Top 25 Residency Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

After tackling medical school, you’ll face a new challenge; landing a residency. And how do you get one? That’s right; by squaring off against those dastardly residency interview questions and nailing your answers, that’s how.

Standing out from the crowd isn’t always easy. In 2019, there were 38,376 applicants in the National Resident Match Program (NRMP), but there were only 35,185 positions. And 2020 has similar statistics, with 40,084 applicants competing for 37,256 openings.

What does all of that mean for you? Well, it means that competition for spots can be fierce, especially if you have your eyes on a highly desirable program.

But never fear. By practicing residency interview questions and answers, you can shine. And, if you do, your odds of getting into one of your top programs go up dramatically. So, do you want to get ready so that you can rock that interview? Great! We’ll show you how.

How to Answer Residency Interview Questions

Okay, we know you’re here for example residency interview questions and answers, and we swear that’s coming. Before we dig into the samples, however, we wanted to touch on something else that’s crucial for your success. What could that possibly be? Well, it’s your interview strategy.

Having a plan for how to tackle your residency interview is a must. If you embrace the right approach for crafting your answers, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the unexpected. And, since you can never be 100 percent sure what you’ll be asked, this can make all of the difference.

So, let’s talk strategy. First, it’s all about the research. You need to know what the programs want in a resident. What does the program value? What characteristics do past residents have in common? Is there a way you can show that you bring what they’re looking for to the table and a little bit more?

Ideally, you want to dig into your target program a bit. Learn about the past participants, as well as the medical professionals who you’ll be working with if selected. Dig into the facility’s info, ensuring you learn about its mission, values, community contributions, research, and recent accomplishments. All of that helps you identify priorities, empowering you to speak to them during your interview.

But you don’t want to stop there. Residency program managers want to know that you also have the right traits to excel not just in the program but as a physician. During the interview, they want to see if you’re easy to connect with, how you present yourself, and whether you’ve got the interpersonal skills to soar as a medical professional.

MIKE'S TIP: Not sure what traits they want to see? Well, a few are fairly universal. You need to be articulate, caring, and compassionate. Additionally, organization, time management, attention-to-detail, and problem-solving skills are vital. When in doubt, talk about those, as those are always important in the medical world.

Once you’ve finished your research and know what you need to highlight, it’s time for the next step: figuring out how to showcase your capabilities. Generally, the opportunity arises when you’re asked behavioral interview questions.

We’ve talked about behavioral interview questions in-depth before, but here’s a quick overview. These questions are open-ended and often scenario-based. The interviewer wants you to discuss how you’ve handled certain situations in the past or how you would use your skills and knowledge to navigate something you haven’t encountered before.

So, what strategy should you use? In most cases, a two-fold strategy is best for behavioral interview questions. Start with a healthy dose of the STAR Method. Next, take a heaping helping of the Tailoring Method. Blend those two techniques together, and you should be set. You’ll have compelling and relevant answers to the residency interview questions, increasing the odds that you’ll shine.

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Top 3 Residency Interview Questions

Okay, you’ve got a winning strategy ready to go, so now it’s time for some examples. With sample residency interview questions and answers, you can see how to craft engaging responses to some of the questions you might face. It can help you further refine your formula for creating great answers, ensuring you’re ready for anything the interviewer may toss your way.

Here’s a look at the top three residency interview questions and answers.

1. Why did you choose your current specialty?

There are more than 20 specialties that NRMP applicants can choose from, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the interview wants to know why you selected the one you picked. Usually, your best bet when answering this question is an anecdote highlighting why you find the specialty intriguing or critical.

If you talked about why you’re heading in this direction in your personal statement, reinforce that point. You want your response to align with that information, making you consistent.


“During my time in medical school, I had the opportunity to meet a wide variety of patients. However, one has always stuck with me. She was a young woman who had nearly lost her sight due to a retinal detachment after a head injury. I say nearly because a highly skilled ophthalmologist was able to repair the damage.

Even as she worked to recover from the after-effects of the head injury, she was so grateful that her sight was intact. At that moment, I thought, what could be more rewarding than a career where I could help patients keep a valuable sense.

Yes, I understand that not all of the work involves restoring vision at a critical moment, but the idea of playing a critical role in sight preservation and restoration ignited something in me that I didn’t know was there before. I knew that ophthalmology was the path for me.”

2. What qualities do you believe are necessary to be an exceptional physician?

This question is interesting as it allows the interviewer to gauge what you think is valuable to the equation of physician success. Often, it incidentally allows them to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses, as many applicants will focus on capabilities they possess or want to hone.

