Interview season is upon us and I’m preparing myself to sift through a bunch of residency applications. The problem is… many of them start to blend together and look the same. So, I look for the nuggets… the hidden gems… And most of the time, these gems are not what you think.
Anyway, in an effort to help some of the people out there stressing about interviewing for internship and residency, I jumped onto several forums and began answering some questions.
Most of the concerns and fears centered around actually getting interviews or how to answer the interview questions.
However, there were several threads where people were whining and complaining about their contacts at various residency programs “not coming through”, “leaving [people] high and dry”, “forgetting where they came from”, etc. Basically, several forum goers were complaining that they weren’t getting the favors they thought they were entitled to and were easy to give.
So, I posted the following response. I hope it helps you on your interviews for internship, residency, fellowship, and jobs…
Question: Hey guys do contacts help? One of my friends got an interview through some contacts, problem is i don’t have any!!lolzz
Answer: Contacts do help. I have done it for some and not for others, so you might want to understand why… what goes through someone’s head when you ask them?
Here’s the thing… Your contacts are being asked every year by tons of people to do this same favor. And while you might think it’s because they “don’t deliver”, or “they forgot where they came from”, or whatever… it’s actually not that.
If they recommend everyone who asks, it dilutes the power of their favor. And, if they don’t really know the person, they run the risk of being blamed for having lobbied for bringing that person in (if that person sucks).
So here’s the difference between which of your contacts will make a curbside reference for you and which ones won’t…
… it’s not “contacts” at all… so, stop looking for contacts.
It’s RELATIONSHIPS. Just knowing someone’s name or having met them once or twice is irrelevant… However, if you stood out in some way (not just answering questions on rounds)… if you just focus on answering questions right, then you run the risk of not showing the real you… people don’t just care about your medical knowledge… they care about how you fit in as well. What other things will you contribute to the Program, besides medical knowledge?
Let me give you an example… one time in my training, I was taking a break leaning on a wall talking to the janitors and maintenance guys about football (American football – Go Eagles!). While I was leaning there, the Chief of Medicine walked by with a huge glob of white coats behind him. (Inside I was like O my God! My chances here are done.) He stopped in his tracks… stood right in front of me… and just looked at me. The other med students and interns looked at me like, “You’re toast”. While the Chief was looking at me, I shrugged and said, “What?… Football rounds.” and I smiled.
He cracked up laughing and kept walking. Later he struck up a conversation with me about football and later about some other stuff we had in common… cities we’ve lived in, universities attended, etc. When I interviewed at that program and other programs in that city, people said that he mentioned me.
Now, I never asked him to mention me, but he did. The reason… it’s easier to remember a relationship than it is to remember a contact.
So, when you’re on your clinical rotations of 3rd and 4th year, or when you’re on observerships, etc, don’t just concern yourself with answering medical questions. It’s the relationships that will be noticed… relationships with docs, nurses, administrators, secretaries, and patients.
And one last HUGE tip… Focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. If you provide value wherever you go, people will notice in a good way. If the first question in your head is how can this guy help me, people will notice in a bad way.
I hope that helps.
If you have a question for me, Just Ask.