10 Ways to Sabotage Your Radiology Residency Interview
As radiology attendings, we need to sit next to our radiology residents for hours at a time. We get to know your quirks, mannerisms, and other personality features for better or for worse. (Kind of like a marriage!) Interviews are a time to let that personality shine through. We want to make sure that you are a living breathing person with a soul. Can you speak understandably? Can you hold a conversation? Are you funny/witty? What’s your personal hygiene like?
Interviews also confirm that you are the person you say you are in the application. Can this person be trusted? Is this person going to lie to his attending about a procedure or history? For these reasons, a significant amount of weight is placed on the interview even though the process is not perfect and does not always weed out the bad from the good.
Even knowing the importance of the interview process, many prospective radiology residents enter the interview unprepared and have the perceived emotional/situational IQ of a tomato. If that would be you, I would recommend you practice your advertising pitch numerous times prior to beginning the interviews. You need to be the greatest of actors/actresses during the interview process if you want that residency job. Show us that you can handle the demands of radiology residency!!!
Throughout my years of interview experience, I have seen all sorts of applicant disasters during the interview process, usually related to unprepared applicants. Most of these catastrophes can be prevented with attention and practice. I am going to go through 10 real interview characters that have sabotaged their own application. I hope these scenarios will be instructive in the art of the radiology residency interview. DONT LET ONE OF THESE CHARACTERS BE YOU!!!
- The Liar
Our third interview candidate of the day walks into the room and shakes my hand firmly as we sit down to talk. He seems very focused and I enjoy talking with him. He starts talking about how he developed an organization that hires famous CEO guest speakers to come to his medical school and lecture on business in medicine topics. Wow, very impressive! The interview ran smoothly so I preliminarily give him high marks.
After the interview session, the selection committee convenes to review each of the applicants. Turns out, the application and the other interviewer had different stories. Upon review of the application, it says he was just a member of the organization’s club. The other interviewer said he would only chauffeur the CEO to the meeting. Out of concern for the applicant’s integrity, we put him in the do not rank pile.
Bottom line: Make sure to get your story straight. Your oral presentation and written information should all be aligned. The interviewers regularly reconcile everything together. You need to tell the truth and stick with the same story!!
- Smelly Guy
Prior to the formal interview procedure, we have a social interaction period with the residents to get to know the applicants. After most of the residents leave the room, we begin to hear some grumbling from the residents. So, I walk into the room and as I walk toward a particular applicant, a stench becomes stronger and stronger. Oh my God!! It smells pungent and I can almost taste it in my mouth. My impulse is to run, but I have to be cordial due to the circumstances. I am dreading the one on one interview process.
Bottom line: Make sure your hygiene is appropriate prior to starting your interviews. Appearances and “smells” are important!!
- The Sleepy Man
My introductory lecture to our residency program starts and the lights begin to dim. I typically look at all the applicants in the room to keep the interest level high. But after 5 minutes of lecturing, I hear a loud freight train like noise emanating from the back row in the form of an applicant in a suit. My assumption is he is not interested in the residency program. Good applicant but low-interest level. We rank him toward the bottom of the list.
Bottom line: It is really important to get a good sleep the night before the interviews. Even if the applicant was only tired but really interested in our program, sleeping during the interview process shows a lack of interest and respect.
- Ms. Robot
I warmly introduce myself to an applicant as she enters the room for the formal interview. Entirely devoid of emotion and empathy, she responds, “Hi” quickly. We sit down and the applicant immediately launches into this speech about herself without any voice inflection or changes in tone or speed. I have the sense she has done this a thousand times before. There is no “conversation-like” tone to her speech. No interactive quality. Is this the way she is going to behave when I have to sit with her for hours at a time? Even though her application was excellent, the applicant committee decides to give her a do not rank assessment.
Bottom line: Practice interviewing with others. Pretend you are having a conversation and interacting with your interviewer. Perceived personality is very important!
