After submitting the ERAS application, you might let out a deep breath and feel a transient sense of relief. But submitting also means that interviews are around the corner — a reality that can quickly bring about excitement, worry, and anticipation. In my experience, though, the interviews are the best part: you get to meet the faculty and residents who will be your future colleagues, and you can link up with old friends while exploring new parts of the country. To make this process as smooth as possible and allow you to focus on the positives, here are a few tips for navigating the logistics.
Responding to emails
Although it may not be ideal, the reality is that you need to respond to interview invite emails quickly to secure the dates you would like. Check online to see if the programs list their interview days. With this information, you can keep a tentative list of which dates you prefer so that you can respond shortly after you receive an invite. Make a new email account for your ERAS application so that you can turn on notifications for interview invites alone; that way you don’t have palpitations every time you receive a Listserv email! It’s also helpful to invest in a smart watch for immediate notification if you receive an ERAS email. There are many affordable options, so do not feel like you have to break the bank on this one.
Since interviews do not all come at once, travel plans can change by the week. Depending on your desired specialty, you may be able to coordinate geographically to limit the amount of travel; however, it is likely that you will end up flying back and forth in ways that don’t always seem convenient. When possible, book airlines that allow free cancellation and changes — Southwest is the most flexible with this. It’s better to spend a few extra dollars booking a refundable flight than to be locked into travel. Create some kind of document or calendar to keep track of the interviews you have scheduled and the flights you have booked. It can get confusing as you move around and as plans move around, so start off organized and you will have no issues. As a side note, this is a good time to open up a credit card if you have been thinking of it because there will be hefty expenses. Consider a card with a focus on travel awards to maximize your points.
Packing for interviews
Clothes and shoes
- Suit: You only really need one suit to get through the season; you can dry clean it when you have time between interviews. Pant suits or skirt suits are both acceptable for ladies. If you opt for a skirt, remember that you will be interviewing in the winter and some tours require walking outside. Keep it simple with the suit color — solid navy, black, or grey are always safe options. It is better to be remembered by your qualifications and the conversations had on interview day than your outfit.
- Dress shirts: I bought several dress shirts to interchange under my suit for each interview. I opted for long sleeves to prevent myself from sweating onto my suit but feel free to choose whatever is most comfortable for you.
- Dress heels and flats: There is definitely not a requirement to wear heels if you don’t feel comfortable walking around in them. If you do, I recommend tucking a pair of flats into your bag for the hospital tours because blisters can really put a damper on your day.
- Interview dinner outfit: The dressiness of interview dinners vary by specialty — ask around within your desired specialty to gauge the typical dress code. Bring a couple of basic options with you so you can mix and match.
- Casual outfit (i.e. jeans and sweater): You may have some time to see old friends in cities you visit (one of the best parts of the interview season!), so it’s nice to have something casual to wear to meet with friends.
- Comfortable outfit (i.e. sweatpants and sweatshirt) — Bring something that you’ll be excited to cozy into after a long day of interviewing. There’s nothing better than throwing on relaxed sweats after you’ve been in a stiff suit all day.
- Workout outfit and sneakers: Traveling can be tiring, so try to take some self-care time to exercise. Not only will this boost your energy, but going for a walk or run around the city or town you are visiting can also be a great way to experience the location and see if it would be a good fit for you as a resident.
- Coat: Since it will be winter, you’ll want to have a jacket to wear on top of your suit and to keep you warm on your travels.
- Portable steamer: This is a game-changer and a must-have. You can find a cheap portable steamer which will allow you to fold your suit and not worry about it getting wrinkled in your bag. This allowed me to travel without a garment bag, though you may want to bring one if you have a particularly nice suit.
- Laptop and cell phone with chargers: In particular, a portable cell phone charger can come in handy when you have a long day of travel.
- In-flight entertainment: Whether this is a book, tablet, or video games, it’s nice to have a way to unwind on flights.
- Hair straightener/curler + dry shampoo: Bring along some dry shampoo to keep your style for a few days. There isn’t always time for daily styling.
- Basic toiletries and makeup
- Pen: Seems simple, but it’s easy to forget one. It can be helpful to take quick notes during interview days, as information about programs can get jumbled over the course of the season.
- Folder: It’s nice to have a simple folder to gather interview materials and to keep a few copies of your CV in case anyone asks for it. It is not necessary to buy a leather folio if you don’t already have one.
- Carry-on size suitcase: If you’re making tight connections or rushing to interviews, you don’t want to get stuck waiting for your bag at baggage claim. In order to use a smaller bag, you must pack smart and light and leave behind the nonessentials.
- Packing cubes: These are an amazing addition to keep things separate within your suitcase. You can put all of your interview day clothing in one cube for quick and easy access.
Staying organized and following these small tips can take a little stress out of an otherwise stressful process. Keeping the logistics straight from the get-go will allow you to spend more time looking for the right program, enjoying the visits, and putting your best foot forward on interview days.