getting perfect personal statement

Ultimate Guide to A Successful Match for IMGs Who Didn’t Match Before.

You have done everything you could.

USMLE steps, observerships, externships, some research and even volunteer work. You applied to a very long list of programs. And yet, you did not match.

I see this every year. Be it close friends, students that I know or people who I never knew but had exchanged emails and phone calls with through this website.

I know how it feels.

You feel all that time and money is wasted. You know you are not a fresh graduate anymore.  You feel left out because some of your friends matched.

And the worse feeling is… what next?

Should I do more observerships? Maybe try to make contacts in residency program? Or should I try to get research first?  Should I forget about applying and move on with other careers?

How to make your personal statement

I am not going to show you a golden road to getting residency in the next match. Because there is none. Anyone who is promising you one is selling a lie.  But I am going to give you the exact steps you can start taking NOW to improve you chances of matching this time.

These steps will give you a roadmap for the future if you are serious about matching. It does not guarantee success. But it statistically improves you chances of matching


1. Prepare mentally and financially to apply to a lot more programs.

Best graduate course personal statement

I can’t stress this enough.

I have seen too many IMGs trying to save money when deciding about the number of programs to apply to. After unable to match for three of four times, they realize they should have applied to a lot more programs than they did in past three years. It’s painful to pay thousands of dollars to programs who you may never hear from again. I took student loans from a bank in India (top that with an interest rate of 13%) for my application. But, it costs much more to apply to fewer programs year after year if you add it all up. And you lose the time to start earning money. Let me tell you this, the money you spend now is going to be much less compared to your earnings as a resident and later as an attending.

There is no magic number to how many programs you should apply to. Just to get your mindset right, I had USMLE scores in low 200s, no attempts, MPH, some research and good USCE. I applied to 230 programs (IMG, FM, pediatrics). And I matched in Internal Medicine. This was back in 2010.


2. Start getting your program list ready

Guide to Successful Match for IMGs

This is the time to start getting the list of programs ready.

You may be working hard to get more USCE and do some research, you have no time for looking at website for programs. But if you wait till August, and you will have to find the generic list off the internet to apply to. If you are going to invest thousands of dollars, make sure you research your programs well.

Get the list of all participating programs for your preferred specialty. Cross out the ones that did not invite you for interview in the past. Cross out the programs that you know are not very IMG friendly (Ivy League Medical schools). Look at 5 programs a day. Look up their website to see their requirements and current residents for IMGs. Make note of anything mentioned on their website that matches your resume pretty closely (eg. they are proud of their immigrant clinic exposure for residents and you have done an observership in an immigrant clinic).

Move on to next program.  If you see a lot of IMGs on their list, but you are not sure if you meet their requirements, send an email to the program coordinator. They are more likely to respond at this time than when the match season starts.

Once you have reached the end of your preferred specialty, get the list for the next specialty you are interested in. And do the same as above.

Keep picking different specialties until you find at least 200 programs that you feel confident that are not going to screen out your application.


3. If you are going to be more attractive to community programs, stay active clinically till the very end.

How to write a personal statement img

There are certain candidates that university  programs find very attractive. These candidates have a strong research background, high scores and academic interests. Then there are others who would be better suited for a community programs. You know what kind of candidate you are. You may have gotten more interviews from community programs over university when you applied before. It is better to recognize this early. Nothing wrong with going to community programs for residency. Some of them have fellowships or able to get you fellowships in the state, they offer great clinical education and they are easier to get into.

If you have identified yourself as a community program candidate, you need to play the part of a community physician. These programs are looking for work horses. Someone who is ready to work hard and is competent to do the same. To be that someone, you have to demonstrate a very strong clinical experience. And to do this, you need to make sure you are active in an observership or externship for a long (more than a month) period of time in a clinic or hospital when you apply. And you need to have good letters of recommendation from these rotations.

That means when you find your next rotation, make sure you schedule it in a way that your are still working there when you apply.


4. If you are going to be more attractive to university programs, stay active in research (and clinicals) till the very end.

Residency Match Tips for IMGs

Yes, there are many candidate who are very attractive to university programs but they did not match. If you are someone with a PhD or a long time research job, a few first author publications/abstracts and presentations, green card/ US citizen, good scores and other academic achievements, university programs are going to be more interested in you. Community programs feel that you will not rank them high because you will pick the big name universities first. So it’s time to own your talents and play the part of a smart academic physician.

