Monday, November 24, 2014

You Never Get a Second Chance to Blow a First Impression

I have received a lot of questions about interview attire; I have two rules to guide applicants:

1. Do not be noticed for your clothes. You want to be remembered for your accomplishments, not your attire. Years later, I still remember the applicant who arrived in a Bugs Bunny tie. I also recall the applicant who arrived in jeans. (He packed his interview clothes, checked his luggage, his bags were lost, and he had nothing else to wear for his early morning interview. Keep your clothes with you - carry-on.)

2. Be comfortable. No heels that are so high you are in too much pain to take the tour. No coat so light - but stylish! - that you can't walk out of the building.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Illegal Interview Questions

The interview - whether for med school, residency, or fellowship - is subject to basic legal rules. Admissions officers/faculty members should refrain from asking questions that are irrelevant to the position the interviewee is seeking. Questions about race, religion, and marital/family status are no-nos.

When I was interviewing for residency, I was asked about my dating status... If you think these missteps are old news, a lovely client last year told me she was asked about her family planning. Very awkward.

If you are asked these types of questions, you can simply answer (if it's not distasteful to you) or respond by addressing the intent of the question without revealing personal information. ("I think you're asking whether I'd come to your institution if accepted. I can assure you no family issues will keep me from attending.") You can also refuse to answer the question; of course, this last tactic might cost you the position you are seeking - as unfair as that is.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Residency Rankings

I have some real qualms about ranking institutions, but I'm offering this Doximity and U. S. News & World Report "2014 Top Medical Residency Programs" navigator with the understanding that my readers will use their best judgment in utilizing it. Caveat emptor.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thank You Notes - So Easy for You to Do

I've gotten a lot of questions recently about thank you notes. Remember that thank you notes are low-hanging fruit in the admissions process. They are easy to write and can make a big impression.

Make sure to write handwritten notes; email thank you notes can look a bit lazy and can be easily deleted.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Guru on the Go®

Last admissions season I rolled out a series of under-one-minute, stop-motion-animation videos for applicants. I've had several thousand views, and I even got a shout-out from the NRMP® itself. (They tweeted, saying they agreed with the advice in the clip, "NRMP® Ranking to Avoid a Spanking.")

For those of you who'd like to take a look at the videos, check out (and subscribe to) my Youtube channel or look at my website here. Timely ones are "Dine Don't Whine," "Stars are Made Not Born," and "No Ring, No Thing."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Being the Squeaky Wheel

Several years ago I helped a strong applicant who had been rejected by a top medical school. He thought he was a very good fit for this particular institution, so he called the school to make his case. Surprisingly, after the applicant's phone call, the school granted him an interview, reversing their original rejection.

It was at this time when I met the applicant; we conducted a mock interview, so he would be well-prepared.

Ultimately, after being initially rejected, this applicant was admitted to that top school.

Of course, this is an exceedingly rare occurrence. (Just to clarify: In seven and a half years as a professional coach, I've only seen this happen once!) But to me, the moral of this story is that it is worth being assertive (not aggressive) in the medical school and residency admissions processes: Send an update letter, call institutions (politely) to inquire about your status (if they do not expressly prohibit phone calls), and be proactive during your interviews.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why Do You Want to Be a [...]?

Whether applying to medical school, residency, fellowship, or dental school, applicants seem to get tripped up on questions about their reasons for pursuing their career goals. How can you make your answer distinctive from all of the others'? The key is to use your accomplishments to a) distinguish yourself and b) prove your point. You want to be a doctor because you like to think analytically about scientific problems? Showcase your research. You want to be an anesthesiologist because you like pharmacology? Detail how you tutored the subject to first-years.By using evidence of your accomplishments, you'll convince your interviewer and remind her of your worthiness.

Monday, October 6, 2014

2014 NRMP Program Director Survey is Now Available

Every two years the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP) publishes a current program director (PD) survey which focuses on two main questions: 1) What factors do PDs use in deciding whom to interview? 2) What factors do PDs use in deciding whom to rank? Results of the 2014 Program Director Survey is available here.

So, as you approach interviews, if you're wondering what PDs want, here are your answers.