Continual Self Improvement

As we look to turn the leaf to 2021, the new year beckons us with a natural reminder to strive towards continual self improvement. While it is commonplace for many to make personal resolutions, be sure to set academic and professional goals for yourself.

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Set a goal to learn something new each day. Read a primary research article weekly. Allot time for reviewing chest x-rays. Select a textbook and commit to reading five pages a day throughout the course of the year. Pick a task or set a manageable goal for you. Taylor it to your interests. It’s an added bonus if it also helps you in discerning the specialty to which you will apply or helps prepare you for your future field.

Perform a critical review of your CV and look for areas needing improvement. Strive to address those areas of deficiency, whether they be academic in nature, a paucity of leadership experience, or involvement in research activity.

We wish you success in the New Year. Let us know how we can continue to serve you. Our Med Student Edge team will be right here with you every step of the way.

What are your goals for 2021? What areas are you looking to improve in?

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Making the Most of Each Interview

Congratulations! You made it to the interview phase of residency applications. After combing through thousands of applicants, someone thought you might make a good fit for their program! But still, they are interviewing a couple hundred applicants that are very qualified—just like you. In fact, your interviewer alone will probably talk to 20-30 people throughout the application cycle. So how do you get noticed?

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What the interview will be like

Your interviewer will presumably read your application. They might want to find out more about you and some of the extracurriculars you participated in, but mostly they want to see how you would fit in with the other residents and attendings. What do you like to do? Can you carry on a conversation with them? Of course, there will be the standard interview questions “why do you want to do this specialty,” “what makes you stand apart from other applicants?” and occasionally some more intimidating questions such as “teach me something” or “describe your favorite surgery/procedure you learned during medical school”. However, the majority of interviews I experienced, as well as my peers, were more conversational. Make the most of the conversation and talk about things you’re passionate about—you will be remembered for discussing things you’re interested in.

Remember to ask questions

Another way to stand out is to ask the interviewer questions at the end. What made them choose their specialty? What do they like most about working with the residents at this program? What do they like most about the institution they work at? If you’re sent your interviewers names ahead of time, look them up and see what they do—what’s their subspecialty and where did they train. Find something you have in common with them to ask them about. Just like in dates, people leave a conversation feeling more positively about it if they have the opportunity to talk about themselves.

After the interview

After every interview I quickly jotted down in a note on my phone, or a physical piece of paper, the name of my interviewer and a few key words to remind me what we discussed. You may have anywhere from 3-15 interviews in one day and it’s easy for them to all run together. Use these notes when you send a follow up email/letter. You want the interviewer to remember your interview when reading your follow up too. Whether you choose to do a handwritten physical letter or an email depends on how you felt about the interview day and your personal preference. An email is more likely to get a response, but a physical letter stands out. I personally wrote a thank you letter to program directors and department chairs, but emails to my individual interviewers during the day. Regardless of what you choose, follow up emails don’t directly influence the rank list—but a reminder of you in a sea of applicants is helpful when making a rank list.

As you begin the interview process, make sure to practice, review the typical interview questions, and smile—see our other blog posts for more tips. Keep the end goal in mind, finding a program that you fit in well at and that wants to focus on training you. Be yourself and trust the process.

Back to more interview tips.

Remember to Say Thank You

However you may be spending the Thanksgiving holiday this year, the day serves as a good reminder to us in the interview and application process. In interviews, it is very easy to get focused on selling ourselves to programs and perfecting our pitch. In doing so, we can lose sight of some of the small things that are reflective of a mature and insightful individual who would be an excellent resident.

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Take a few seconds out of each interview that you have to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration of your application. This does not have to be over the top or extravagant. Be sincere and genuine. You would be surprised how many people forget to say thank you, whether it be due to anxiety, focusing on answering questions, interview fatigue, or simply just oversight. By thanking the interviewer, you will stand out.

I ended each individual interview with a simple line. “Thank you for the opportunity to interview at this program and for considering my application.” Others might choose to do this at the beginning of the interview during the introductions which is also completely appropriate. At some point in the interview, be sure to say thank you.

