First Impressions


First Impressions Can Make or Break a Career

Every year during the fall, 4th year medical students around the country flock to residency programs to try and solidify a spot for what will likely be the final chapter of their training.

Often these applicants fly in the night before, stay in a hotel nearby, and then put their best foot forward to try and impress the pants off the interviewing committee. The ones who do well get ranked highly for a spot. Those who don’t do well, wasted a lot of time and money, and are no closer to solidifying their future.

Where I did my residency, we did a mixed interview. There was a group interview portion and then a portion that looked a lot like speed dating. Applicants would spend 10 minutes in a room with a faculty member where they would be asked a barrage of questions before a timer would go off and they would move on to the next room. They did this for about an hour before moving on to the group session. It was a good way to see how the applicant could handle stress and how they could think on their feet.

Usually there were a few that didn’t perform well, occasionally someone would just freeze up - like a deer in the headlights. One applicant stared at me for what seemed like an eternity after I asked her a question. Just stared. There was no stalling for time by spouting inanities. There was no ponderous, thoughtful look. She didn’t repeat the question slowly while she scrambled for an answer. She didn’t even ask for the origin of the word. She. Just. Stared. So I stared back. It was a long 10 minutes. She didn’t get a spot in our residency.

But the guy who takes the cake wore a suit. It looked a little big on him. It was wrinkly. And it smelled like old people. Without prompting, he divulged that he got off the airplane the morning of the interview and went straight to Goodwill. There he bought the first second-hand suit he could find and threw it on in the car while driving to the interview.

If you are going to buy a second-hand suit to keep up appearances while being fiscally responsible, more power to you. I applaud the effort. But for Hippocrates' sake, please wash it first. Give it a once over with an iron for bonus points.

He didn’t get the job. A person who can’t pay attention to these details doesn’t make a good first impression. You also wonder if he will make a good doctor.