Commonly Asked Questions in the Orthopaedic Residency Interview
Muyibat A. Adelani, MD
Assistant Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery
University of Chicago Medical Center
Here are some of most common questions that I have both asked as an interviewer and answered as a candidate, and some tips on answering them.
Tell me about yourself.
Sounds like a simple request, but this can be one of the most difficult questions to answer when you’re nervous. Come up with a thorough but succinct answer, and try not to repeat information that is already in your application. Use this as an opportunity to introduce new information about yourself.
Why are you interested in orthopaedics?
Be honest about why you are interested in orthopaedics, but, if possible, avoid “typical” answers, such as stories about your high school sports injury or your desire to help people. Everyone uses those reasons, and you want to stand out as much as you can.
Why are you interested in our program?
This is a really important question to be prepared for. Your answer will show that you know what you are looking for and that you have done research about their program. Make sure to have a good answer to this based on information available on their website, the personal experiences of people you know and trust, etc.
What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
Again, find a way to be unique with your answers. Everyone says that working hard is their strength, and that working too hard is their weakness. Go for something different. And offer ways that you compensate for your weaknesses.
Tell me about your _____________.
Fill in the blank here with research, community service, hobbies, or anything else that is listed in your application. If you put something on your application, please make sure you can describe it and answer any questions about it. Anything on your application is fair game, so don’t put anything on there that you cannot elaborate on. Make sure to review your application before you interview, so you remember exactly what is on there.
What do you like to do for fun?
Discuss your hobbies honestly, but try to focus on hobbies that you more than just dabble in. Interviewers want to see that you are able to deeply commit to something. However, you will find that many of the people interviewing you have similar interests, so you don’t want to be in a situation where you claim a hobby that you really don’t spend a lot of time or energy on. Topics where I’ve seen people get into trouble are wine and cooking. For example, if you claim to enjoy wine, then you ought to know a good bit about it. If you say your favorite wine is “red,” rather than a specific type of wine from a specific region in the country, then your credibility to the interviewer may be compromised. I know it seems superficial, but candidates are so similar that interviewers are looking for any little thing to separate the candidates. Don’t give them the opportunity to discredit you on a topic such as this.
What do you want us to know about you that is not in your application?
Again, it’s a good idea to review your application before interviews. Think about what you have to offer as a candidate that is not reflected in your application and find a way to convey that during the interview.
What questions can I answer for you?
Another seemingly simple question, but it is one I think you must have a response to. You’ll be surprised how many interviewers start off interviews with this question. They may not have anything else prepared to ask you besides that because they have not had a chance to read your application. If you don’t have questions prepared for them, you may be in for an awkward silence. Just don’t ask any questions that have simple answers which could be found on the program’s website, like “do you have a night float rotation?” or “do you have a research rotation?” You don’t want to suggest that you haven’t done your research ahead of time.
Being prepared for the most common interview questions can greatly help to reduce the anxiety of interview day. I’d suggest writing down the answers and reviewing them before every interview. Good luck!