Continue your research until you apply and preferably when you interview. Talk to your principal investigator, head of the research project, lab owner to let you in on another publication, have you present a poster or a research paper, critique the work of others etc.

This is in addition to focusing on USCE as well. You will have a much more advantage during match if you have more clinical rotation in universities than private clinics. This is true for all IMGs but specifically for you because universities want people trained in similar setting as their own.


5. Re-write your personal statement

IMGs Guide to Medical Residency in US

I can’t tell you how many times I was impressed by someone’s ERAS CV but totally lost it when I read their personal statements. This was either because the PS lacked a career focus, personal story that is genuine or it was a generic PS copied from the internet.

Your PS might need just a little tweaking or might need a complete overhaul. But if you have used it last year and you did not match, you can’t use the same thing again.

Read your CV first. Then go over your personal statement word by word. Do you feel you are able to express if you are presenting an image of an honest, hard-working and compassionate community physician or are you presenting an image of a competitive and brilliant academic doctor who is a great teacher as well?

Your personal statement should portray an image that is true to your CV and the types of programs you are going to target. If your personal statement is unfocused or focused towards your research and you are a community program kind of applicant, then you need to fix that.

If you need more help with this part of your application, click here.


6. Re-write your CV

IMGs Residency Match Strategies for Success

ERAS gives you a format to follow for CV. So you cannot be very creative with this. But within each subsection of the fomat, you can show a unique personality.

Literally every IMG writes ‘history taking’ and presenting the ‘case to the attending’ when describing duties at the observerships/externships. That makes your observership the same as every other IMG’s observership. The program director is probably not even going take this USCE into account.

Instead, write about what made this USCE different and how it made you a good doctor. There is no right answer here because we all learnt different things in different rotations.

I wrote ‘history taking’ in my CV for an externship in geriatric clinic. My attending in that clinic corrected me and told me to write this instead ‘practiced discussing end of life care and do not resuscitate orders with the families’.

The program directors at the interviews loved it !

Again, follow this link if you need more help with your CV.


7. Prepare for the interview.

IMGs Residency Success Guide

You have come this far. If you follow above 6 steps, you are statistically positioned to get at least 6 interviews. Based on previous year’s match, that all it takes to match successfully.

That is true only if you don’t mess up your interviews.

Interviews are designed to get you stressed out. Pre-interview dinner, conference/rounds next day morning, multiple one on one interviews during the day, social hours with faculty or clinic staff etc. And how you perform during each of these events is taken into consideration.

Unfortunately, IMGs only prepare for the usual interview questions when getting ready for interviews.  It is like preparing for just one section, say pathology only, for USMLE step 1.

To ace your interviews, you need to  work on social skills, language fluency, typical interview questions, atypical interview questions and dressing/body language. And you need time to get all these aspects handled. So start preparing for interviews as soon as you get your first interview invitation. There is a lot of information on preparing for interviews, including on this website. You can read all about it here, here , here and here.

But if you need personal one on one coaching and mock interview sessions with language fluency and social skills training, go here.


That is it my friends. To make sure you don’t waste any more time or money chasing this American dream, make sure you put in the effort to get these seven steps handled well in time for the match season to start. To recap what has been said above:


  1. Prepare financially to apply to a lot more programs in different specialties
  2. Start getting your program list ready now. This is where you will outshine most other IMGs.
  3. Stay active clinically till the very end if you are a community program candidate
  4. Stay active in clinic or basic science research till the very end if you are a university program candidate.
  5. Re-write your personal statement with an emphasis on a common theme, be it a strong dedicated community physician or a brilliant physician who is also a passionate researcher or educator.
  6. Re-write your CV- make sure you don’t put ‘history taking’ in things you learnt during your rotation.
  7. Prepare for the interview keeping in mind that you need to prepare for many different aspects of the interview and not just the usual interview questions listed on different websites on the internet.


Three Rank Order List mistakes to avoid (and tips to get it right)

unconventional interview preparation for IMGs

The deadline to submit your rank order list is 9 pm EST Feb 22, 2017. 

I was on call for 10 straight days which is brutal.

But, I have been getting 1-2 emails a day from IMGs asking for ROL help. Great, I love that. Asking for help from people who have done it before you is the smartest and easiest thing in the world. I have been pretty consistent getting back at most of you with my recommendations on ROL.  I know there is a ton of information on the internet including NRMP(R) website ( But I still see some common mistakes that IMGs make.

