Thursday, November 19, 2015

Residency Interview Prep, Part II: What to Buy

Alternative title for this post: Let's Spend Some Money!

Don't be cheap. You'll keep this suit forever (or until your weight changes significantly), so don't worry about the price tag. Buy a conservative suit that fits you perfectly (or get it tailored to fit perfectly). Check out this article for a lengthier discussion on interview attire. 
Women: the skirt versus pants debate rages on. (Especially for surgeons.) I personally opted for pants because I feel more comfortable in them, which translates into more confidence in my interviews. Plus I just can’t see myself at a program where I am expected to wear a skirt. With that being said, if I were equally comfortable in both I would actually opt for a skirt, as a skirt is technically more formal. Of course, make sure your skirt is long enough, especially when sitting down. 

Men: I would save the 3-piece suit for another day. It's a bit much. (This is just my opinion, but I've also heard some residents and attendings make similar comments.) I would also avoid bow ties, unless you've seen the program director or department chair in one. Bow ties just bring up very strong feelings and you don't want your interviewer secretly judging you for something so silly. Here's a good blog on interview attire for men.

Carry-on luggage
I just bought my first set of "fancy luggage." It's fancy to me because it was actually purchased, not inherited from my parents with a partially broken handle. I'm a nerd, so I read up on the best kind of luggage to buy and here's what you want: a hard shell spinner that's about 20" tall. The hard shell bags are much lighter than fabric bags, and spinners make navigating the airport much easier. (Spinners are those cool bags that can roll next to you or behind you.) I found my bag on Amazon for under $100.

I think carrying on is the right choice, mostly because you don't have time to deal with lost baggage. (If you must check your baggage, then keep your suit with you on the plane.) I choose to wear my suit jacket on the plane to keep it relatively wrinkle-free (Jerry Seinfeld style, with jeans and sneakers) and pack my pants as carefully as possible. 
Which brings me to my next purchase...

Travel steamer
Worth it. It is so much faster and easier than ironing.Plus, if you're not skilled with an iron, you can completely ruin your suit. (Steam can only ruin your hand by burning the hell out of it, which I consider a safer gamble, even as a future surgeon.) This is the one I bought. It's tiny and fits in my carry-on without any problem.

Comfortable shoes
You're going to wear these shoes to probably >10 interviews. (Some of you psychopaths might be wearing them to 30 interviews!) So don't make your life hell. Buy some simple, attractive shoes that are comfortable. Avoid flashy logos (I'm looking at you, Tory Burch) or anything else eye-catching. The ideal interview shoe, much like the ideal suit and purse, is one that nobody ever comments on.

Women: I recommend flats. If you're limping at the end of the tour, it looks like you aren't intelligent enough to select proper shoes. I also recommend keeping band aids in your purse for any blisters that pop up. (Pro tip: I like to put a prophylactic band aid on any area that rubs before the blister actually forms.) If you do wear heels, for the love of God, choose low heels. 

Men: I'm certainly not a men's shoe expert, but I would wear shoes that match your suit (usually black with a black suit, brown with a navy suit, and user's choice with a gray suit). I would steer clear of ultra high gloss shoes unless you are actually a member of the U.S. Navy.

Cold weather gear
(This only applies if you're from the south and will be interviewing in the north. I assume you northerners have coats, since you lived to read this blog.) Southerners: New York City in January is the coldest place I have ever been—and I've actually been to an ice castle in the arctic circle in February. (I have not been to Syracuse, Chicago, or Mars, which I understand are even colder.) This is a different kind of cold that doesn’t necessarily match the thermostat. It might be 30 degrees, but the wind bounces off all the glass buildings and gains the power to completely penetrate your body. As such, you need a coat, scarf, gloves, and hat.

Nondescript purse
Your purse (as with everything else on your body) should not have large designer logos or flashy designs. I hunted for a long time before I finally found this bag, which is big enough to fit my portfolio (see next item) and airplane snacks.

Men: I don't think you need a briefcase, but if you want to carry one the same rules apply. Choose one that's simple.

Leather portfolio
Not everyone carries one, but it looks pretty classy. Use the notepad to makes note of questions that you want to ask. Also stick some copies of your CV in the pocket to hand to your interviewers. (Make sure your CV is in good shape if you choose to do this.)

Questions? Did I miss anything? Please add your own tips in the comments section below!

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Questions? Comments?