Traveling for Interviews 2

This is a follow-up post to Monday’s post about Residency Interviews. Since it’s more a “general” topic about traveling for any interview, I’ve decided to post it on Whatever Wednesdays rather than wait until next week for Medicine Mondays.

Nonetheless, because it is Residency Interview season, I will focus on that:

First of all, I apologize that this post was kind of late. Normally, I write these to be scheduled for posting at 9 am Hawaii Time, which is noon PST, and 3pm EST. This will change once Daylight Savings Time happens be an hour. Nonetheless, for anyone who was waiting for a new post today, at the normal time, I apologize.

Ok, let’s start at the beginning:

You check ERAS and you’ve got an interview at somewhere you want to go. Great! The next step is scheduling the interview which will differ based on programs. Maybe they interview MWF, or Every Friday, or in one week blocks, or whatever. Choose whichever date works best for you.

If this interview is within commuting distance, then just make sure you keep your car in good working condition and as clean as possible. Don’t be the candidate that spilled coffee on themselves driving to the interview, or got some gunk on their suit from the gas station. Gas up your car the day before and keep it clean. Walking through your hospital of choice with a stain on the back of your pants from gum or chocolate from the seat of your car is not optimal. Another big situation is calling the coordinator of the program to tell them you’ll be late to the interview because your car broke down. This probably happens more often than we think. If your car isn’t reliable, then just make plans to call a taxi, use Uber, Lyft or whatever, or have a friend drop you off.

Look, I know, 4th year is busy and there are somethings we can’t foresee. That’s why I’m here. Keep your car clean and in working order, or just use somebody else.

If it’s not within commuting distance:

Then go book your flight as soon as you can. There are a ton of websites you can use to book your flight and everyone has their own preference. However, I do want to bring these things to your attention:

Know which seat on your plane is decent, use: SeatExpert or SeatGuru

The last thing you want is to find out when you’re on the plane that the seat you chose doesn’t recline. Or has a small tray. Or is a little “too close” to the lavatory. Or doesn’t have overhead bin space. Or any host of little things that will make your travel experience less pleasant. You have enough stress to deal with it. Do your best to get a decent seat.

Get the TSA Pre Check.

For some of you, you may be flying 10, 20, or even 30 different times to different places. $85 will save you a TON of time waiting in line. For me, waiting in line is one of the most aggravating things in the world. This frustration will only increase when you are strapped for time and already stressed out. Get this done. Ideally, you would already have had this done before reading my article since the interview season has already begun. However, since the season still lasts another 3 months, it is still worth getting.

What should I pack?

In my opinion, less is more. Bring the minimum you need for your trip. If it’s just the interview, you just need clothes for the plane, something to lounge in at the hotel, your interview attire, and something to wear on the flight back. Try to keep toiletries, shaving stuff, make-up and other things to a minimum of what you would use. Easier said than done I know.

If there is a pre-interview dinner, pack something business casual for that. Business casual is a very flexible term, but for medicine, I would consider it “office casual” or “attending wear”.

What would your attending wear?

Slacks/Khakis and Collared shirt is reasonable. Tie is +/- and I would look at the restaurant atmosphere. If its a fancy restaurant, you can consider a tie. However, usually it’ll be some kind of casual dining setting and you shouldn’t need a tie. For the women, I don’t really know the nuances and details, but the equivalent of slacks/khakis and collared shirt is fine. Once again, I would err on the side of being conservative if given a choice.

Do I need a portfolio? 

I am a fan of bringing a portfolio. Is it necessary? No. However, it can be helpful. You may get a few sheets of paper from the program, or even a ready-made stack of papers. Having somewhere to put them is helpful.

Keeping a copy or two of your CV in there may also be helpful. Sometimes the interviewer may be coming in blind, covering for someone else, or not had the time to read your information. I’m sure your CV is somewhere in the room with an ERAS packet printed out. Don’t take offense to this if it happens.

