Interview season is upon us. It’s a confusing time not for the actual event itself but the whole getting there effectively and efficiently. In most careers, you might go on 3 or 4 interviews at a time before getting an offer or finding a place you think will work well until you’re ready to move on (in an ideal world). Even when interviewing for professional schools, like medical school, the season is long winded and to interview at a ton of schools over significantly distances in kind of unrealistic.
Interviewing for residency is a completely different beast. Interview season spans about 4 months (give or take) and for almost every specialty you want at least 10 interviews. While that doesn’t sound like too many to the untrained eye, keep in mind that many people get more offers than that, and most interview time is spent in November and December.
The short of it, residency interview season is tough. Having just been through it, I hope what I’ve learned can help anyone about to enter the process. Even if your interviewing for something else, if the tips I’m sharing can help you then they’re for you too. Just remember, they’re based off my personal experience and not everyone will have the same situations. Just sharing to help anyone who needs it
Always assume everything is far more expensive than it actually is when it comes to interview season. It’s scary to look at from afar but remember that’s not what you plan to spend, but it’s what you have to have to ensure you can handle any situation. No one is stopping you from doing it as budget friendly as you possibly can, but sometimes you get an interview offer 4 days before the interview and you have to fly out and get a hotel and rent a car. Running out of funds is a dangerous situation when you’re traveling, interview or not. You can be frugal, just don’t plan to be.
If you’re in the market for a new suit, my suggestion is to first go to the outlets. Why? Because spending $400 on a suit that might need alterations anyways seems kind of silly to me, even if you’re going to get an okay amount of wear time out of it. No one in your interview will be particularly impressed by designer suit since it doesn’t translate to good resident. Leave the fancy wear to the fancy occasions. Honestly, the cuts and fits sold at the outlets are the same in your regular stores and you’ll feel a little less bad about the travel abuse they might take. That means you should be able to get one that fits and looks nice. It’s not a fashion show but you’ve still got to look good. If the suits at the outlets end up not being your cup of tea, the only thing you’ve lost is a little bit of time.
One Trick Bag
This only applied if your doing your trips individually. If you have the time to drive from one to the next for a week or more, disregard. But if most of your trips will be a two-day one-night situation then the goal is to make everything fit in in one bag that can work as a carry on in a flight. I used an adidas sport duffle bag (though in retrospect I should have used a bag with wheels) and it had good elastic quality to it, so it fit everything I needed with space to spare. The last thing you want to worry about while traveling by air or land is having to do a song and dance to find all your baggage.
Bag Within a Bag
That being said, your bag should have other bags within it to help keep you organized and keep anything from suffering any unneeded damage (cue the exploding shampoo bottle at the conference ordeal). Anything that contains any smearable content, liquid or gel should be sealed away and anything glass should be double bagged. A plastic baggie should always make an appearance whether its just for dirty clothes or collateral. And having a place for everything will help ensure you don’t forget anything.
A Good Look
One thing I see float around every year is how to get yourself spruced up for interview day efficiently and honestly, the solution to that is to have a few practice runs. I did three or four different plausible looks before interview season even started. I made sure nothing was too outside the box and no smells were offensive or overpowering, that kinda thing. I also went with products I know well. Once I picked everything out they stayed in my makeup and toiletries bag the entire interview season. I made adjustments as needed, but my routine was set for interview day, from hair to perfume to lipstick (and for people who don’t you should still have some semblance of a routine to be clean, fresh and presentable). I didn’t have more than I needed, eliminating the temptation to be extra (and with makeup, I can get soooo extra) and I had the timing down pat by interview 3.
If you don’t take any other advice than this, take this a get a clothing steamer. I forwent a garment bag for my suit and just spent 20 minutes steaming it. It always looked great and I didn’t have to worry about fiddling with hotel irons. You can get pretty decent ones on amazon for less than $15. And that’s it. That steamer saved my life.
Ease of Movement
More specifically towards residency interviews some specialties (like peds, heeeey) are very generous with their interview days often allowing you to pick out a pool of dates. Others like surgery, what they give you is what you get. But if you have some flexibility you can make it work so perfectly in your favor for easy travel, less money and more fun.
Miles and Miles
Listen, being an adult is pretty sucky and you have all these weird rules about how being an adult works so if you’ll be flying a lot just get some kind of card that gets you miles and builds your credit. I would even suggest getting one far in advance, if you know you’re planning to apply to a variety of locations.
Hopefully you’ve found something helpful on this general vague how to for interviews.