How to Interview for Fellowship Programs

October 1, 2015 at 12:06 am

Fellows CornerBy Gabriel T. Bosslet, Kristin M. Burkart, Matthew C. Miles, Peter H. Lenz, Candace A. Huebert, Jennifer W. McCallister

Once one has secured an interview, the interview process can be divided into three stages: preparation for the interview, the interview day, and after the interview.

Preparation for the Interview

Preparation is essential for a successful interview. Research each program to become familiar with the division’s research and clinical programs and the fellowship training priorities. Knowledge about the division, faculty, and fellowship allows the applicant to ask program-specific questions during the interview and provides the opportunity to request a meeting with faculty whose interests align with the applicant’s. Preparing questions geared toward one’s priorities for training experiences, clinical interests, and long-term career goals will allow for a more informed decision when ranking programs.

The applicant should be prepared to discuss all elements of the application; in particular, one should be able to describe any research, quality improvement, or educational projects in detail, as well as one’s specific role in the work. Prepare answers to common questions and questions unique to one’s stated goals. An intensive preparation process (including mock interview) will help applicants to have a more successful and informative interview.

The Interview Day

The applicant is interviewing the program as much as the program is interviewing the applicant. The interview is a critical step in the ranking process for both.

The interview day is designed for the program to inform the applicant of its strengths, training opportunities, and mission. It provides the program director, faculty, and fellows the ability to interact with the applicant, evaluate the applicant’s strengths, clarify involvement in scholarly activity, and assess compatibility with the fellowship training program.

From the applicant’s perspective, this is the best time to assess if the program is a “good fit.” Meeting with the program director is an extremely important part of the interview. The program director sets the tone of the training program and establishes a learning environment designed to meet the academic, clinical, and individual needs of the fellows. During the interview, it is important to ask the program director about mentorship, career development, and availability of institutional resources.

It is equally important for applicants to meet with current fellows and hear their perspective on the training, academic opportunities, and quality of life. Fellows provide a unique insight into the training program, including the program director’s level of involvement and support of fellow education.

After the Interview

Immediately after the interview, applicants should write a description of general impressions and pros and cons about each program, and refer to these notes when creating their rank lists. After the interview, some applicants choose to write a well-written, timely, and program-specific thank you note or email.

In the end, the applicant should strive for an interview that informs his or her decision, distinguishes him or her from the other applicants, and leaves the program with an impression that will be remembered favorably during the ranking process.

The article above is an excerpt from “Preparing for Fellowship in Internal Medicine. Steps for Success with a Focus on Pulmonary and/or Critical Care Programs” published in the April 2015 Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

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