Communicating with Programs after the Interview: Your Interview Is Over, But Your Opportunity to Make a Good Impression Has Just Begun!
You’ve done it! After diligent efforts in your medical education, residency applications, and interview preparation—you received an invitation and interviewed with a residency program you have an interest in joining. Is it time now to sit back and wait for the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) Main Residency Match? Not at all! Your interview may be over, but your opportunity to make a good impression has just begun.
The residency interview is just one piece, albeit a very important one, in the larger process of making yourself known to, and enhancing your chances of becoming a resident in, your choice program. Therefore, the time between your interviews and the Match should not be wasted.
How can you use this time to solidify the impression you made and perhaps enhance your standing with a program? The best way to do this is by communicating with the program in one or more of the ways open to you. As detailed below, opportunities for communication after the interview may include thank-you letters, follow-up questions, inquiries pertaining to your rank order list, and even requests for a second look at the program. In addition, responding to communications from a program can also afford opportunities to make an impression. Let’s take a closer look.
Reflection and Review after the Interview
Following your interview, and before any further communication with the program, it is important to reflect on the information you received during the day. All of this information will help you identify what you are looking for in a program, and will help you track the favorable, as well as any unfavorable, factors about a program. You will want to remember the details and take note of them. Particulars such as call schedules, fellowship opportunities, research electives, and other important things you’ve learned will help clarify your thoughts on the program, and your plans for the future. Names are important, especially for those individuals who interviewed you. Record any contact information you received, as well.
If you have follow-up questions, you can e-mail these to the program director or program coordinator. Take another look at the program’s website. This is something you did prior to your interview that may be helpful to do again. Reviewing the preparations you made before the interview again, after the interview has taken place, can provide a different, helpful perspective, and may suggest ideas for further communication with the program.
Programs may also follow up with you about your documents or communications leading up to the Match. For example, they may have a question about your visa status or request contact information for one of your letter writers. It is important to respond promptly and thoroughly to such communications.
Thank-you letters are very important, as they are a form of personalized communication that can project your personality and your interest in a certain program. These can be in the form of e-mails or mailed greeting cards. You should send these to anyone who interviewed you, as well as to important program staff members. Included among these would be chief residents, program directors, associate or assistant program directors, and program coordinators.
Try to reference something personal discussed during the conversations you had with these individuals. Whether you spoke about your research interests or your love of crossword puzzles, mention something in your communication that will allow the physician or program staff to remember you more clearly. This personal touch will also come in handy during the program’s ranking process. Hopefully, decision-makers will remember items like these when discussing the many applicants they interviewed.
Rank Order List
As the time approaches for submitting your rank order list to the NRMP, you have another opportunity to touch base with programs. You can follow up by expressing your interest, or respond if they contact you. This can be in the form of another thank-you communication. You do not have to tell a program where you will be ranking it in your rank order list, nor is the program required to tell you where it will rank you. However, programs and applicants are prohibited from asking one another where they will be ranked.
Programs may offer, or you may request, what is often referred to as a “second look,” or another chance to visit with the program, but on a more informal basis. This gives both you and the program a chance to learn more about the other on a one-on-one level, free from the stressors of the interview day. If the option of a second look is presented to you, this can be a great opportunity to enhance your position. A second look can give you the chance to spend a day in the life of a resident in the program. You may shadow a resident on rounds, attend clinical conferences, observe case presentations, and interact with residents during their daily routines.
This second impression can help the program better know if you are a good fit. Of course, during the second look, the same guidelines apply regarding preparation and making a good impression as during the original residency interview. Project a positive attitude and professionalism. All interactions you have on that day will be assessed to see if a program would want you as a resident. Again, as you did following interview day, send a note of thanks to the individuals who spent time with you and assisted you. Be personable, be thankful, and be yourself!
After you’ve taken advantage of any appropriate opportunities to be in further contact with your programs, common sense and prudence are the order of the day. Meet all deadlines, ensure your Match eligibility, be patient, stay positive, and review information about the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) offered by the NRMP. If you don’t match, SOAP gives training programs with unfilled positions the opportunity to connect with students and graduates who seek positions not obtained through the Match.
For more information about SOAP, visit the NRMP website at http://www.nrmp.org/ and check out ECFMG’s resource on NRMP’s Supplemental Offer and Acceptance ProgramSM (SOAPSM).