Asking Questions During Interview Days: What to Ask and When


In the last post, we listed and discussed some of the questions that you’re likely to be asked as a foreign medical graduate when you interview for a US medical residency program. In this post, we’re going to tackle the opposite issue–that is, the questions you should be asking during the interview days. Over the course of the one or two days that make up a program’s interview schedule, you will have lots of opportunities to find out more about the program and determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you.

Asking questions during the interview days is extremely important because it can help you when you’re preparing your Rank Order List (ROL) in the winter. By learning as much as you can about a program, you can make sure that all of the schools on your ROL offer the professional environment and life experience you’re looking for, and you can make sure that the order you choose is consistent with your preferences. Therefore, during the interview days, you need to be ready to ask the right questions of the right people at the right time. That way, you can make the most of your interview experience and come away with a strong idea of where a program might fit on your ROL.

Questions During the Formal Interview

It’s common for US medical residency interviewers to save one of the toughest interview questions for last: “Do you have any questions for me?” Although you have a variety of options for how to answer, the correct response is definitely not “No.” When you’re asked this question, you have the chance to make a good impression and learn more about the program. Because this is part of your formal interview, you want to show that you’re well-informed about the program and eager to get your interviewer’s unique perspective. Thus, you should avoid asking for basic information about the program that you can find online or that was discussed during an information session. Instead, ask a question that has a truly meaningful answer and that reminds the interviewer of something about who you are as a candidate (without seeming too self-centered). For instance, some appropriate options include:

  • What would you say makes this program stand out the most from other programs in my chosen specialty area?
  • What do you like most about working in the [insert your specialty area] department at this institution?
  • Can you tell me more about the research opportunities in my specialty area of interest? (When asking this question, it can be helpful to mention a specific research project or group that you’ve looked into as you’ve been considering the program.)
  • How does your experience working at this institution compare to your experiences working abroad? (Of course, this question should only be asked of an interviewer if you know they have international medical experience like you do!)

Questions During Informal Meals with Residents and Faculty Members

Many programs include informal meals or coffee breaks with residents and/or faculty members. These events provide candidates with an excellent opportunity to have candid conversations about what your work in the program would really be like. In an informal setting, you can ask residents about their daily schedule and obligations, their work-life balance, the housing and transportation options in the city, and what they like to do with their time away from work. If one of the residents or faculty members is a foreign medical graduate, you might also ask them about their transition to the United States and why they chose this program and location over their other options.

No matter what, remember that it’s best to phrase all questions in a positive way, because you’re still being evaluated, and you want to make a good impression. For instance, asking the question, “What has been your greatest challenge as a medical resident?” sounds much better than, “What sucks the most about being a resident here?” In these conversations, you should also try to avoid gossipy questions about people you might have met during the interviews– especially since the answers won’t really make a difference when it comes to constructing your ROL in the winter.

Questions After Information Sessions

Most programs include an Information Session, often at the beginning of the interview schedule, to cover the basic components of the program and logistical topics like salary and program size. Often, the speaker will open up the floor for questions at the end. This gives you the opportunity to ask any clarifying questions if you are confused about something that was discussed. However, if your question could easily be found in the information packet, you might just want to jot it down and find the answer after the interview days are over. Alternatively, if the question is only pertinent to your individual situation, you may want to follow up with the speaker after the presentation is over, instead of posing your question in front of the whole group of candidates.
For more help with the interview process (or any other aspect of landing a US medical residency), contact FMG Portal today!

Questions to Expect in Your US Medical Residency Interview: A Guide for Foreign Medical Graduates


When it comes to your interview for a US medical residency program, it’s important to be prepared. Not only do you want to have a good idea of what to expect in terms of the interview day schedule–as we discussed in the previous post–but it can also be helpful to know what might be coming when you go into the formal interviews themselves. Although the specific interview questions can vary between programs (and between individual interviewers within a single program), there are certain questions that you’re probably going to be asked. Read on for a list of the most common questions and some ideas on how you might approach them in your US medical residency interview.

Common Interview Questions for Foreign Medical Graduates

As a foreign medical graduate, here are a few of the US medical residency interview questions that you are most likely to be asked:

  • Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

This is the standard opening question for a US medical residency interview, and it can help set the stage for your whole conversation. When you’re responding, your goal is to be informative, but succinct. You should provide a brief personal and educational background (where you grew up and went to medical school), as well as a short description of how you got interested in medicine, but you don’t need to go into too much detail. After, all, you don’t want to start giving answers to questions that might be asked later in the interview and end up repeating yourself.

  • Why do you want to do your medical residency in the United States?

This is a question that only foreign medical graduates get asked, and your answer can help you stand out from the other candidates. Your interviewer will probably be genuinely interested in what brought you to this decision, so you should be ready for it.When faced with this question, it is important to be honest because there is no “right” answer. The most important thing is to offer a thoughtful, well-reasoned response that tells the interviewer a little more about you and your goals. If possible, try to tell an illustrative story that highlights the factors that played into your decision. .

  • What do you envision yourself doing after completing your residency?

As you answer this question, it is especially important to remember to avoid a “canned” response: make sure you aren’t just listing the professional goals from your personal statement. The interview gives you the opportunity to expand on what you wrote and offer a more personal perspective. Whether you dream of advancing your career in the United States or hope to eventually return to the country where you completed medical school (or another country altogether), you want to show your interviewer that you have clear goals and a high level of motivation to achieve them.

  • Why are you interested in this particular specialty area?

With this question, you have two objectives: to show that you are well-informed about your chosen specialty area and to demonstrate your genuine passion for the field. It offers an excellent opportunity to expand on some of the specialty-related experiences that you listed on your CV, such as student electives and graduate externships. In the interview, you have the chance to explain to your interviewer how meaningful these experiences were to you personally and how they shaped your professional goals for the future.


  • What is your favorite book/movie/TV show?


When you get a question like this, you might feel pressured to reference an American show that you think your interviewer has heard of–and if that’s the truth, no problem. However, if you love an obscure TV show that only airs in your home country, don’t be afraid to talk about it! With these types of questions, interviewers are looking to hear about your interests outside of your academic and professional life, so your sincerity is more important than the specific book/movie/TV show you choose. Plus, your interest in foreign media could help demonstrate a way in which you could contribute diversity to the program!

Getting Ready for Your Interview

As you prepare for your interview, you may want to do a trial-run with a friend or colleague, and they can ask you some of the questions listed above. However, as you practice, you want to make sure that your answers don’t sound scripted. Even if you’re expecting one of these common questions, you still want your real interview to be a conversation, not a performance. This is especially important for foreign medical graduates from non-English-speaking countries, since interviewers may be evaluating your language skills, and you don’t want your interviewer to think you simply memorized a well-written speech. Therefore, remember to engage with your interviewer and be genuine with your responses–don’t just recite what you planned out in advance.


FMG Portal is here to help foreign medical graduates at every step of the US medical residency application and preparation process. Contact us today for more information!