5 Tips for Nailing Your Fellowship Interview

1. Do hour homework
​Before going into a fellowship interview, you should have a general sense of the program and their overall culture, mission, and philosophy of care. Often this can be understood by reviewing the program’s website, research output, and clinical foci. Knowing these sorts of things will make you better equipped to communicate how you (the potential fellow) would integrate with the team upon matriculation. 

2. Be prepared to ask questions
Most applicants arrive at an interview prepared to answer some common questions (e.g. Tell me about yourself? How did you come to choose this field? Why are you interested in our program?) Despite this, interviewees may be perplexed when they sit down to an interview and all they are asked “So, what questions do you have about our program?” This will happen over and over. It is best to be prepared with some questions so that you don’t come off as apathetic or uninterested. 
Some “evergreen” questions that you can ask any interviewer include:
  • What do you love about working here?
  • If you could change one thing about this division, what would it be?
  • Is there a personality or type of person that does well (or not so well) here?
  • Is there a formal way for providing feedback for fellows?
  • How do you view the role of the fellow in the setting of other trainees (e.g. residents, other subspecialty fellows) or advanced practice practitioners?
3. Show enthusiasm and passion
You have chosen to dedicate your career and life to this discipline for a reason. Make sure that passion shines through on the interview day. Remember that enthusiasm is contagious and invigorating to everyone around it. Present yourself as someone who will be excited to learn day-in, day-out and you will be thought of as a welcome addition. Avoid the common mistake of nervous applicants who tend to shut down emotionally in an interview setting. To this end, don’t forget to smile!

4. Know thyself (particularly your weaknesses)
No person (or application) is perfect. As such, there are likely some parts of your application that may not be up to par with the rest of your standard. Be prepared to tactfully address any deficiencies if they are brought up by an interviewer. Rather than make excuses, focus on things you may have learned from these experiences and your strategies for preventing problems in the future. If there is a glaring problem on your application, it may be best to address it head on (rather than waiting for an interviewer to bring it up). In doing so, you can control the “spin” of that issue and drive the rest of the conversation to the other (more positive) aspects of your application.

5.  Practice, practice, practice
No one would go on stage for an important production without a “dress rehearsal.” Why should your interview day be any different? Take the time to practice interviewing with your co-residents, mentors, or friends/loved ones outside of medicine. Push these people to be hypercritical in your aim to improve your performance when the time really counts. Having gone through the motions over and over again will make you much more relaxed and confident on your interview day.

Remember that there is no perfect fellowship, but hopefully there is one that is perfect for you. Make sure you focus on finding the fellowship that could prepare you for the life/career you want (not necessarily the program that has the highest ranking, most famous lineage, or largest staff). 

Lastly, enjoy your time travelling across the country and have fun getting to know your future colleagues along the trail.

Feel free to reach out to me directly if I can provide any assistance along the way.
  • Dan Miller Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare
  • Chair, POSNA Resident Communications Committee
  • danmiller@Gillettechildrens.com
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