Many people may send thank you notes or thank you letters after the interview to people they interviewed with or the program director. We will discuss the pros, cons, and how to do it in a subsequent article. Still, the best way to show your appreciation and enthusiasm is by sincerely thanking the individuals that you interview with on interview day.

Back to more interview prep resources.

Sign up for a mock virtual interview session.

Interview Fatigue

As we continue to progress deeper into interview season, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone of the importance of self-care and personal rejuvenation. After completing just one interview, you readily realize how completely exhausting residency interviews are. Compound this effect with virtual meet and greets and subsequent interviews, you can very quickly become mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. It is vitally important that you find time to recharge and refresh so that you can continually perform at the highest level.

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Interviews are grueling. You always have to be ‘on’ and are asked countless challenging questions. After a even just a few interviews, you may not consciously recognize it but your mind and body quickly become fatigued from this process. Unfortunately, this fatigue will slowly creep in and hinder your performance. This fatigue manifests itself in different ways for different people. Your answers may become more brief. You may start slouching or forget to maintain eye contact. You may not speak with the same enthusiasm you did at your first interview.

As difficult as it is, we have to quell the tendencies and effects of interview fatigue. The best way to avoid interview fatigue is to be proactive. Take time to refresh, recharge, and rejuvenate. Get plenty of rest and spend time doing activities that you enjoy. Allot time in your schedule to completely unplug from thinking about “Where you see yourself in 10 years?” or “What is your biggest weakness?”.

“We have to quell the tendencies and effects of interview fatigue.”

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

Here are just some ways you can take a break and clear your mind from the stress and focus of residency interviews.

  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Stretch
  • Meditate
  • Hobbies
  • Call a friend or family member
  • New TV show
  • Movie
  • Cooking

Interview season is difficult and a unique season of the pathway to becoming a physician. You have spent the past several years of your medical school training to get to this point. Stay strong and power through these tough and grueling days. Be yourself and show them how great and capable you are. If we can be of service or assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Back to more interview prep resources.

Sign up for a virtual mock interview with one of our experts.

The Psychology of Interviewing

Part 2: During the Interview

In my last article, I touched on science-backed ways to help prepare yourself for an interview from what clothes to wear, how to prime yourself to feel powerful, and what research to do in order to make the interview seem more conversational. From a psychological perspective, much of an interview takes place on a subconscious level. Many people are hired or match not because of what they say in an interview, but instead, how they make the interviewer feel. While it is important to say the right things, body language, posture, and the manner in which you say things are just as important as the words themselves. In this article, I will reveal some research proven methods of elevating your interview style, making you a more likable, polished, and composed applicant.

Use the Interviewer’s Name

Remember all the research you just did on the person about to interview you? Time to put it to use; the first step is to use their name upon meeting them, during the interview, and when it is time to conclude. Stating someone’s name makes them feel closer and more connected with you, thus repeating it at least twice gives you a friendly first impression.

Develop a Firm Handshake

While most of us probably won’t be shaking hands this interview season, developing a firm and repeatable handshake is a must when interacting with people on a daily basis. A firm handshake does a few things. First, it is usually the first interaction with the interviewer, and on a subconscious level, the interviewer is drawing a lot of assumptions from this first encounter. This means a good handshake can elevate us in someone’s mind before we even begin to speak, while a bad one can immediately put us at a disadvantage. Next, a firm handshake has been shown to be associated with positive attributes such as strength, social acuity, and openness. And finally, a recent study out of the University of Iowa found that, “applicants with firm handshakes had stronger ‘hire’ recommendations.” A firm handshake is an easy way to start and finish the interview strong; practice it and make it a part of your everyday routine.

