Why are you interested in this program?

I had this question come up at the majority of institutions. Alternatively, they may ask why you think the program is a good fit. Your answer to this question reveals the preparation you put in prior to the interview, particularly in reviewing the program website and paying close attention during the program presentations. Perhaps this is best exemplified with an example. If you are interviewing at a program that requires a research year, it would be a glaring oversight to describe your distaste for academic pursuits. The opposite is true. If you are interviewing at a community based program where there is no research productivity, you would not want to harp on your interests in conducting randomized control trials during residency.

Do your homework before an interview. Reach out to your network (fellow medical students, residents, attendings) that might know something about the program. Carefully review the program website and take brief notes. Your preparation allows you to speak tangibly and practically to the interviewers. Still, there are very general sentences that are helpful to include in your response and can be used at almost any program.

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I said in nearly every response to this question, “I am interested in this program because the well-developed curriculum and rigorous training are going to prepare me to be the best physician I can be.” It is hard for a program to argue with that answer. If they push back and say that their program is not going to train you to be a good physician, then that should be a red flag. This is a safe, indisputable answer. Use it.

Other good catch phrases to use in your answer may include, “diversity of cases”, “clinical volume”, “hardworking culture”, “opportunities for international experiences”, “highly reputable faculty”, and “exposure to all aspects of the discipline”. Any specific aspect of the program that you like or you find unique, include it. For students who rotated at a program, it is very natural and appropriate to speak candidly about your experience and how your rotation reinforced your interest in the program. It is also appropriate for you to bring up regional ties to the area. I had a ‘close cousin’ or ‘good friend’ in every city I interviewed (I actually did, though I may have stretched how close or how good they were).

For students that may receive fewer interviews, you want to craft your response to show that you hold some position of power, even if your only interest in the program is that they granted you an interview. Programs don’t know how many other places you received interview invitations to. Don’t give them any reason to think you aren’t genuinely interested in their program.

In summary, do your research before hand so you can tailor your response to the program you are interviewing at. I suggest having three specific talking points that demonstrate your interest in the program. Be smart, and tell them what they want to hear.

Pro-tip: I recommend using the phrase “this program” rather than stating the institution’s name. When you are traveling from interview to interview on back to back days (or in the case of this year back to back Zoom calls), you would hate to have a Freudian slip and mention the wrong program’s name. Telling program A why you are interested in program B is a bad look.

Can you think of other factors that you might want to include in your response to this question? Comment below or contact us directly.

Back to more interview questions and responses.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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