- Shy Guy
The applicant walks into my interview room and introduces himself, but I can barely hear what he is saying. He stretches out to shake my hand. His hand feels cold, limp, clammy, and weak. The interview starts and I try to get him to respond to my questions, but it’s like “pulling teeth”. The answers last 10 seconds at most. I ask the residents who were sitting next to him in the conference room about the candidate and they say he didn’t speak a word. No one was able to figure out his personality. Even though his application was OK, we felt we were unable to put him on the rank list.
Bottom line: You need to get over your fears and act and speak with confidence. It may involve practice, coaching, and/or psychological evaluation. If we can’t figure out who you are during your interview, we are not sure if we want to sit next to you as a resident!!!
- Mrs. Bizarro
Across from me in the interview area sits a pleasant appearing woman dressed appropriately. Everything seems fine until our conversation begins. Her eyes begin to bulge out. Smiles and giggles are inappropriately placed in the middle and end of sentences. Even though she answers my questions mostly appropriately, something is really off.
After the interview, we meet with the selection committee and the first thing I ask: what’s with Mrs. Bizarro? All the members of the committee look at me and say, “We were thinking the same thing!!!” We quickly take her off the rank list.
Bottom line: Practice your interviewing skills in front of a mirror or tape yourself on an iPhone. You need to know that your expressions are appropriate for the interview context. This lady may have been an excellent radiologist but we sure would not feel comfortable having her sit next to us!!!
- Not Quite Right Joe
It is toward the end of the interview and we start to talk about extracurricular activities and hobbies. The applicant proceeds to say that he was into cow tipping as a college student. And, one time the college dean reprimanded him for the activity. Automatically, mental bells start ringing. Who would mention something like that in an interview setting? Why would someone want to do that to a cow? Off the rank list he goes!
Bottom line: We are not your friends in the interview setting. Do not release any information that could jeopardize your application and make you appear strange. We do not want any issues during residency that could cause probation, suspension, or worse!
- The Guy all the Residents Hate
I am having a great conversation with one of the applicants. He tells me about some of his interesting research projects and hobbies. He seems to be a straight shooter and is very witty. We end the conversation on a high note with expectations that we are going to rank the candidate highly.
After our interview, we meet with the rest of the admissions committee. The admissions committee consists of the residency director, associate residency director (myself), a chief resident, and several other senior residents. We begin to discuss the candidate at hand. Every single resident states something negative like: “This guy was obnoxious”; ‘He was chauvinistic”; “Really bitingly sarcastic”. The directors are dumbfounded. The applicant is placed in the do not rank pile.
Bottom line: You need to play nice with all members of the staff, especially the residents. They have important input in the residency application process and interviews. The wrong statement can get you kicked off the rank list!!!
- The Cell Phone Chick
I start giving the introductory talk to the applicants about the program. Every minute or two, I notice there is a woman looking down at her lap. Oh well… I continue on with my lecture.
An hour later, we meet for an interview and we shake hands. We sit down and I start asking questions. She seems a little bit distracted. Again her eyes continue to float down toward her lap every few minutes. All of a sudden, I hear a ring. She picks up the cell phone and says to me, “I need to get this”. Obviously, she is not interested in our program.
Bottom line: Shut off your cell phone. You are here to interview for a job. It is a sign of disrespect to use your cell phone at any time during the interview process!
- Opaque Sam
We parse through an applicant’s resume and ERAS transcript. In the package, it states that the resident had a DUI arrest when he was a college student. So, the interview begins after some ice breaking small talk. Naturally, a DUI arrest is a big deal. It signifies that the applicant has potential to be an alcoholic and/or engage in risky behaviors. So, I anxiously pop the question: Tell me about what happened with your DUI arrest when you were in college? The applicant bluntly states, “It happened. It’s over. I don’t really want to talk about it further…” A moment of silence ensues.
Flash forward to the selection committee meeting. All the interviewers received the same response from the applicant. There was no response of remorse. No explanation for the event. Nothing. Our committee put the applicant in the do not rank pile.
Bottom line: Any negative events need to be addressed up front or else an admissions committee may perceive the applicant as hiding something significant, whether true or not. Don’t be like Opaque Sam!!
Interviewing is often about what not to do as much as it is what you should say. Make sure you are prepared for the interview day. And, don’t be like our 10 catastrophic characters!!!