I will first talk about the three most common mistakes IMG make in creating their ROL. Then, I will give you a tips to create a ROL in such a way that helps you achieve your career goals after residency and finally there is a download link to get the algorithm I personally used to make my rank order list (It is very helpful if you want to do fellowship, if you definitely don’t want to do fellowship and also if you are ‘maybe; maybe-not’ about fellowship).

Common ROL mistakes IMG make: 

1 .Ranking the programs based on the likelihood of them ranking you.

I have heard this a million times before.

Yet, when I was constantly thinking about it when I was ranking programs during my match.

The truth is, the ranking software has your best interest in mind. It is designed to ensure you get matched to the program you listed higher than the one you listed lower.

Irrespective of where the program ranked you.

Eg. If program A is the best program for you and you ranked them first. But they have ranked you tenth. You still have a chance of matching there if the nine other people before you have found a ‘final’ match position at this or some other program and program A still has a spot.

On the flip side, you ranked program B at the last spot. But you know that program has ranked you high because you got good vibes from them at the interview or in your post-interview thank you notes.

Eg. If program B is your least favorite program. But they loved you. They have ranked you 1st and you ranked them 5th (the last spot on your ROL). All the people that have ranked the program high will get a ‘tentative’ match position in the program until their spots are filled. If by this time, you did not get a ‘final’ position in one of the preferred programs (1 to 4) on your list, the ‘tentative’ position given to the other candidate will be discarded and you will get a ‘final’ match position at program B because they ranked you high.


 2. University or university affiliated programs are always better than community programs.

Yes, it looks good on your CV. Yes, you can boast about it to your friends back home that you trained at the University of ABC. But, this may not help you in the long run if the university program does not offer what you want to do after residency or none of their previous residents went on to do this thing you want to do. I have seen a lot of real life examples where candidates got much better jobs, fellowships, research training because they trained at a program which was focused towards their career goals. I have explained this further in the algorithm.

3. Changing the rank order list at the very last moment.

You may have your ROL ready already. Or, you are still working on it. Give yourself 2-3 hours. Preferably in the morning after you had your tea/coffee and breakfast. Think about what is the one thing you are seriously considering for your career. Is it being a cardiologist or an academic hospitalist or a primary care doctor back in your home country?  Remember, this can and most likely will change as you go through your residency. But that’s okay. For now, you have something in your mind. Plan for that. Go through the algorithm from below or something of your own. Make a rank order list. Avoid the mistakes above. Ask your mentor, close friend, previous residents or me if you like. After that, stop. Don’t browse forums or facebook to find faults with your ROL. People post their ROL on forum based on their goals and thought process. Not yours. Frequently changing the list after hearing others opinion will ultimately make you unhappy about your choices.


Tips to building a solid rank order list


1. Fellowship interest: If you want to do fellowship, pick the program where your chances to match at your desired fellowship program after residency are the highest. Two most important things to consider when deciding which residency programs will be best for you to get fellowships in future are:

a. In-house fellowship- Programs with the highest number of in-house fellowship of your choice spots

b. Programs who have the highest number of previous residents go into your fellowship of your choice.

2. Visa Requirement: Once the fellowship part is taken care of or if you are not interested in fellowship at all, consider visa options. I prefer H1b programs before J1. There is a lot of debate about H1 vs J1.  But after seeing a lot of candidates and my own friends go through their training and in their medicine career now, I feel H1 is a safer bet.

3. Interview experience: Once fellowship and visa issue is analyzed, pay attention to how you felt during your interview there. You have a gut feeling about each program. Ask yourself if you could stay in the place for three or more years?

Residency Interview Preparation for IMGs

5 most common interveiw mistakes IMGs make

Having interviewed more than 50 candidates in past 3 months some actual interviews for the program and a lot more mock interviews as a part of a premium service;  I now know what the program directors and residency attendings go through during the interview season.

I am happy to have met so many great students and doctors in past few months. It was an absolute pleasure knowing about your passions, dreams,  and fears. I have nothing but immense respect for all the hard work you have and are still putting in to realize your dreams. This is a difficult journey and despite so many challenges, you are going strong. I feel honored to be a small part of your journey.

These are the most common mistakes made during interviews that may be preventing you from getting those pre-matches or matching at your top programs. 