The Chameleon Effect

The “chameleon effect” is a psychological phenomenon that describes how people tend to like each other more when they’re exhibiting similar body language. In essence, we like other people who seem like us. This has been one of my favorite tactics to use over the years, and it is rather simple once you get the hang of it. By observing the interviewer’s posture and body language, start to mirror what they are doing. By mirroring their body language and movements, they subconsciously feel more connected to you and like you better all because you are reflecting what they are doing. Here are a few examples:

  1. Make solid eye contact when you first meet the interviewer, then adjust your amount of eye contact to match theirs. Some people like a lot of eye contact, while others shy away from it. Gauge this at the begging of the interview so you can make the interviewer feel comfortable with the right amount of eye contact.
  2. If interviewer crosses his legs, you can then cross your legs as well. Take caution though – in some more professional interviews, I would avoid crossing my legs. However, if it is a more relaxed one, feel free to cross your legs and copy the interviewer’s body language.
  3. Gauge the type of hand movements the interviewer makes and try to mimic and incorporate some of them into your routine. If you are unsure what to do with your hands, hold your palms open or steeple your hands. Showing your palms generally indicates sincerity, while pressing the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple indicates confidence. On the other hand, you don’t want to hold your palms downward, which is a sign of dominance. You’ll also want to avoid concealing your hands, which looks like you have something to hide; tapping your fingers, which shows impatience; folding your arms, which indicates disappointment; and overusing hand gestures, which can be distracting.

Gather your Thoughts

Many people make the mistake of trying to rapidly answer questions. However, for trickier questions it is much better to pause for 5-10 seconds before answering the question in order to make sure you give a clear, concise, and thoughtful answer. One trick you can use to buy a little time is to simply say, “Dr. Johnson, that’s a really good question, let me take a few seconds to think about it.” This allows you to gather your thoughts and avoid an awkward silence. In addition, it shows that you are composed, while preventing you from giving a rushed and unthoughtful answer that you may regret later.

“Go into every interview with the mindset of ‘this is where I am going to match next year’ and your performance will be elevated to reflect that belief.”

Dr. Patrick Young, Contributor, Med Student Edge

Make Every School you Interview at your Number One Choice

Making each interviewer believe that they are your number one choice is one of the most difficult things to do, and it is something I have certainly dropped the ball on before. However, in today’s very competitive environment, it is essential that we put our best foot forward in every interview regardless of whether or not it is at the top of our list. Remember, if you act like you don’t want to be there, you most likely will not get the position. Selling each school as your number one choice goes back to the extensive research you did before the interview and then using that knowledge to explain how you fit in and can thrive at that particular school.

If you are asked about another school you have applied to or interviewed at, try to deflect the question and talk about what you like about the place you are at. For Example:

  • Interviewer: “I saw you also interviewed at UNC, how was your experience there?”
  • You: “I enjoyed visiting UNC, but I have really loved UAB so far. The students and faculty really make me feel at home.”

The truth of the matter is that we do not have complete control over where we match. However, we do have control of our attitude, how we conduct ourselves, and the work we put in to prepare for the interview. Go into every interview with the mindset of “this is where I am going to match next year” and your performance will be elevated to reflect that belief.

I hope you enjoyed Part 2 of The Psychology of Interviewing. It is my hope that you can use a few of these tactics in your upcoming interviews. While we are in unusual times with the presence of COVID-19, many of these tips hold true for virtual interviews as well. Just remember, body language, posture, and how you conduct yourself all play a huge role in the subconsciousness of the person interviewing you. Be poised and confident and you will be well on your way to matching at the top program of your choice.

What have you done during an interview that you believe helped you or hurt you during the interview process? Comment below or contact us directly.

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Practice your interviewing skills with a mock virtual interview.

Optimize Your Virtual Interview Interface

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A recent article from Ohio State University carefully demonstrates how the audio/visual components of one’s Zoom experience can be dramatically improved. Sarac and colleagues discuss small changes that can be made by individuals to improve the professional appeal of their audio and video background for virtual interviews. The authors provide helpful commentary on the environment and background in which you conduct your interview from. Finally, they deliver a pressing reminder for professionalism and common etiquette that should be expected in any interview setting.

