What questions do you have for us?

As an interview nears it’s conclusion, the interviewers will often ask, “What questions do you have for us?” You always want to have a question. Always ask them something. Even if it is your fifth interview of the day and you have already had all of your questions answered, still ask them something.

I asked the same menagerie of questions room to room, program to program. Most of my questions were opinion based questions which allow for easy reutilization. Questions that are more objective in nature, I would just use once at any given program.

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If you know something about the background of the interviewer, this enables you to ask more specific questions. Many students do this demonstrating their preparation for the interview. I did not do this after my first two interviews, largely because I was spending so much time reviewing the publications of the entire program’s faculty, but then only interviewing with three to four attendings at some programs. Most programs that I interviewed at didn’t tell you who you were interviewing with until the morning of making it hard to selectively prepare. The benefit of extensively researching the faculty members is pretty marginal, but you should briefly peruse their photos and bios on the program website.

Another challenging aspect of asking questions is that a well-structured and informative program overview talk typically given by the program director or a senior resident answers most of the questions that you have. What electives can I take? Is the research year required or optional? How many hospitals do residents rotate at? How many weeks of vacation are there? Coupled with information that is present on the website, I felt like I already had access to a wealth of information. A loose guideline is that if the answer to your question could easily be found on the program website or was presented in the program overview, don’t ask about it. It shows that you may not have prepared for the interview and researched the program, or that you weren’t paying attention when the information was presented. Of course, a clarification question or requesting further detail is appropriate.

“Ask questions that will be helpful to you.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

There were a couple of individual interviews where the entire interview was just me asking questions. The interviewer starts, “I like to give students the opportunity in this room to just ask questions the entire time.” You can imagine being in a tight room with one to three attendings staring across at you waiting for your inquiries. I was desperate to come up with so many high quality, insightful questions on the spot that would sufficiently fill the 12 minute interview.

What questions should you ask?

People love to talk about themselves. Ask questions that get people talking about themselves and their experience. They will have plenty to say and will enjoy sharing their experiences with you.

Ask questions that will be helpful to you. If you are really interested in a particular aspect of the program, the best time and place to ask about it is while you are there at your interview.

Sample Questions

  • Why (insert program name)?
  • What are most important qualities for a resident to be successful here?
  • What is the biggest advantage of training here?
  • What are areas that you would like to see improvement in this program?
  • What recruited you to this program?
  • How do you like living in this area?
  • What do graduates of this residency program go on to do?

Questions You Shouldn’t Ask

Some interviewers may use the questions you ask as a gauge for your interests and priorities. You should refrain from requesting feedback on your application, CV, or interview performance. Avoid asking questions related to benefits, salary, or vacation. Those are points you can informally ask the residents or likely find information about them on the website.

The opportunity to ask questions is usually the last impression you have on an interviewer. Be professional, and ask insightful questions.

What questions do you plan on asking interviewers? Share your ideas below.

Back to more interview questions and structured responses.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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