Common Residency Interview Questions

Written by: Dr. Ted O'Connell

The following are common residency interview questions, as well as a few less common but challenging questions. Knowing the type of questions you likely will be asked will help you prepare for your interviews and minimize the chance that you will be surprised by a question. Many programs place a premium on how you do during the interview day, so you want to do everything you can to make a positive impression.

I recommend that you review and think about how you might answer each question. You might even want to practice your responses with a friend, a family member, or someone who has experience interviewing if you have access to someone like that. Ask for feedback. Sometimes capturing video of yourself answering the questions can provide you with feedback about the content of your answers, your tone, and even your body language. Keep in mind that even though practice is good, you want to make sure that your answers don’t sound overly rehearsed or artificial.

Why Questions

  1. Why did you decide to become a doctor?
  2. How did you choose this specialty?
  3. Why are you interested in our residency program?
  4. We interview a lot of very talented applicants. Why should we choose you?
  5. How do you see yourself contributing to our residency program?
  6. What are you looking for in a residency program?

Questions about yourself

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. Tell me about your strengths.
  4. Tell me about your weaknesses.
  5. What do you like to do in your free time?
  6. What would you do if you had not gone into medicine?
  7. What was the last book you read? What did you like about it?
  8. Of all of your accomplishments, which one makes you most proud?
  9. What advice would you give to your younger self?
  10. What do you do to relieve stress?
  11. How do you manage balancing a professional and a personal life?
  12. What’s your favorite book or movie?

Questions about the specialty

  1. What are the aspects of our specialty that drew you to it?
  2. What do you see as the difficult aspects of our specialty?
  3. Where changes do you see coming for our specialty in the future?

Questions about how you will fit into the residency program

  1. Why are you interested in this residency program?
  2. What are your connections to our geographic area?
  3. What will you bring to this residency program?
  4. What factors made you interested in our residency program?
  5. What do you think will be most difficult for you about residency?
  6. What are you most looking forward to about residency?
  7. What questions do you have about our residency program?

Questions about your future plans

  1. What are your career goals?
  2. Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
  3. Do you see yourself going into academic medicine, group practice, solo practice, or something else?
  4. Are you interested in research?
  5. Where do you plan to practice?
  6. Do you plan to pursue a fellowship after residency training? If so, which one?

Questions about your academic record

  1. Can you tell me about a specific issue in your academic record (e.g., failed class, failed board exam, less than stellar rotation evaluation, etc)?
  2. Can you tell me more about one the activities on your CV (e.g., research, volunteerism, publication, international travel, other extracurricular activity)?
  3. What was most challenging for you about medical school?

Behavioral interview questions

  1. How do you deal with conflict?
  2. Can you tell me about a difficult interpersonal experience you faced in the workplace and how you dealt with it?
  3. Can you tell me about a time you worked well under pressure?
  4. Can you tell me about a time when your performance was criticized and how you handled it?
  5. Can you tell me about a stressful situation you faced during medical school and how you handled it?
  6. Can you tell me about a time you had a conflict with a team member and how you addressed it?
  7. Can you tell me about a time you failed? How did you handle it?
  8. Can you tell me about a difficult decision you’ve had to make? What strategies did you use to help you make the decision?
  9. Can you tell me about a time you were disappointed in your own performance or your team’s performance?
  10. What habits in other people tend to irritate you?
  11. Are there particular personality types with whom you find it difficult to work?
  12. Can you tell me about how you would try to build a relationship with someone you don’t particularly like?
  13. Can you tell me about a difficult interaction with an attending or other supervisor and how you handled it?

Patient case based questions

  1. Can you tell me about an interesting patient case and what you learned from it?
  2. Can you tell me about a case where you made a mistake and how you handled that?
  3. Can you tell me about a difficult patient interaction and how you handled it?
  4. Can you tell me about a patient interaction that didn’t go as well as you would have liked?

Difficult and unexpected questions

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would you choose?
  2. Please present a case that you handled during medical school in the format that you would use on an inpatient rotation.
  3. Are you prepared for the rigors of residency?

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