor or student affairs person to help you by conducting practice interviews. They can provide valuable feedback about your poise and confidence levels, as well as the content of your answers. The Centre for Career Development on the main campus does have resources for assisting you with interviewing skills. A mock interview workshop will be organized for you in December of your fourth year.

Rehearse, Rest and Relax

Practice answering questions, especially difficult ones. Get plenty of rest the night before and eat well the day of your appointment. Be familiar with relaxation techniques and do whatever you need to do to stay calm before and after the interview. A web site with valuable tips on relaxation techniques is

Typical and Difficult Interview Questions

The following is a list of standard questions that are often addressed in some form or other, as well as some difficult questions. Plan ahead by writing out and rehearsing your responses to these questions, this will help you to sound confident in your responses.

   1. Tell me about yourself. (This is almost always asked in some form or other.)
   2. What are your strengths and weaknesses? (May be addressed in skill-based form, i.e.,          what do you do well or what have had experience doing and not doing?)
   3. What attracts you to this residency (or to this specialty area)?
   4. Where do you see yourself in five to ten years? Or do you see yourself in an academic or        clinical position? (a professional/career direction question)
   5. Why do you think you are best qualified for this residency program?
   6. What do you think you can contribute to this residency?
   7. Describe a clinical situation that you handled well and were successful and one where     things didn’t go as well as you would have liked. (This question looks at your handling of       stressful circumstances. It may also take the form of presenting you with a difficult               clinical case scenario with a medical ethics element in it.)
   8. What are your overall career goals?
   9. What do you do in your spare time?
  10. What influence do you think your family had on your life?
  11. Is a family important in your lifelong goals?
  12. How do you get along with co-workers?
  13. Where have you done electives?
  14. Do you have any questions? (Prepare thoughtful, intelligent questions.)
  15. Additional areas from which you may also expect questions: Education, personal ability, personal traits, clinical experiences, liabilities, career goals, handling a specific situation       or type of patient.

Tips for Handling Difficult Questions
  • Prepare your responses to questions that may be difficult for you ahead of time with help from an advisor. Concentrate on areas that are the most concern to you.
  • Think before you answer.
  • They often ask what other programs you have applied to and why. They may also ask at what other places you have interviews, whether they are supposed to or not. Be prepared to answer these diplomatically.
  • Be brief, and respond to the question in a factual way. Provide only the necessary information.
  • Ask the interviewer to restate the question if you don’t understand it. Try to determine the intent of the examiner in asking the question.
  • Never lie or overstate.
  • Anticipate difficult questions; prepare your responses in advance; and rehearse. If you have for example a failure of a year on your transcript prepare an honest response for any questions related to this.
  • Be prepared to ask them intelligent questions.

Questions for Program Directors

   1. What is the patient population?
   2. What is the philosophy of the program?
   3. What is the interaction between housestaff and attendings?
   4. What is the nature and quality of teaching, both bedside and conferences?
   5. What type of applicant would you consider ideal for the program?
   6. Are any program changes planned in the next 3 years?
   7. Which departments or sections are the strongest? the weakest?
   8. Do you consider this a stable program?
   9. How long has the Program Director been in his / her position?
  10. Who goes to Grand Rounds and other conferences? Specifically, how often do               housestaff get to go to conferences?
  11. How visible is the Chief? the Chief Resident(s)?
  12. Does the Chief spend regular time with the housestaff? If not, who does?
  13. Does the Chief Resident spend regular time with the housestaff?
  14. What medical schools have the housestaff come from?
  15. What do the residents do when they finish?
  16. What fellowship opportunities are available in this hospital?
  17. Are the housestaff able to go to good fellowships if they wish?
  18. How much patient contact will I have?
  19. What types of patients will I see?
  20. How do you feel your program compares to other programs?
  21. Are some rotations done at other hospitals?

Questions for Residents

   1. Are you happy with your choice?
   2. What was the most important factor that made you come to this program?
   3. What are your plans after graduation?
   4. What’s a typical week, month, year like for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year?
   5. What is call like? What kind of backup is provided?
   6. How do you deal with the stress of residency?
   7. If there are other residency programs in-house, how do you view their presence?
   8. What do you/other residents do outside the hospital for community service and for fun?
   9. Where do you feel most of your learning is coming from?
  10. What are the program’s areas of strength?
  11. What are the program’s areas where improvements could be made?

Interviewing Skills Videos

In the dropdown list for this phase (Phase 4), you will find two videos done by Dr. David Keegan (MUN Class of 1995):
  1. Interviewing Tips Video recorded in 2003 (1 hour)
  2. Effective Interviewing Video recorded in 2013 (11 minutes)