If you have just one interview coming up, it is super important for you to avoid these mistakes. 

 1. Focusing on what to say rather than how to say it.

residency interview preparation services

After interviewing hundreds of IMGs, if think of one specific IMG I don’t remember what answer she gave when I asked her “Why this program?” But I do remember how she expressed herself, what was she proud of, how passionate was she when she told me about her career goals.

Instead of focusing your interview prep entirely on finding the perfect answer for each question, spend some time preparing on how you say it.

VOICE TONE: Do you sound monotonous? Or do you sound too nervous? Do you have an uptalk? Try to end your answers with a voice tone that is down trending (Youtube link). Record your answers on your phone recorder. Or turn on a voice recorder when practicing mock interviews with your friends on skype.

HAND GESTURES: Are you using your hands when you speak? If not, you should do that. Hand gestures convey your message better and make you sound confident. TIP: keep your palms open instead of making a fist or clasping them together(Youtube link).

POSTURE: How is your posture when you are practicing for interviews? Your brain will remember this and do the same in an actual interview. While you are practicing, sit up straight,  feet uncrossed and chest facing the interviewer.

EYE CONTACT: Have an eye contact with giving your answer with normal blinking. Look in one direction (preferably up) when thinking of an answer.

2. Not knowing your self-worth.

residency interview preparation services

I was talking to an IMG from India recently. He had mentioned on his CV that he went to a polio prevention camp during his medical college. Most Indian IMGs have this experience. So I asked him a little bit more about it. He says:  “oh it’s nothing, every medical student in India does this”.

If this was a real interview, the PD would have lost interest in him at this time. Since this was a mock interview, I inquired a little bit more about that experience. He told me that he would go to this villages and give polio vaccines to the kids. But once in a while, he and his team would just stay in that village for a whole day and deliver primary care because there was no other way these people would get their chronic wounds checked, blood pressure measured, possibly get diagnosed with TB or malaria until they are too sick.

Now this was huge. Imagine an American PD hearing this. He or she would be beyond impressed. This not only shows that you would go an extra mile to for your community but it displays that you have a passion for medicine in general. And just saying this, puts you ahead of so many other IMGs who are going to say they just went to villages and distributed polio vaccines.

I know how you feel. I have felt the same way in past and still do sometimes. We as IMGs have a much lower pride in our achievements than our American counterparts. We think the awards we won in our medical school, the jobs we did back in our home country or the rotations we did in the US are not quite as impressive. You are not impressed by your own achievement so when you talk about them during the interview, you are not able to impress the PD. 

3. Not knowing how to research the program’s website.

Guide for IMG ace the SOAP

During some of my mock interviews, we will open up the program’s website that the applicant is going to interview next or is very interested in. We would do this mostly to prepare for the most common and important question asked during an interview “ Why are you interested in this program?” Most IMGs would look at the website for fellowship options, current residents, attendings research work. This is all good. But look deeper.

What is the program proud of?  (look in their motto or letter from PD section) .

What unique clinical experience do they provide? (look in their curriculum section)

What are their achievements? (look to find out where their previous residents are now)

Is the program involved in the community? (outreach activities, field trips with residents, church involvement).

Is the program mentioned in local papers of something good? (google the program’s name and see if a link to local newspapers show up). 

4. Generic answers and failing to be ultra specific.

Guide for IMG ace the SOAP

See more details here (the rifle approach)


5. Forgetting to smile

Best Post Match SOAP Preparation

For God’sake, when someone asks you about your family, your hobbies, your weakness- don’t forget to smile. Give them a glimpse of who you are as a person.


The Rifle Approach to make your answers stand out during residency interviews and help you match (with real examples)

Tips and tricks US clinical experience

A real life example:

Program director: Tell me why you want to do internal medicine.

IMG applicant: I enjoy thinking about each medical condition in a very comprehensive way- giving attention to all possible diagnoses and treatment options. I like to be at the center of my patient’s care and coordinate care with other teams taking care of the patient. I also want to keep my options open to do a fellowship after residency. So I am passionate about internal medicine.

I heard this during a joint interview that program director and I conducted during one match season. I liked the answer- in fact, I was quite impressed with it. My PD asked a few more questions to the applicant and the answers were all pretty good. I felt my PD is going to like this candidate and put him in the ‘rank high’ category.

After the applicant left the room, my PD turned to me asked me- so what do you think? I told him those were some good answers. I think he is a strong candidate.