Follow these steps to stand out compared to your peers. Have you already started interviewing? It is not too late to modify your approach. Don’t worry about interviews you may have already completed. Instead, focus your efforts on optimizing your virtual interview interface.

A great way to get feedback on your interview background, audio, and presentation is by participating in one of our mock virtual interview sessions with one of our interview experts. Participating applicants have reported that they received superb feedback not only on the content of their interview responses, but also on their audio/visual presentation through a virtual interview interface by participating in our mock interview sessions.

For a full listing of ways to improve your virtual interview experience, check out our article on virtual interview musts.

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The Psychology of Interviewing

Part 1: Before the Interview

Interview season is upon us, and we all want to put our best foot forward to ensure we land the residency of our choice. I have laid out a few, science backed, ways to help you look your best in the eyes of the interviewer. While some of these things will seem like common sense, others may surprise you. Believe it or not, I tried all of these tips last year during my interviews, and I truly believe they allowed me to feel more at ease, more confident, and gave me an advantage during the interview process.

What to Wear

The first thing to address before interview day is what outfit to wear. Your outfit is usually the first thing a person notices about you, and it can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer before you even have a chance to introduce yourself, making it important to dress for success. The latest research shows that a blue suit is the best choice for men and women. Blue is a classic and non-threatening color that is seen positively by both males and females. It conveys trust and reliability with just the right amount of confidence. Black suits are another option; however, they can be more intimidating and convey a larger sense of power. Interviewers want to be in the position of power, so limit outfit choices that may stand out too much or be too authoritarian. For the dress shirt, it is best to wear a neutral color, such as a white or soft blue, as to not distract from the rest of the outfit. In terms of accent colors, use these to express your personality. Most accent colors are fine to wear to interviews (yellow, green, purple, orange) and can add personality to your outfit without compromising the overall feel. One exception is the color red. Use this color sparingly as it is a color associated with power and can subconsciously make some interviewers feel threatened.

Do Your Research

This should be common sense but get know as much as you can about those who are interviewing you beforehand. Research does two things. First, it allows you to pretend like you are “talking to a friend” and will decrease nervousness before the interview. It is much easier to talk to people that we know and feel comfortable with. By familiarizing ourselves with the interviewers and the program beforehand, we become naturally more comfortable when it is time to interview. In addition, research allows you to tailor your answers to the individual and find common ground with the interviewer. Discussing common interests is one of the easiest ways to do well in an interview and to get an interviewer to like you. It allows the discussion to be less question and answer and more of a conversation, which will make you stand out significantly from the other applicants.

“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.”

Dr. Amy Cuddy, Harvard

Prime Yourself to Feel Powerful

After watching Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on body language, the power pose has been one of my favorite things to do before an interview. She found that taking up a short “power pose” can actually change body chemistry, increasing testosterone and lowering cortisol, and make people feel more confident. A power pose comes in a couple different forms, one with feet in a wide stance with arms held in a “V” shape above your head, and the other with feet in a wide stance with hands on your hips. The power pose can be used to get rid of pre-interview jitters and makes you feel like you belong and will succeed in the interview room. While this may seem silly, I’ve used it in many of my interviews to help me feel more confident and at ease. The research suggests that holding the pose for two minutes produces the full amount of hormonal changes; however, if two minutes is too long, start by posing for 30 seconds to one minute and work up from there. I would suggest doing the power pose in a private place, like the restroom, prior to the interview as doing this out in the open would probably have people questioning what you are doing.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of The Psychology of Interviewing. It is my hope that you can use a few of these tactics in your upcoming interviews. While we are in unusual times with the presence of COVID-19, many of these tips hold true for virtual interviews as well. In the words of Amy Cuddy, “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.” Just remember, first impressions are very significant, so be well prepared, dress for success, and enter the interview with confidence. Part 2 of this series will come out shortly and will address psychology backed tips to help you succeed during the actual interview.

What have you done before an interview to feel more confident, prepared, or at ease? Comment below or contact us directly.

