Interviewer Questions

Last updated January 12th, 2020.

The Best Questions

  • Imagine there is a portal to an unexplored planet. The world on the other side is entirely safe and survivable for you, but only you can go through the portal. We do not have any other information. Would you go through the portal?
  • What do you collect?
  • You are an intern on your first rotation in the ED. EMS is in-bound with a trauma patient. ETA 5 min. The trauma bay is yours. What song is playing on the speakers in the trauma bay as you wait for your patient to arrive?
  • Describe a time you made a mistake. What did you learn from it?
  • Did you consider other specialties? What is it about EM that made you decide it was the right specialty for you?
  • Of the experiences listed in your application, which three had the greatest impact on your life?
  • What are you looking for in a residency program?
  • You are driving down a rural road. A deer jumps in front of your car and is hit. You pull over on the shoulder in a safe place and go back to check on it. It is awake, moving its eyes and ears but is entirely paralyzed. It’s tachypneic and tachycardic but you don’t see any sign of hemorrhage or other external injury. You are safe. There is no one else in the car. You have good cell signal. Your car has any supplies that you might need or want. What do you do?
  • How will you maintain balance as a resident?
  • How do you find fulfillment?
  • Who is a doctor that you respect the most? Describe a patient encounter that established or solidified your respect for that person.
  • How do you learn?
  • How can we best support your academic success as a resident?
  • What are your strengths?
  • How do you identify and overcome your weaknesses?
  • What are your values? (List them?)
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • How do you stay centered?
  • What do you think causes burnout? Have you ever felt burnout? How do you address/prevent it?
  • How do you deal with conflict in the ED?
  • What is something that someone said to you or about you that made you proud?
  • Who are some influential people in your life and what did you learn from them?
  • What will you contribute to the specialty of emergency medicine?
  • Which Winnie the Pooh character are you? What characters do you work best with?
  • What is your spirit animal? Why?
  • What motivates you to do what you do?
  • What are your biases? How do you identify and address them?
  • What does the future of EM look like in your opinion?
  • Describe your personality as a combination of tastes (sweet, salty, spicy, etc.)
  • Would you rather be a knife, spoon or fork and why?
  • What are you most afraid of?
  • What book or books did you read last?
  • What are books that have been formative in your perception of the world?
  • What are traits or qualities that you really liked in other programs you’ve interviewed at?
  • What are some personality traits that you learned from your parents or other people in your life?
  • How do you stay centered and prevent burn out?
  • What will be your biggest challenges in residency?
  • What is a change that you would make at this program?
  • What ideas or experiences have shaped your understanding of the field of emergency medicine?
  • What’s something you’re proud of that is not on your ERAS application?
  • How has your interview season been going?
  • Is there a question that you hope someone will ask you on the interview trail that hasn’t been asked yet?
  • What’s the most recent skill or hobby that you’ve acquired?
  • What kind of driver are you?
  • Within the field of EM, what is the skill/area that you:
    • 1) are best at?
    • 2) are most excited about?
    • 3) are most looking forward to improving in residency?
  • What is a personality quirk you have that will be a strength in EM?
  • What animal would you be and why?
  • What superpower would you be and why?
  • What tree would you be and why?
  • What are some of the best interview questions you’ve been asked?
  • What chess piece would you be and why?
  • What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • How would your friends or family describe you?

The Worst Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What made you apply here?
  • What questions do you have for me?
  • What is a time you acted unprofessionally during your clinical years and what happened?*
  • What is something you did in your past that you are deeply ashamed of?*
    • *I particularly dislike the last two questions because they left a very negative impression of an otherwise positive interview experience, for me at least.
    • Personally, I see shame as a negative emotion that results from self-conscious internal criticism and self-judgement of past actions in in response to an individual anticipating future guilt or social embarrassment when one’s mistakes are revealed to the larger group. It can only exist in a society that controls it’s members using peer-pressure, humiliation and public judgement, and it’s presence undermines the ability of an individual to think independently and learn from his or her mistakes.
    • For instance, a prehistoric hunter chasing a deer would feel regret if he made a misstep and spooked his quarry. That hunter would feel shame if he was belittled by the other hunters when he returned home to the village empty-handed. Regret is useful because it helps us learn. Shame is not.
    • I suppose the negative reaction I experienced in response to the two questions stemmed from my perception (which may be erroneous) that those two questions were designed to elicit feelings of shame in the applicants. Any program that utilizes shame as a way of behavior modification is far less desirable than a program that helps its residents explore and learn from their mistakes in a healthy, balanced, non-judgmental manner.

My answers and explanations for selected questions:

  • To be continued***
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