At this, my PD replied: I hear similar answers all day, especially from international graduates. It is as if they all sit together and prepare the same answers for interview questions. I know how the answer is going to end right when it starts. I interviewed him because I liked what I saw in his file, I don’t like him as much now.

Having said that, he placed the candidate in a ‘possibly rank’ category.

The candidate did not match at our program.

Mistakes most IMGs make when interviewing:

When preparing for interview questions and how to answer them, most IMGs think about what the person interviewing them would like to hear. They think: what would be a good answer for their question?

Even if that may not be the right answer specific to their case, as long as it sounds good, that is the answer they are going to give.

In the example about, that is exactly what the applicant did. He gave an answer that sounded good (at least to me).

But if you hear the answers from ten other IMGs, you will realize very quickly that this is not a right answer. This answer is not genuine or personal to this one IMG at all.

This is a generic answer that many (if not all) other applicants are gong to give.

All this hard work of moving to the US, passing USMLEs, doing research and USCE in undermined because you tried to ‘fit in’ and be a part of the crowd.

By failing to tell your unique story and not being specific enough with your answers- you risk being placed in the ‘possibly rank’ or ‘do not rank’ category despite having stellar scores and credentials.

Think from the interviewer’s perspective:

If you are hearing just one or two candidates, your answers are fine.

But if you are interviewing ten candidates a day, 5 days a week for almost 3 months and if most of them are giving the same answers, you start forgetting them pretty soon. You ignore most of the answers because you know what is coming next.

Most IMGs (including in the example above) spend hours preparing answers that sound good. But since everyone is doing that, your answers are similar in some way to hundred other IMGs.

All the work you have done to prepare those answers will be forgotten the minute you walk out of that room.

Keep reading on to find out how to stand out and prevent the interviewer zoning out while you are talking to him and making sure he remembers you in a good way after your interview.



Tips and tricks US clinical experience

Be ultra-specific. 

Not any fancy credentials, exaggerated promises or flowery language.

Any answer you give, make it a point to go ultra-specific with it.

It is like taking a rifle and shooting the one specific thing it is aiming at.

The more specific you can be, the more likely your answer is going to sound unique and genuine.

You don’t have to lie about it or make up things that are not true. But you have to think of the real reasons why you are doing what you are doing. Your personal reasons are unique to you and are going to be the most genuine answers that the PD has heard all day.

Spend your time preparing for interviews by thinking of the ultra-specific details about your answers. Not memorizing the lines that you or someone on the internet thinks the PD is going to like.

Let’s look again at the example above:

PD: Tell me why you want to do internal medicine?

IMG applicant: I have always enjoyed thinking of medical conditions in a very comprehensive way- giving attention to all possible diagnoses and treatment options. In fact, I maintained this practice in all my rotations. I remember this one time when I was doing an observership in Brooklyn hospital when one of our patients presented with sickle cell crisis and had persistent tachycardia. This rapid heart rate would most likely be attributed to the pain she was experiencing but with the help of my attending, I was able to explore this further and diagnose the patient with pulmonary embolism (a hypercoagulable complication of sickle cell disease). In addition, I have found myself enjoying my cardiology and ICU rotations during medical school so I may want to pursue fellowships in either of those fields after residency. So, I am interested in internal medicine.

BOOM! Target achieved.

No other IMG will give this same answer. Because no other IMGs had the same experiences. The PD is definitely going to remember this answer because he has not heard anything quite as specific all season.

You may not have the same case example as this IMG. You may not have done a rotation in inpatient ward at Brooklyn hospital. But you have your own experiences from your life. Every answer you are preparing, try to think of specific stories, reasons, real life incidents from your own past.

Can you think of something you experienced growing up or in medical college ? Or some medical problems faced by your family members or friends? Did you learn something from your rotations or during your travels moving to the US? An interesting day during your observership?


Take the Rifle approach with your answers.

Dig deep into your past. You have all done a lot of things to get to this point. I am sure there are a lot of stories, unique experiences, strong reasons that need to be told to the PD.

No one can give you a perfect answer for interview questions. They have to come from your own introspection. Give specific examples, reasons, experiences for most (if not all) questions you answer.

The more targeted and specific you can get, the better.

That is how you are going to be genuine. This is how your answers will become perfect.

That is how you are going to be remembered when it is time to rank you after interviews.