Ideally, you want to connect at least part of your answer to an anecdote, allowing you to showcase why you believe certain traits are important. However, you can also incorporate a quick overview list to round out your response.


“One of the most critical traits I believe physicians need to possess is compassion. During my time in medical school, I saw how powerful compassion could be first hand.

I was introduced to a patient who was receiving a difficult diagnosis, all without any friends or family to support him. My instructor took great care as he delivered the news. Plus, he stayed with the patient as he processed the information, offering unending support until the patient was able to compose himself and refocus. I asked about my instructor’s approach after the fact, and she expressed the importance of being able to view the situation from the patient’s perspective and choosing to act with that in mind.

In many cases, patients are scared or nervous, even without bad news involved. Physicians need to be able to reassure them effectively. If you can’t put yourself in the patient’s shoes, that’s nearly impossible. That’s why compassion is important.

However, compassion isn’t the only critical trait. Attention-to-detail and organization are essential. Similarly, you can never overlook the importance of communication skills, either. It takes a well-rounded person to be a great physician, and it’s something I hope to bring to the table as I move further into the field.”

3. Why are you interested in this residency program?

Ultimately, there are hundreds of residency programs around. The interviewer wants to know why this one caught your eye.

Now, you don’t necessarily have to lavish praise on the program in an all-encompassing kind of way to nail this question. Instead, consider what makes this one unique in your eyes, and focus your answer there. This gives your response some critical specificity and can help your answer stand out.


“One of the reasons this program appealed to me is the unique curriculum. I appreciate the multi-faceted approach to learning and growth, as I feel it offers a well-rounded experience that won’t just hone my technical capabilities but also my soft skills, bed-side manner, and other traits it takes to excel as a physician.

Additionally, this facility values its connection with the local community. Through its free clinic and various supportive services, it works diligently to ensure that low-income households can get critical care without burdening them with bills they can’t afford to pay. I have the utmost respect for that approach to medicine and would love the opportunity to be a part of an organization that embraces that position.”

22 More Residency Interview Questions

Here are 22 more residency interview questions you may face along the way:

    1. Why did you choose to attend your medical school?
    2. What aspect of your medical education did you enjoy most? What did you enjoy least?
    3. How would you rate the quality of your medical school education?
    4. If you could change one thing about your medical school experience, what would it be, and why?
    5. Which of your rotations was your favorite? Which was your least favorite?
    6. Did any of your rotations surprise you? If so, why?
    7. Can you tell me about your research experience?
    8. Are there any other specialties you seriously considered aside from this one? Why did those appeal to you?
    9. What area are you most hoping to develop during your residency?
    10. What is the biggest weakness you feel you’ll need to overcome to excel in this program?
    11. How do you envision your career unfolding?
    12. Can you tell me a bit about your USMLE scores? Why do you believe they came out where they did?
    13. Do you think your USMLE scores are a fair representation of your capabilities?
    14. Why are you the best candidate for this residency program? What would you bring to the table that others may not?
    15. As you continue toward a career in medicine, what is your biggest fear about working in the field? What about in this specialty?
    16. Can you tell me about a patient mistake you’ve made? How did you resolve it? What did you learn from that experience?
    17. Tell me about a time you let a patient down. What happened? What, if anything, would you do differently?
    18. If you saw a fellow resident acting inappropriately, what would you do? Would you use a different approach if the person acting inappropriately was a physician, nurse, or another medical professional who isn’t a resident?
    19. What do you find most frustrating about the current state of medicine and healthcare?
    20. Are you more interested in practicing medicine or pursuing academic or research opportunities during your career?
    21. If you couldn’t pursue a career in medicine, what would you do instead?
    22. If you aren’t chosen for this program, what will you do?

5 Good Questions to Ask at the End of a Residency Interview

As your residency interview begins to come to an end, you typically get a chance to ask the interviewer a few questions. This is a crucial opportunity. Not only can you learn more about what the program is like, but it also gives you a chance to make sure it’s actually the program for you.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are five good questions to ask at the end of your residency interview:

    1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your residency program?
    2. Are research projects required of residents? If so, what does this entail?
    3. What percentage of residents complete the program? Of those that don’t, what are the most commonly cited reasons for leaving?
    4. In what direction do your residency participants take their careers?
    5. Can you describe the overall relationship residents have with faculty members during the program?

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, facing off against residency interview questions might be a bit scary. But you’ve already come so far with your education and training, and you bring a lot to the table. Just use the tips above to help you prepare for the meeting. That way, you can sparkle like the amazing candidate you are, increasing the odds you’ll get into your preferred program.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.