The season has opened, and panic has spread among senior year residents, chief residents, and hospitalists out in the community. Fellowship applications are live and being viewed by the programs applicants think they want to rank one, two, and three. These incredibly intelligent physicians are refreshing student document network daily now and soon to be hourly as the weeks go on. The anxiety is building as people are waiting to see which program invite them for an interview, or worse never respond. The applicants have done everything they can, now it’s time to just sweat it out, and wait for the invitations to hopefully role in and possibly email every program’s coordinator, right?
False. What is lost on the majority of applicants is that although this is a match this is still a job search. Sending out your application is step one to applying but now it is time to see the programs, market yourself in person, and find the mutual right fit. Prepare for these interviews like the non-physicians of the world prepare and attack job interviews.
Practice for your interviews! You may be in front of a group panel; you may be essentially speed dating with ten plus faculty members all morning. Stand in front of a mirror and create your “thirty-second elevator pitch.” Practice this to a mentor; shape this as you go to different programs. This is your time to possibly direct where the next questions will go, take advantage of this time. Put your phone on silent when you go into the interview and do not look at again until you leave. Take a deep breath before you walk into the first room, smile, and introduce yourself, you’ve prepared for this! When programs go to create their rank list you want to be the person that is remembered as personable in the interview, well rounded on paper and off. You do not want to be the person who is known as the “the person who just couldn’t tell me about themselves,” “the one always on their phone,” or “the person who never smiled.”
On the interview trail make friends in the interviews. Enjoy making connections; where you train is not necessarily where you stay. Talk to the current fellows at every site; take advantage when that time is offered.
As the season goes on and you start to want to cancel, think to yourself, “Am I canceling because I have no interest in this program or because I am tired of traveling?” If it is the latter, drink some caffeine or take a nap and get in the car, plane or train.
At the end of the day remember this is a job interview, just a formulated version. Use your current network of faculty, reach out to current trainees at the programs, and ask your program director for support in making connections.
Practice a firm handshake, iron your suit/dress/skirt, smile, be the best version of yourself, and remember you have been preparing for this. Rank every program you could see yourself possibly training and try to enjoy the experience as much as you can.
Geri Herling is a fellowship program administrator.
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