Residency Interview VIP Often Goes Unnoticed

So, you did pretty well, or maybe even great on the MCATs… You submitted your applications through ERAS… You were even granted a few interviews for internship and residency in top programs…

Now don’t screw it up.

If you’re thinking that you’ve been successful all your life, and that you’ve WOWed almost everyone you’ve met up to this point in your life… then you better hold on.

Being successful is fine… Being confident is also fine… But if you’re cocky or arrogant, you just might screw it up now. And here’s why:

Being a physician is just as much about being a “people person” as it is about knowing the medical science. In some cases, even more so. And one of those cases is in clinical practice. And another of those cases is actually getting in to your training program of choice.

You see, if you’re cocky, you are going to miss one of the most important people in the residency interview process. If you’re arrogant, you are going to go into that interview thinking that the only important people there are the interviewers. And if that’s the case, you are at high risk for not getting your program of choice… and rightfully so.

Any guess on who the most overlooked VIP of the residency program is?

It’s the secretary.

Yes. The secretary.

I interview people for residency positions. I have interviewed program directors. And I have informally polled my colleagues who perform interviews. And all of them agree on this point. The secretary is ultra-important in the residency application process.

Now, he or she may have a different title from one residency training program to another… it may be “Secretary”, “Office Manager”, “Program Coordinator”, or “Assistant to Dr. BlahBlahBlah”. But in any case, he or she is the one who accepts, organizes, and coordinates most things that relate to the processing of your application, the return of your phone calls, and even the tone of your interview.

Think about it… This person may have been working in that office for a decade or more.She gets things done. She is the eyes and ears of the Program Director and possibly the Chief of the Department. She handles the money, the calls, the appointments, and even some sensitive personal information. In short, she is trusted.

So, if you think you’re going to waltz into to your interview after calling several times checking on your application, and being short or terse with the secretary, and you think you can go in there like you’re God’s gift to the medical establishment, you’re going to screw it up. In fact, you may have done so already.

Your dealings with the secretaries (and ward clerks and nurses) when no one else is around are a great marker for how you are with people. And the people you are interviewing with know that. They know what kind of person the secretary is. They know who she gets along with and who she doesn’t. And if she doesn’t like you, it will be known. Her opinion will be sought.

I’m not telling you this because I want to you to be cautious around the secretary. I’m telling you to use this as a self-assessment tool. Ask yourself… How have I treated the secretary? Then ask yourself… What can I improve?

Then improve upon it.