The Interview

​The Interview

Program directors typically review application materials, and then offer an interview opportunity to those who seem to be good candidates for their programs.

Students should work closely with their clerkship directors and other mentors to prepare for the residency interviews. For example, it is useful to read the requirements for accredited residency programs (available at and ask about possible discrepancies. Plan a few essential questions.

  • You will be meeting with faculty and current residents. Ask about program strengths and areas where they recognize a need for improvement. If there are areas of interest for which the program offers limited experience, ask how they address that gap.

  • Ask about recent changes in the program, what prompted them, how the effects of the change are being monitored, and opportunities for residents to be involved in the improvement process.

  • Ask about the feedback and evaluation process.

  • Ask about what is special or unique about the program. What are the program's best qualities?

  • Ask about program flexibility, call schedules, and willingness to accommodate residents who encounter family and personal matters that may require changes in their schedules.

Interviewing is a two-way street that calls for thoughtful preparation. Unlike most medical school interviews, residency interviews are not only a time for the program to evaluate you, but also a chance for you to evaluate them! Going into the interview season with thoughtful preparation will help you better assess programs and help you consider your rank list. The interview is also the most important factor (besides match violations) pediatric residency program directors utilize when they rank an applicant. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to heed the advice in this section.

Students preparing for interviews should think about what interests them about each program on their list especially now that individualized curricula are being mandated. This helps to prepare for the interview – and to ensure that it is reasonable to invest time and expense to visit. The important variables will be different for each student, but most students typically consider the size of the program, geography, competitiveness of matching into the program, characteristics that make the program unique, areas where it excels, and proximity to family. Please see the 2017 NRMP Applicant Survey if you are interested in learning more about why students applied to specific pediatric residency programs.

Before the interview, applicants should discuss the program with advisors and mentors, making an effort to examine its strengths and weaknesses. This facilitates another important step: preparing well thought-out and relevant questions. The more thorough the applicant's research on the program, the better his or her questions will be. Develop a list of questions and review that list the night before the interview; it will make the interview go more smoothly.

Questions to ask and to avoid are not always intuitive. A systematic approach will begin with categories for inquiry. Suggested questions posed below are a place to start. Note that it is acceptable to ask the same question of multiple interviewers.

Program/Department Environment

  1. What makes the program special?

  2. Why did you come here (or train here) — and why do you stay?

  3. What do you like best about the program?

  4. What are its strengths and weaknesses? Areas of improvement?

  5. How well do the residents get along with each other and with the faculty?

  6. Do you foresee any significant changes in the department or residency program over the next 4 years?

  7. If given the choice, would you choose this program/ department again?

  8. If there were any one thing you would change about the program or department, what would it be? 

Education/Learning Atmosphere

  1. Are there any current problems and concerns that may affect resident education? How does the program plan to address them?

  2. What are the academic successes of the pediatric residents, as compared to other programs within the institution?

  3. Is there support for meetings or other educational opportunities?

  4. Would I have the opportunity to teach students? How am I trained to do so?

  5.  How is research integrated into the program? Do I have a required research project? How are the residents involved with reviewing and improving the program?

  6. Are there any opportunities to do international electives?

  7. What qualities do you value most in your residents?

  8. How do your residents interact with community physicians? Tell me about your continuity program.

  9. How would you describe the culture of the program? 

Future Academics and Employment

  1. What is the general theme or mission of the program (primary care, subspecialty or research-focused)?

  2. What do your graduates do after they finish training?

  3. Where have your residents matched for fellowship?

  4. How would former residents rank this training program?

  5. How are your chief residents selected? 


  1. What is the community like?

  2. What is there to do when not at work?

  3. How expensive is it to live here?

  4. What opportunities are there to do community service?

  5. Where do many of the residents live? 

Topics to Avoid in the Interview

  • Stay away from issues of salary, number of call nights, and perks, including book funds (these can easily be found out from the residents or the website). Avoid questions about any conflicts, problems and politics at any level (unless it directly impacts education). Steer clear of comparing or criticizing any program or institution – the pediatric graduate education world is smaller than it seems.

  • Interview preparation with mentors and advisors should include how questions such as these are best addressed. Remember to have questions for each person you will meet, although in some cases you may ask the same question more than once. Each faculty member will have his or her own perspective.

  • Remember your interview starts with your first contact with the program. Every contact with anyone at the program (coordinators, office staff, housestaff) should be professional and respectful.

Bottom Lines

  • Unlike interviews for medical school or employment, the interview for admission to a residency training program is a dynamic exercise. Candidates are interviewing program representatives to see if they warrant their ranking. Program representatives interview candidates to assess qualifications and to determine whether or not they are a fit for the program.

  • As most graduating seniors wishing to match in pediatrics will match into pediatrics, the interview is an opportunity to select the program that fits their needs. This is unlike the typical interview for employment, where 20 applicants compete for one position.

  • There is often an interview dinner or happy hour the night before the interview. Make every effort to attend these functions as it is a good way to assess the residents in a more casual, relaxed environment. Be yourself but act appropriately!

  • Dress and act professionally on your interview. There is not a strict dress code, but use your judgement in what to wear.

  • If you need to cancel an interview, do it in a timely fashion. To just not "show up" is unprofessional and sheds an unflattering light not only on you but your medical school as well.

  • Thank you notes are very much appreciated and remember to acknowledge the residency coordinator in this regard. Most programs appreciate either a hand-written note or an e-mail, but there is no consensus on this, therefore it is difficult to provide a firm recommendation.

  • This is a 3-year decision; keep this in mind while working through the options. Lifestyle and work/life balance are important to pediatricians and should be important in training.

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Year 4 - After Interviews, the Match >>>

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