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“What are your goals?”- The million dollar Residency Interview Question

Residency program directors are not just looking for the people who will work for you. They are looking for the people who have set short-term goals and long-term vision well planned out. Never go to residency interview without preparation. You have spent so much time and money to get those 5-10 interviews, all this hard work could be wasted just because of a half-hearted attempt.

“Why” residency program directors are asking this question?

Aim for your target with focus and dedication!

Aim for your target with focus and dedication!

The fact is that many applicants don’t know whether they want to become-hospitalist, primary care doctors, cardiologists, pulmonologists, and so on. They appear lost and are writing something else on the personal statement and telling something else. What the student should say is, “I want to help patients.” Our main motive is to help patients and that is the main reason why we became doctors, right! It should come naturally. You should be talking from your heart and not from your mind. If your short-term goal and long-term goal align you have a better chance of success. Just take my example, I wanted to become a cardiologist but saying “I want to become cardiologist” was not the right move. I would be perceived as biased and not focused on other subjects. You don’t pick specialization before internship. You rotate with every field and then decide what interests you and then chalk your path. Don’t go with a closed mind. Your short-term goal is to help patients, help your residency to score well on Hospital Consumer Assessment of healthcare providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey and make your program popular by doing research. Don’t tell that you want to do basic science research in a community program where there is not enough funding or help available. Research your program well in advance– whether it is a community program or a university program.

“How” do you impress program directors?

Nowadays, everybody is looking at HCAHPS survey. Your main aim should align with the residency. Residency program directors’ are looking for the residents who know—“How to win patients?” They are looking for good communication skills as patients are going to rate you on these skills. If you cannot communicate your short-term or long-term goals can they really communicate with the patients. Don’t send a confused message to the program directors’. Use K.I.S.S. principle—Keep it simple and S.M.A.R.T.

“What” should you do to make your goal crystal clear?

George T.Duran in November 1981 wrote a paper in the Management Review about, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T way to write management goals and objectives.”

S.M.A.R.T Way

S-Specific Short-term and long-term goals should be specific. M-Measurable Your goal is to win patients and make them happy. HCAHPS score will measure this. Don’t bring money here. Money is never a goal. Money should be your servant, not the master A-Achievable Don’t make castles in the air. Be humble. R-Relevant It should be relevant. Don’t say that I want to become a doctor because I want to buy a car or a big house. Make relevant points to rest your case. T-Time-Bound In the first year of residency, I want to learn from my senior residents. In the second year, I want to help my interns as teaching is the best form of learning. In the third year, I want to help the program grow and recruit good candidates for the program.

At Vital Checklist Workshop for Step 2 CS, we help students not only to master their Step 2 CS but also counsel them for interviews. If you have any questions, please contact us at

Dr.Harpreet Singh MD, FACP is a Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Vital Checklist and The text, graphics, images, videos and other material contained in the videos and iCrush Website ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Dr. Harpreet Singh - Chief Editor
Dr. Singh MD FACP is truly a “Doctor in no hurry.” He has pledged loyalty to the noble cause of educating and empowering patients to understand their disease and fight back. He believes in giving the patients control of their health, and enabling them to understand the “Why” of their problem. He has gained wide popularity by his courteous and empathetic approach towards patient care and envisions a complete hassle free patient experience. He uses easy to remember checklists, which chunk the important facts about the disease in a day-to-day acronym. The ultimate goal is to make the patient aware of the risks and benefits of their actions, enabling them to be ready when calamity strikes, or to avoid it altogether.

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