August 11, 2022

Electronic Residency Application Service Matching: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!

Karim Nasra, MD

Karim Nasra, MDI spent the better half of third year envious of my fellow R3s who had already secured their fellowships after going on a handful of interviews in early August. They could devote their third year to hone their skills as competent board-passing radiologists while I remained, it seemed, on a protracted interview/speed dating session from November to April. With my coy replies, I equivocated on the possible meaning behind every sentence in my email responses. It took me two months to remember how to genuinely smile afterward.

At the end of the day, match sneaks up on us, and we have to make the most of our accomplishments regardless if we are satisfied with them or not. Further, we should recognize the benefits to the match process. For one, you can interview with multiple programs, allowing you to make an informed decision when you make your rankings.

Consider the peace of mind when you are able to say, “Hey, I really wanted to be at X and ranked them high, but I guess they had other plans,” as opposed to, “If only my interview at X was sooner, maybe I would have ended up at my dream spot.” … Or you could just match at your number one program. And toward that lofty goal, here is some humble advice.

As a foreign medical graduate at a small community hybrid program, I proofread every Electronic Residency Application Service activity, email and correspondence twice. Most importantly, I also communicated my interest early, earnestly and throughout the season. I had three programs I felt were my dream programs for interventional radiology and I communicated with them during my second year of residency (I did end up at one of them).

During Zoom interviews, people need to know you are interested. If you can sneak in some face-to-face time at a national meeting, all the better. At the same time, only do so if you are genuinely interested. Zoom interviews are a giant time sink for both parties. You will be exhausted by the end of the season. It is always most appreciated when candidates cancel interviews, as needed, out of respect.

As for the interview itself, it is not a make-or-break kind of situation. If there was an element you felt did not go as intended, follow up with an email and let them know, reiterate your interest, and move on. Keep in mind that these are the people you will be working with, side by side, for the better part of a year. If things do not click, this could be a warning sign.

Also, keep in mind that the “Tell me about yourself” question is loaded. My advice is to create some value and sell yourself in the allotted five or so minutes. Lastly, if you have ever conducted interviews for residency or other professional endeavors, draw on that. What characteristics turned you off or made you less enthusiastic about the candidate? Your goal is not to trick a program into liking you, but to find one that already does.

Lastly, your rank list is yours. You are not trying to impress anyone but yourself. I ranked programs based on how happy I would be on match day when I opened that email and saw program X. Just going through this process revealed some truths about who I really am and what I really wanted.

At the end of the day, you need good training and you need a job. Don’t stress the small stuff!