“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.

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