“Thank you notes” – they are important but can also hurt your chances!

Tips IMG cracked the USMLE code

Be in touch (in a good way) or be forgotten!

Program directors meet hundreds of applicants each year. Some of them make notes about each candidate after their interview. Some give a vague label like “possibly rank”, “do not rank”, “rank high” to the candidate. But by the end of interview season at the time of ranking, every PD will look through the applications and talk to other attendings and residents to see what they remember about the applicant. If they remember good things they will rank you high. If they remember bad things, they will not rank you.

Human brains are wired to remember bad things over good ones (reference).

You had a great interview or you had a weak interview. A simple thank you note a week or so after your interview referring back to the good parts of your interview will reinforce in their minds the positive things about you. When they are ready to start ranking, the thank you note will bring back the positive memories for you.

A ‘thank you’ note after the interviews can help or hurt your chances of matching this year. Make sure you follow these tips to not hurt your chances with a ‘thank you’ note.
Here are some simple tips to make your ‘thank you’ notes effective and help you get residency.

Get a sample 'thank you' note now
A perfect note that includes all the important information and has worked for me and other IMGs.

1. Write handwritten notes:

They stand out in a bunch of generic thank you emails that programs receive from candidates. Also, an email in a busy person’s inbox is very easily deleted, ignored or worst- spammed. A handwritten note stands out and is not as easy to be ignored.

They stand out in a bunch of generic thank you emails that programs receive from candidates. Also, an email in a busy person’s inbox is very easily deleted, ignored or worst- spammed. A handwritten note stands out and is not as easy to be ignored.

They stand out in a bunch of generic thank you emails that programs receive from candidates. Also, an email in a busy person’s inbox is very easily deleted, ignored or worst- spammed. A handwritten note stands out and is not as easy to be ignored.

2. Reinforce positive emotions: 

Write something that makes them remember a positive conversation you had during the interview. In one of my interviews, I talked with the program director about my recent trip to India. He told me that he was planning to travel to India with his family. In my ‘thank you note’, I told him the best time to visit that part of India and one specific thing his family would love there.

I see a lot of thank you notes where the candidate is trying to answer a question he/she was not able to answer during the interview. He may have given the perfect answer in the thank you note, but I now remember very strongly how he was not able to answer it during the interview.

3. Connect what’s good about the program with what’s good about you: 

Say few specific things about the program that you loved and how it connects to your interest. If the program is heavily focused on primary care and that is where your interests are- let them know this in your note. Or, they love doing research in the program and you are well published- make it known.

4. Think outside the box. If you did not have a great conversation with the program director, you can send a letter to the chief resident or an attending. When we rank candidates, we meet in a conference room with all the residents, attending, coordinator and PD and get an opinion from everyone about who should be ranked. So a program coordinator or the resident who spoke with you can impact the PDs decision.

If you did not have a great conversation with the program director, you can send a letter to the chief resident or an attending. When we rank candidates, we meet in a conference room with all the residents, attending, coordinator and PD and get an opinion from everyone about who should be ranked. So a program coordinator or the resident who spoke with you can impact the PDs decision.

5. American Holidays are coming:

One candidate applying for the match at the program I work in sent me a thank you/new year’s wishes note with his family pic (wife and kids). I thought that was well-timed and thoughtful. I remembered him during match process!

6. Listen to the program:

If the program says on their website not to send emails or notes after the interview, then do not send them. Most programs do not have a specific policy. For those programs, it cannot hurt to send a thank you letter.

7. Be okay with one-sided love:

Don’t expect a reply back from the program. Don’t send them an email or call them to confirm if they received your note.


There you go.

Follow these simple steps to write a great thank you note to send to the PD, attending, resident or anyone else you met at the program during your interview. Also, avoid the most common mistakes that can hurt your chances of matching.

Get a sample 'thank you' note now
A perfect note that includes all the important information and has worked for me and other IMGs.
IMG dermatology prestigious university program

Six powerful tricks to perform better in interviews.

My very first interview was in a community program in Texas. I prepared for this interview in the usual way that most IMGs do. I showed up at the interview thinking I was prepared. And I made a ton of mistakes. In fact, one of the attending told me during the interview that he did not think I was interested in the program at all and I had wasted his and my time interviewing at the program. And he was right.

