Tuesday, May 23, 2017

what to wear on residency interviews

With the upcoming residency season starting in a few months, I've received quite a few requests to talk about dressing for residency interviews. I wish I had been thinking a bit more about actually writing this post when I was interviewing myself, but I kind of blanked on being a style blogger (haha) while I was driving 4000+ miles for the actual interviews. But I pulled a few older pictures from my camera, and will talk about what I did!

I will put a disclaimer out there that I interviewed at a mix of academic and community programs in ObGyn. What I did and my experiences were may differ from say, someone applying to neurosurgury at Ivy League programs. But I think the main take-aways are still pretty much universal!

Dinner the Night Before

All of my interviews had a dinner the night before. The majority were at local restaurants, with two of them being at someone's house. For these, I (and all the other applicants) basically wore the casual end of business casual outfits. For the boys, it was almost always khakis and a button up or polo shirt. I personally always wore my favorite black jeans with either a simple blouse (mine was very similar to this one from Ann Taylor) or a white blouse with my camel blazer over it. Because I was traveling so much, I just rotated those two outfits and kept both of them in my garment bag. This is a time to show a bit more of your personality than on interview day, so wear what makes you feel put together and comfortable! That can be dark jeans and a blouse like I did, or a dress, or a skirt with a top. As long as you look polished, you'll be pretty much set. For me, at least, the dinners were always pretty casual and just a way for you to meet the residents and for them to meet you. While I had certain questions I wanted answered at these dinners, I really tried to talk to the residents more about their lives in that city, how they got along, and so on - I wanted to get a feeling for the potential city I could live in as well as my future co-workers. Seeing some residents interact with both us and each other really makes or breaks interviews and your perception of the place - there were some where they seemed to genuinely enjoy each other's company and were so nice to us applicants (which meant I ended up ranking them highly) versus some where you could tell they did not even have each other's phone numbers and didn't know anything about each other, and actually shushed us (ranked way down on the list).

The Interview Suit

Last summer, I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what I was going to wear on the actual interviews. My post about it definitely had a lot of differing opinions about what is appropriate and not appropriate to wear on residency interviews, from "wear whatever you are comfortable in" to "don't wear black" to "definitely wear skirt because you aren't in a position of power". Needless to say, I was conflicted! So what I ended up doing is what I wanted to do all along - I wore a dark pant suit with wedges and a white blouse. Here's where experiences will differ based on speciality and hospitals, but at the places I interviewed, I paid close attention to what all of the other applicants wore. We all wore a dark suit of some sort, and that was about the only similarity. There were grey, black, and blue suits, as well as pants, skirts, or dresses with blazers. Some people wore heels, others wedges, and others flats. And you know what? I really don't think it matters what combination of those you wore. What does matter is that you feel comfortable in what you are wearing and that you are able to be a good interviewee - I promise, no one really cares if you wear wedges or heels or if you pants suit is blue or your skirt is black. They do care that you are passionate about the field, will make a good resident, and that you are someone they want to work with 80 hours a week for the next 3-7 years.

While I initially wanted to wear a black suit, I actually ended up with a grey one! This was not because of color but because of fit. I ended up with these pants and this blazer from Ann Taylor (that at the time was only available in grey, not black). I had ordered a black suit from Ann Taylor, as well as two from the Limited, and I hated all of them on me. So I went with the grey two button blazer with bootleg pants. I had the pants hemmed to hit properly with my wedges on. Underneath the blazer I wore a sleeveless blouse - I never once took my blazer off, and not having sleeves meant I didn't have a bunch of fabric bunched up under my jacket.  I wore my J.Crew Factory wedges, and carried my Mulberry bag (I think any darker bag is fine - no one will be looking at your purse anyway). I was comfortable and felt like myself (well, as much as you can feel like yourself in a suit!).

So my personal advice, and what I've read from other's experiences, is that you really just need to wear what makes you most comfortable within the confines of the definition of a suit. You won't not match because you wore a black suit instead of a navy one, and if someone doesn't want to rank you because you wore pants instead of a skirt, is that really somewhere you want to go anyway? I think we both know the answer.

Hair & Make-up
Sorry for this huge picture of my face! But this is basically what I looked like at all my interviews. I always had my hair pulled back one way or another - either half pulled back, or in a low pony tail. You don't want to constantly play with your hair out of nervous habits while you are interviewing - I know I can easily not even notice that I'm doing that! For make-up, as someone who probably wears a little more make-up than the average person, I just basically went with a fresher face with a bit less eye make-up. I wore my lucky lipstick (lavalliere nude is the perfect pink nude!) and made sure there wasn't anything in my teeth after lunches. If you don't normally wear make-up, I'm not going to tell you that you have to wear make-up. If you wear a lot of make-up, and that's what makes you feel confident, then go with your polished make-up look instead of your partying look, and you'll be good to go! Again, be the best, more professional version of yourself. You want people to remember you for your shiny personality and stellar application, not because you wore bright red lipstick smeared all over your face or because you played with your hair the whole time you were having a conversation about why you want to go into that speciality.

Interview season is definitely one of the busiest of your life, but just try to keep a positive attitude and remind yourself how lucky you are to be at this point. It helps, I promise! Because there will be long nights and road construction and missed flights, and small talk after small talk...but we are lucky to be given the chance to pursue the career of our choice.

And as always, I have to give a shout out to all the ladies who came before me and whose advice I sought during the process. Check out the posts below about residency interviews from women who went into different specialities than my own, and what their opinions are!

Joyce (dermatology resident): residency interview suit
Laura (dermatology resident): pre-interview dinner + interview packing list
Elyse (dermatology resident): residency interview suit
Andrew (ophthalmology resident): top 10 tips for residency interviews