So you've just accepted an interview from a residency program. Now what? You've done all the work up to this point to get the interview, through countless months of US clinical experience, research experiences, and adding more accolades to your curriculum vitae. Now, all that's left is to 'WOW' your interviewer. But how do you stand out to your interviewer when you're not in person? That's why we're here to help! We understand that getting ready for a virtual residency interview can be confusing and stressful. You may be asking yourself, what if I lose network connection? Where should I set my webcam up? Should I wear earbuds or use my computer audio? In this blog post, MD2B Connect will answer your most popular questions and help you ace your virtual residency interviews this match season.
setting up your space
In choosing your interview space, you should consider these three things: your lighting, your background, and the likelihood of noise. When it comes to lighting, you may consider setting up your space by a window. Test your lighting by using the camera you plan to use during the residency interview. You should test various places within your living area or room for lighting. Check to see where you receive the best light. Another way you can improve your lighting is by investing in a ring light. If your space is dark, or even if you want to ensure good lighting at any time, investing in a ring light can help make all the difference. Remember, you want to make a good first impression on that residency program, both visually and figuratively, so the way you appear on camera does matter.
Here are a few affordable options for ring lights:
Monitor Clip On Ring Light - Amazon ($19.99)
Deluxe Studio Ring Light & Tripod 8in - Five Below ($10.00)
As for your background, you will want to make sure that the focus is on you. Try to refrain from any distracting posters, pictures, or backgrounds. Your interviewer will most likely not be pleased to see your unmade bed in your background, unfortunately. Luckily, many video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom or Blue Jeans, already know this and offer the option to have a virtual background. However, be sure that you have this setup and saved in advance of the residency interview day. If you do not have the functionality to use a virtual background, try to have a blank, neutral-colored wall in your background. You can also accomplish this by hanging up a sheet or curtain in your background, if necessary. On the interview day, you want the focus to be on your accomplishments and candidacy.
When it comes to noise, it can sometimes be a little more unpredictable. For example, you may not know that a friend has decided to "just stop by" or that the package you ordered has arrived early. However, there are some things within your power that you can do to mitigate these situations. Firstly, start with simple things such as making sure your phone ringer is muted and that there are no noisy distractions in your home (washing machines, dishwashers, fans, etc.).
Secondly, you will want to let your friends, family, and roommates (if you have them) know that you'll be busy during the time and date you have scheduled your residency interview. You can also make sure to send them a reminder the day before your interview as well. To stop incoming calls and alerts, you can also set your phone to 'Do Not Disturb'. This feature is available on most iPhone and Android models.
Thirdly, we understand that some sounds may be unavoidable. For example, if you have a storm in your area or there's heavy rain, there's likely to be some amount of noise. Instead of trying to muffle the noise, simply start by letting your interviewer or program coordinator know about your current unavoidable situation. You may say something such as, "Hello Dr. Smith, it is a pleasure to meet you. I did want to let you know before we get started that where I currently live is experiencing thunderstorms at the moment. But I just wanted to inform you before we start in case you hear anything in the background". Lastly, you can try to avoid any other noises by simply leaving a note. If you're expecting a package, you may want to leave a note for the deliveryman that says, "Please do not knock. In a virtual interview. Thank you!". The same may also be helpful if you have roommates.
Networks & devices
When it comes to your network connection, you may be limited by the options you have available to you. One way you can try to troubleshoot any errors or interruptions is to test your internet download and upload speed. You can do this for free by visiting this website. There, you can check if your internet is up to speed for your upcoming virtual residency interview. In addition, you should also be aware of any weather alerts or network outages that may affect your network's overall availability. If you believe in advance that your connection may be interrupted or lost during the interview, you can let the program director or coordinator know beforehand.
In addition to ensuring your network connection, make sure that the device you plan to use during the interview is up to date on all recent updates and is capable of running smoothly. While this may seem obvious, whether it is a laptop, desktop, or cell phone, make sure that the device you plan to use has a decent camera quality and that it is not broken. You should test your device in advance to make sure your settings and functions are ready to go on interview day. It's also important to make sure you have a backup device you can use in case the device you're planning to use fails for any reason. Have this back up device nearby just in case of any malfunctions. It's also advisable that you keep your device charging during the interview to make sure your device doesn't run out of battery. Set a reminder for yourself either on your calendar, phone, or anywhere you won't forget, to have your charger handy before the interview. Don't forget to charge your device before your meeting!
Lastly, you'll want to make sure that your device and area are set up in advance of your interview date and time. It's advisable to set up and test your area and devices the week before your scheduled date, specifically at the time you plan to have the meeting. Having your space set up before the meeting and not needing to rush will help relieve your stress levels and leave you more time to rehearse your interview preparation.
How you present yourself on camera in a virtual residency interview is equally as important as how you would want to present yourself in an in-person interview. However, there are many differences in how you do this virtually. For starters, what eye contact looks like on camera is vastly different than in-person. Unfortunately, in making eye contact with the interviewer on your screen, you'll more likely appear as though you're looking down. Instead, you'll want to make sure that you're looking into the camera to make eye contact. Additionally, you'll want to make sure that your camera is set up at eye level.This way, you should not be looking up or down into the camera, but you should appear to be looking straight into the camera. With that said, you'll want to make sure that your head is in the middle of your screen and your shoulders and torso are visible. Make sure that you're not too close or too far away from the camera. In best practice, you would want the bottom of your screen to end the middle of your torso. You'll want to make sure there is room for you to make hand gestures as well.
Additionally, as well as with an in-person interview, you'll want to make sure that you're not making any distracting movements or mannerisms. These things can include fidgeting, twiddling your hair, swiveling in a desk chair, shaking your legs, or any nervous habits. Although these can be hard to control, it can help to practice keeping your hands on your knees or clasping your hands together when you're not speaking. Although nervous habits may be harder to control, having a plan for how to deal with them can help you to calm yourself and prevent distractions from your overall first impression to the residency program.
Utilizing your circle
While at times it may seem like you're all alone in this process, don't forget to seek help from the support system you have around you. Whether that be friends, family, colleagues, classmates, mentors, teachers, professors, or roommates, reach out in your times of need. If you're overwhelmed taking on the process on your own, reach out for help. Even if someone in your circle is unfamiliarwith the match process, you can still ask them for help by asking them to help you set up your interview space, practice answering interview questions, help keep your space quiet, or any other things that might be distracting or causing you stress. Many times, we find it hard to ask for help when we really need it. During a time when tensions are high, we need support from those who care about us and our success. Finding peace in asking for help from those around you can not only ensure that your interview goes smoothly, but it can also provide you with a sense of relief.
In conclusion, preparing for your residency interview can be more work than it seems. While we can't be prepared for everything, we can do our best to prepare for things within our control. We understand how stressful this process can be for those pursuing a spot in residency. We hope that this blog post gives you the some relief in knowing how you can be best prepared to perform your best. For more information and resources, please find these articles from our sister company's website, The Successful Match, as well as our videos and podcasts on our YouTube Channel
Wishing you the best of luck this interview season,
Your MD2B Connect Team