Sample Questions

Typical and Difficult Interview Questions

The following is a list of standard questions that are often addressed in some form or other, as well as some difficult questions. Plan ahead by writing out and rehearsing your responses to these questions, this will help you to sound confident in your responses.

   1. Tell me about yourself. (This is almost always asked in some form or other.)
   2. What are your strengths and weaknesses? (May be addressed in skill-based form, i.e., what do you do well or what have had experience doing and not doing?)
   3. What attracts you to this residency (or to this specialty area)?
   4. Where do you see yourself in five to ten years? Or do you see yourself in an academic or clinical position? (a professional/career direction question)
   5. Why do you think you are best qualified for this residency program?
   6. What do you think you can contribute to this residency?
   7. Describe a clinical situation that you handled well and were successful and one where  things didn’t go as well as you would have liked. (This question looks at your handling of stressful circumstances. It may also take the form of presenting you with a difficult clinical case scenario with a medical ethics element in it.)
   8. What are your overall career goals?
   9. What do you do in your spare time?
  10. What influence do you think your family had on your life?
  11. Is a family important in your lifelong goals?
  12. How do you get along with co-workers?
  13. Where have you done electives?
  14. Do you have any questions? (Prepare thoughtful, intelligent questions.)
  15. Additional areas from which you may also expect questions: Education, personal ability, personal traits, clinical experiences, liabilities, career goals, handling a specific situation or type of patient. 

Tips for Handling Difficult Questions

  • Prepare your responses to questions that may be difficult for you ahead of time with help from an advisor. Concentrate on areas that are the most concern to you.
  • Think before you answer.
  • They often ask what other programs you have applied to and why. They may also ask at what other places you have interviews, whether they are supposed to or not. Be prepared to answer these diplomatically.
  • Be brief, and respond to the question in a factual way. Provide only the necessary information.
  • Ask the interviewer to restate the question if you don’t understand it. Try to determine the intent of the examiner in asking the question.
  • Never lie or overstate.
  • Anticipate difficult questions; prepare your responses in advance; and rehearse. If you have for example a failure of a year on your transcript prepare an honest response for any questions related to this.
  • Be prepared to ask them intelligent questions.

Questions for Program Directors

   1. What is the patient population?
   2. What is the philosophy of the program?
   3. What is the interaction between housestaff and attendings?
   4. What is the nature and quality of teaching, both bedside and conferences?
   5. What type of applicant would you consider ideal for the program?
   6. Are any program changes planned in the next 3 years?
   7. Which departments or sections are the strongest? the weakest?
   8. Do you consider this a stable program?
   9. How long has the Program Director been in his / her position?
  10. Who goes to Grand Rounds and other conferences? Specifically, how often do housestaff get to go to conferences?
  11. How visible is the Chief? the Chief Resident(s)?
  12. Does the Chief spend regular time with the housestaff? If not, who does?
  13. Does the Chief Resident spend regular time with the housestaff?
  14. What medical schools have the housestaff come from?
  15. What do the residents do when they finish?
  16. What fellowship opportunities are available in this hospital?
  17. Are the housestaff able to go to good fellowships if they wish?
  18. How much patient contact will I have?
  19. What types of patients will I see?
  20. How do you feel your program compares to other programs?
  21. Are some rotations done at other hospitals? 

Questions for Residents

   1. Are you happy with your choice?
   2. What was the most important factor that made you come to this program?
   3. What are your plans after graduation?
   4. What’s a typical week, month, year like for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year?
   5. What is call like? What kind of backup is provided?
   6. How do you deal with the stress of residency?
   7. If there are other residency programs in-house, how do you view their presence?
   8. What do you/other residents do outside the hospital for community service and for fun?
   9. Where do you feel most of your learning is coming from?
  10. What are the program’s areas of strength?
  11. What are the program’s areas where improvements could be made?