Top Tips for Acing Fellowship Interviews

It is July, and fellowship application season is upon us once again. Watch the UNMC ID blog in the coming weeks for fellowship application content. We begin with a practical guide to fellowship interviews. If you know someone gearing up for this important step, please share this post. A refresher on these skills can always be useful!

Multiple ID faculty contributed to this list, and thus, the credit goes to the entire UNMC Division.

As faculty, we have the amazing opportunity to both mentor and interview residents applying for fellowship in Infectious Diseases, and we have seen it all. From the great, well-prepared interviewee to the one who had the institutional information completely incorrect. We wish we could mentor every resident in person, but since that is not possible, we decided to do the next best thing and offer our tips and tricks to acing the ID (or any other) interview! Tips and tricks are in no particular order. 

  • Be yourself and relax.
  • Articulate why you are interested in this fellowship program, what your ID interests are and where you think you would like your career to go (even if you acknowledge that might change or be a little vague at this time).
  • Have an idea of how the program works and ask specific questions to help deepen that knowledge regarding the education you will receive. What are the strengths, weakness and unique aspects of the program you want to know more about?
  • Remember that you are interviewing the fellowship program as much as they are interviewing you. Do your research and come prepared with questions about everything from how the fellowship will prepare you for your career as an ID physician to where you will park.
    • Need suggestions on how to curate your list of questions?
      • Look up the program and Division on their website.
      • It is helpful to know a little about the faculty you are interviewing with, so if you get a schedule ahead of time find out what their clinical/research interests are and ask them about it – you can check out their publications on PubMed or Google Scholar to focus questions on specific topics.  If you don’t get a schedule ahead of time, ask them what their interests are or what their role is during your interview.
      •  Formulate questions important to you about the program, the institution and the local area regarding resources, lifestyle and more.
  • Be prepared to talk about your successes and the challenges you have encountered. For example, if you have an unexpected break in training, use that as example to illustrate what you learned from that experience. We do not expect perfection, but value honesty and clarity.
  • If you have something on your application that might be viewed negatively (academic difficulties, etc.) take the initiative and explain how you have overcome it and why you are a good candidate now before we have to ask you about it.
  • Consider a “highlight” reel handout for faculty on an updates to your CV since you submitted your application in ERAS. This can be incredibly beneficial if you have had a new publication, presentation or other activities demonstrating your interest in ID and future potential as a fellow.
  • Be friendly and treat everyone, including program coordinators and other office personnel kindly and with respect. Your interview starts from the moment some first meets you (a current fellow, administrative assistant or staff) and ends when you say goodbye to the last person. ALL opinions count. If you are rude to anyone, trust us, we will find out.
  • Be truthful and be yourself. Don’t answer questions with what you think the interviewer wants to hear (e.g. don’t say you want to do academic medicine if you are interested in private practice). This is the only way for both you and the program to determine whether or not you are truly a good fit.
  • Tell us something interesting about yourself, even if it doesn’t relate to ID.  It is important to be well-rounded, and hearing about hobbies, experiences and interests helps keep the interview conversation fun and flowing.
  • Thank the faculty for their time; the emails and cards with a personal comment regarding a specific detail of the interview are both appreciated and noticed.

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