Imagine you had to interview 100 candidates and had to read 100 ERAS packets and personal statements along with your clinical duties. It’s not easy. So when John Smith, MD, the program director at Ivory Tower U apologizes to you for forgetting the details of your CV, what he really means is “I don’t know who you are.” This is your chance to say “I have a copy of my CV for you to review if you’d like.”

They should take the copy of the CV and then ask you about something on it. The last thing you want it is the awkwardness of you dictating your CV to someone.

Should I pack my suit in my carry-on? 

Always, always, ALWAYS pack your interview attire in your carry-on. I am almost 100% sure that someone loses their luggage every year during residency interview season. So instead of going to the interview in their suit/dress/etc. they roll up in a torn up shirt and jeans with holes in them or yoga pants, because that is what they wore on the plane. 

Use your carry-on.

Or, if you know the flight you are on won’t have enough room for a carry-on, then just wear your interview attire onto the plane. Or, pull out just your interview attire, put it in a plastic bag and hold it on your lap on the plane. Is this optimal? No. However, you really don’t want to lose your interview attire. Like I said in my previous post, I believe that residency interviews are more about “not standing out” or “don’t stand out in the wrong way”. You could be excellent candidate, but if you show up in jeans and torn shirt, that’s how you’ll be remembered.

Now, some programs might be able to see past all this, but the truth is, you’ve already stood out in the wrong way. When it comes time to discuss the candidates, they’ll say, “Ok, what do you guys think about John Doe?” You want them to say, “oh, John Doe, the one from California who likes surfing, right?” not “Oh, John Doe, the guy who lost his suit and was wearing the jeans?”

Interview attire itself is a whole separate discussion, which @mcsassymd has already called dibs on and we are all anxiously awaiting. Her site

Ok, so now we’re gotten you on the through the TSA, onto your plane in a good seat, with your interview attire in your carry-on or sitting in your lap.

Now let’s move to the hotel:

This goes back to when you originally got the interview. These interviews happen the same time every year. The coordinator will usually know which hotels are the best/easiest ones used for residents. For example, at my residency at Albany Medical Center, there is a hotel literally connected to the hospital.

It’s called the Hilton Garden Inn, and it’s a little more expensive than some of the other hotels in downtown, but talk about convenience! You don’t even have to walk outside to get to the hospital. Just wake up, get ready, put your interview attire on and walk across platform directly into the main entrance hallway. This is usually where candidates hang out and someone from the program will come get them.

Even so, the coordinator will probably still give you the other options. If I remember correctly, there are maybe 2-3 other hotels relatively close which were slightly less expensive. Which hotel you choose depends on you. However, I would try to be as close to the medical center, if possible.

Ok, so now you’re in your hotel, and you have everything set up for the next morning.

A few more tips to guide you are in order:

Folding your suit for the carryon. There are a lot of ways to do this, however, the way that makes the most sense to me is this video.

As soon as you get to the hotel room, pull your interview attire out of your bag and hang it in the bathroom. Turn on hot water in the shower and close the door for a little bit (10-15 minutes). That should help get a few wrinkles out. Then, if it’s fine, just put it in the closet for tomorrow. If it still has some wrinkles, pull out the iron and make it look as nice as possible.

Do I bring my carry-on to the interview?

Yes, if you are catching a flight right after the interview, make sure to bring it. Most programs will store carry-ons in someone’s office, or the resident’s lounge or something.

However, this brings up the awkward situation of:

Should I change out of my suit into my “regular clothes” at the interview?

Unfortunately, there is no “right answer” here. Undoubtedly you will feel way more comfortable going to the airport in your regular clothes rather than your suit. However, you potentially are exposing your “true self” to the residency program. If that’s ok with you, then go ahead. However, it might be a good idea to keep any controversial t-shirts at home, and go with a polo and jeans.

Your other options are to change back at the hotel or at the airport. I lean toward these options, but that’s just me.

Ugh, once again I made this post too long. It really should have been done two posts.



Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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