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Be sure to check out our mock virtual interview practice sessions.

Practice Your Interview Skills Today

With interview invitations being released, now is the time to start preparing for interviews. With interviews being conducted virtually, it is critical that you master your performance in the residency interviews.

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To help you perform at the highest level, we have been offering mock virtual interviews. We have enjoyed getting to work with students from all over the country applying this cycle. Read some of our recent reviews from individuals participating in our mock interview sessions.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“I highly recommend the mock interview practice session to every applicant.”

Psychiatry Applicant 2021

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“I received immediate feedback on different aspects of the interview. Posture, background, and approaches to questions.”

General Surgery Applicant 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“This was so helpful. I feel more confident and prepared for my upcoming residency interviews.”

Pediatrics Applicant 2021

Our mock virtual interview sessions allow you the opportunity to practice and simulate two separate interview encounters and receive immediate feedback from one of our team members. The mock interviews are strategically designed to challenge you, but also show you the breadth and diversity of questions you may be asked while simultaneously allowing you to hone your virtual communication skills. Get honest feedback and actionable advice so that you can put your best foot forward on interview day. You will be paired with an interviewer from your specialty where available.

Before your mock interview, be sure to prepare by visiting our interview prep center. Here we have structured response guides to the most common interview questions and other general tips on interview technique and virtual formatting.

Mock Virtual Interview

This is a one-time non-refundable mock virtual interview session for residency applicants. The mock virtual interview session includes two 15 minute interviews, followed by 10 minutes of feedback with one of our team members. Upon purchase, please complete the questionnaire below so that we can pair you with the most appropriate member of our team.

59.99 $

To provide you with the best mock virtual experience, please complete this questionnaire.

Have questions or are not sure if a mock virtual interview is right for you? Contact us.

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Don’t Forget to Smile!

We’ve enjoyed working with a lot of medical students across the country through our mock virtual interviews. It has been really great working with students, getting to know them, and helping them refine their pitch to residency programs. While I’ve been impressed with each of the applicants I’ve worked with, I have to remind each of them of one thing.

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At the end of our interview I have to tell them to smile! I can tell that these individuals are determined and focused on performing well and excelling in the interview. It is too easy for us when we are focused to forget the small things.

“Smile!”

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

This year more than ever, your facial expressions are invaluable for conveying your story and personality. Programs won’t have access to some of the intangible qualities about you that they would have in an in person interview. Examples might include how you carry yourself, your posture, your handshake, your fidgeting, your tics. Your facial expressions are their only view of your feelings and emotions.

All career counseling websites and interviewing tip experts recommend the same thing: smile. Interviewers are more likely to have a positive evaluation of you as a candidate for the position when you smile, but don’t just take my word for it. Experts agree too.1, 2, 3, 4 Residency interviews are serious and you want to do your best. Be sure that while you are focusing on performing at the highest level, you also let your personality and charm shine through.

Be sure to smile in your interviews. It will make you more successful, more confident, and more likeable.

Back to more residency interview prep resources.

Be sure to sign up for a mock virtual interview session today!

“Prudent” Medical Student Keys to Financial Success

A recent article from second year medical student Michael Tokov on the financial blog The Prudent Plastic Surgeon details five important strategies that you can employ as a medical student to begin working towards financial freedom. These tips are extremely valuable. The earlier you hear them, the better.

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The article provides a full host of resources on each topic and discusses in depth what you should know and how to use that information to develop a personal strategy. Many financial decisions that are made while you are a medical student can affect you years (and decades) down the line. Financial success as a physician begins with responsible stewardship of money as a medical student. The habits and practices you develop as a medical student will stay with you throughout residency and a career in medicine.

Five Steps for Medical Student Financial Success

  1. Read
  2. Know your loan agreements
  3. Budget
  4. Find mentors
  5. Look to the future

Be sure to check out the full post here and explore The Prudent Plastic Surgeon‘s full website.

Back to more financial resources here.