I had managed to secure 11 interviews despite my low scores and other red flags. I still had ten other chances to improve my interview performance. I prepared better for subsequent interviews including my social skills and answers to common and tricky interview questions.  I did much better in the next interview and with each passing interview,  I learned new techniques to get better at interviewing.

But what if I didn’t get 11 interviews?  What if I had just one or two more interviews?

As an IMG with low scores, needing a visa and limited research experience, I could not afford to make any more mistakes.

And neither can you.  

You don’t have to make the same mistakes as I did. You can learn about my unconventional interview preparation here. By the end of  this article, you will know some very powerful tricks that learned during my interviewing journey and you can start using in your very first interview.

These tricks will put you in a very good light in front of other IMGs (and AMGs too)  who interview at the same program.

Here are some tricks to ace the interviews.

1. Thank the program coordinator.

We are so focused on impressing the PD, attendings, chief residents that we forget this one very important person in the program.

She is the first person you came in contact with in the program. Before the attendings, PD, residents or anyone else, you heard from her. She set up the interview for you, she booked your room in the hotel you stayed last night and she has made sure your visit to the program is well taken care of.

She is also going to talk to the program director after the interview day is over to let him know you came by to thank her.

When I was interviewing for residency, I would always go to the coordinator’s office and personally thank her for everything she did and my trip was smooth and enjoyable because of her. After I matched, the program coordinator told me she was touched by my genuine appreciation of her work at the time of the interview.  

2. Alway be asking questions.

Mentorship for IMGs seeking US residency

Asking questions shows you are interested in the program. Questions also lets the interviewers know about your goals and passions. If you ask a question about fellowships after residency, the person interviewing you will know that you are interested in further studies after residency.

A few points to remember about asking questions:

Know what questions to ask who. Questions you ask the residents (after work life in the town, call schedule)  may not be appropriate for the program director and vice versa. Reserve specific questions to ask each interviewer. It is okay to repeat same questions with other interviewers to get a different side of the story.

Ask meaningful questions related to the conversation happening . You don’t want to be the silent face in the crowd but you also don’t want to be the obnoxious person asking random questions at random time just for the sake of asking.

If you know the attendings who are going to interview you, look up their information online. Are they involved in some kind of research that you are interested in? Have they traveled to certain countries on a mission trip ? Are they passionate about a hobby that you share too? Ask them about it.

Prepare questions in advance but also pay attention to what is being said to give space for new questions to rise.

3. The power of a conversation piece

IMG Residency for International Medical Graduates

You don’t have to absolutely do this.  But if there something that points back to an achievement or a hobby or an aspect of your medical school, proudly wear it on your suit jacket. This could be a brooch, tie pin, pen etc. The attendings will ask you about it and will start a conversation. It will also help them remember you.

4. Wear your suit or interview dress before the actual interview.

img residency preparation program

Can’t tell how many times I have seen candidates who look locked in their suits. Looks like they are wearing a space suit and can barely move in it. Or girls in those high heels killing them after the hospital tour. Your suit. dress and shoes should fit and feel like your second skin. Have it ready well in advance for the interview and wear it for thirty minutes once during the mock interview/practice and once on the night at the hotel before the interview.

5. Prepare an elevator pitch. 

This is your personal statement in short.

This is also the answer to the infamous interview questions: “tell me about yourself”

And, this is also your answer when the senior resident asks you what are your hobbies while you guys are chatting during the pre-interview dinner.

It is a short 1-minute intro about where you grew up, what you passion is career wise and what takes up your free time (hobbies, family) when you are not pursuing your career passions. This needs some practice. Record yourself using the sound recorder on your phone. See how long it takes and how you sound. Improve over time. Find a close friend or family member and practice with them.

5. Socialize with five new people a day.

Make this a practice starting now. Don’t wait to test on your conversation skills at the time of the interview. Start early. Say hi to the cashier, person bagging your groceries, the server at the restaurant, the person sitting next to you on the subway or flight . Start up a conversation with them. This will help your social fluency (vocal tonality, body language, remembering names of people) and all other sub-communication that happens even before you start talking

6. Get the content for thank you notes during the interview.

Try to remember one interesting thing about each conversation you had during the interview. For example, you talked about the how primary care is lacking in most parts of the world and possible solutions for it with one attending or you talked about one specific Indian restaurant in New York that sells great chicken tikka masala with a resident – remember that. Mention this when you send them thank-you note after the interview.  

Want to know the best way to get the perfect answer for the question " tell me about yourself" ? 

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