Long post alert. Alhamdulillah by the grace of Allah I have matched in Internal Medicine. This group has helped me immensely to gain information and so here is the time I give back to the group.
Step 1: 248
Step 2 CK: 240
Step 2 CS: 1st attempt
Step 3: 235
USCE: 4 months in different hospitals.
Research: 1 peer reviewed publications and 2 others.
Volunteer experience: At community level in Canada.
Research experience: Currently, working as a research assistant in Canada.
Interviews received: 9 + 1 waitlisted that did not turn into an interview.
Interviews attended: 8 (had to cancel one due to date conflict between 2 interviews).
Visa requiring IMG from Pakistan.
So, before I dive into my US residency journey, a little background about myself. My family and I moved to Canada during my medical school and after graduation, I took the Canadian exams. Even though I was told by many that it is harder to get into a residency program in Canada, I applied for the Canadian match. Unfortunately, I didn’t match. I realized I should keep the US option open for myself and so started taking the USMLE exams, while keeping the Canadian match in the back of mind. To date, I applied 3 times to Canada but never matched there, so you can imagine my level of desperation and despair.
Long story short, I applied to the US match this season for the first time. Considering my scores, I was told by my seniors that I would get 10+ interview calls. However, that did not happen. I had a number of contacts from medical school and my USCEs that helped me get interviews. By the time, I was ready to travel to the US, I had 6 interviews. I kept emailing programs for more interviews, but no one replied. I was not satisfied with the number of interviews so here is something I did (which one of my seniors did to secure an interview and get a residency spot in that program); visit the programs personally. This is something that I do not think many people would tell you, but this did help me secure 2 more interviews. I would take my updated CVs and meet the Program coordinators and tell them why I am interested in the program (find connections to the program, like friends or relatives in the area, etc) and I would ask them to kindly consider me if there is a cancellation. I went to about 10-12 programs. Most of them would take the CV and say they will call if something comes up, some would be annoyed, and some would give you the interview right away if they have a cancellation.
About the interviews: I did not prepare for interviews in front of the mirror and all those different techniques, because every mistake I used to make caused me more anxiety, which would have affected my real interviews. So, I had a number of points I had in my head that I knew I had to mention and the rest I would let the conversation flow. One of the biggest weakness in my CV was the lack of hands-on clinical experience after my housejob. Some programs would ask me to explain what I have done since my housejob and here I would try to divert my interview towards the volunteer experience I had in Canada with the minorities and Indigenous community in Canada and my current research experience. I would read up on the program and the faculty members and ask them questions based on what I read. What most interviewees do is while the interviewer is answering, they faze out to think about other questions to ask. Please do not do that because they would be able to tell that you are not paying attention. Instead, whatever answer they give, ask follow-up questions or give comments based on their answers. This shows that you are genuinely listening and are interested in the program. Just let the conversation flow.
Take home points: 1) Try reaching out to programs personally, if possible. Most of the PCs are friendly. I did it in December – January. If you guys do it in October - November, you might have a higher chance of landing interviews. It is just my 2-cents, which you might agree with or not.
2) Play to your strengths. Give brief answers to explain your weaknesses on your CV if they ask and then turn the interview to your strengths, in a natural and conversational manner.
3) Lastly, this is a journey that is not just for you but for thousands of other applicants in your situation. Please be considerate of others and try to help them as much as possible within your capacity. Believe me, that helping nature will also reflect in the way you talk during your interviews.
I hope this document helps all of you. To those who didn’t match, I know this is very hard. It is the worst feeling in the world, since I have experienced it firsthand, and your strength lies in the fact that you are reading this experience and are willing to learn from it and try again. I wish all of you the best for the future and I hope you stay safe during this current pandemic.