Bottom Line: A short series of posts for fourth year medical students going in to interview season, part 3 of 3.
This post is one in a shorts series intended for MS4s entering interview season. Hit the “med school tips” tag above to quickly find the others. These won’t be “how to interview” tips — you’ll find those everywhere. Instead, they’ll be little tricks and habits that made a fun-but-kinda-stressful few months easier for me.
Making hotel internet less awful
Nearly any hotel nowadays will have some kind of internet available, although often for a fee. In looking for a hotel to stay at during my interviews, I’d usually take free internet into consideration; it’s often $10 +/- 5, so if one hotel is a few bucks more expensive but offers free internet, it may be worthwhile. As long as I had the internet, I felt like I could continue to get things done while on the road.
Unfortunately, hotel internet is often pretty bad. Problems range from being slow to having poor WiFi connectivity to just plain insecure. I found a few workarounds I thought were worth sharing.
Make your own network
One trick that helped out in a few ways ways to create a network with my Macbook. This is a neat little trick that many people don’t know about. If you click on the little WiFi symbol in your Mac’s menu bar, down bottom is a “Create Network” option. You can use this to have your Macbook work as a little router, password and all. One way this was useful was that I could then stream movies stored on my computer to my iPad — even if the hotel’s WiFi connection was poor.
Bring an ethernet cable
I found that a few places offered free internet, but the WiFi was horrible. Some of the places, though, provided ethernet access. You can get an ethernet cable for about a buck from any thrift store, which can then make the poor WiFi connection irrelevant. Your internet connection and speeds will be as good as possible. Additionally, you can combine this tip with the previous one to make your own WiFi network (with a stronger signal) that uses their internet. Here’s how:
- On a Macbook, click the Apple symbol in the top left of the screen and go into
System Preferences -> Sharing
- Check the box for
- Share from Ethernet to computers using WiFi
Bingo. In 5 minutes, you’ve now made your own private network with full WiFi strength using their network. No more expensive data over-usage charges from your cell phone provider. Alternatively, if you don’t have a Macbook but have an Airport Express, you can bring it along to do the same thing.
Bring an HDMI cable
One more cable that was useful is an HDMI cable. I also brought along an iPad to HDMI adapter that my little brother had got me as a Christmas present. It saw a lot of use! In a good many hotels, I was able to hook up the HDMI cable to the hotel TV, then hook up the adapter, and stream Netflix through the iPad to the larger screen with no trouble. I also used an app called StreamToMe quite a bit to stream movies from my Macbook to the TV via iPad. Worked pretty well actually.
Practice using the right words
I don’t think that saying “ER doc” vs “Emergency Medicine Physician,” or “ER” vs “Emergency Department” should matter. I also don’t think Emergency Medicine should generally be capitalized, grammatically speaking (though I could be wrong on that). However, I do know that some people care, and interview season is stressful enough without having to worry about the fact that you said “ER” instead of “ED.” I had a close friend that had some similar concerns regarding “ENT” vs “otorhinolaryngology.” While it seems trivial, it’s probably worth making an effort of saying the words you’ll want to say for the few months before interviews.
I tried to use public transportation as much as possible, but I ended up getting a rental car at a few interviews. A few habits I adopted by the end of interview season that made things easier:
- I used Kayak.com to reserve rental cards, and I was generally very pleased with the prices.
- Car rental insurance is a racket. Many credit card companies provide insurance on rental cars for free and automatically, as long as you turn down the rental company’s insurance.
- As soon as you get out to the car, before even opening a door, take a walk around the car and inspect for damage. Make sure anything you see has been recorded and documented by the agency.
- At minimum (sometimes you’re in a big hurry), take a quick picture on your phone.
- If push came to shove, they would probably not count a picture as sufficient evidence that you didn’t cause the damage, but it’s worth a shot.
- Before you leave the parking lot, figure out where the rental car return is.
- If you can see it, pull out your phone and mark your location in some kind of Maps app.
- If you can’t see it, find it. I had a couple close calls and nearly missed flights because the rental car return location was nowhere near the spot I got it from, and I hadn’t realized until the last minute.
- Assuming the rental return location is nearby, keep an eye out for gas stations as you leave, or pull out Yelp, find one, and put it in your Notes app or something to mark it for later. That way, when you’re rushing back to catch your flight, you’ll know where to stop and get gas so you don’t have to pay the ultra-steep rental agency gas prices.
Again, essentially all these things should ideally be done as you’re picking up the car, so on your way back you can just pull out your phone / GPS and get directions back to the nearest gas station, then proceed directly to the rental car return.
Consider making an account at brandyourself.com. While many program directors might be too busy, there’s a good chance that your application is going through an intern or resident screener before it gets seriously considered for an interview. There’s a fair chance that you’ll get Googled (spl), and you should probably know what’s out there. Brand Yourself basically keeps tabs on what comes up for Google searches for your name, and helps you boost and bury links to make sure your results are as close as possible to what you’d like. I just used the free version, but there is also a paid version with tons of features.
Even if you don’t use Brand Yourself, you should at least Google yourself a few times, and consider setting up some Google Alerts for your name. If a bunch of embarrassing pictures from undergrad pop up, you might want to at least know about it.
A side note on Facebook name-changing
Lots of my med student friends decided to change their names on Facebook and various social media sites during interview season. I think this is a poor strategy. For one, most of these friends’ profiles still came up under a search for their real name. In some cases it can take several months for Google to update its search results (or other linking pages that Google indexes), so what happens is that searching for your name leads to a profile with your picture and often a fake-appearing name. People getting a false sense of security from name-changing sometimes don’t take the extra effort to ensure that their privacy settings are appropriate. While the chances that someone connects your fake name to you may be low, the risk can be high. What does this person have to hide?
- It’s annoying for everyone else.
- You can’t add friends or interns that you meet on the interview trail without “revealing your true identity” (believe it or not one of the program directors was active on Twitter and was excited to hear that I knew about #FOAMed)
- You miss out on the chance to show off your cool, fun, and not “unprofessional” pictures and stories.
- You miss out on the chance to capitalize on search satisfaction — where people find your profile and don’t feel the need to continue digging, which could result in them finding something less flattering.
My social media recommendations for residency interviews:
- Do Google yourself thoroughly, don’t forget to check Google Images as well as web search results.
- Don’t try to hide your profile by changing your name.
- Do make sure your profile name is the one they will likely search for, if they do a search at all (vs a nickname).
- Do actively manage the privacy settings on your posts and photos. Facebook has a built in tool so that you can see your profile as if you were a specific person or an anonymous third party.
- Do consider deleting anything egregious, instead of hiding it with privacy settings.
- Do remember that if somebody “friends” you and you accept, they’ll be able to see anything your other friends can see.
- Do make a few things totally public, such as your name, a respectable profile photo of you doing something you enjoy, maybe a few posts and photos that you’re proud of and you’d like to show the world (perhaps hobbies, family, significant events).
For me, the end result was an online presence that was remarkable easy to find and filled the screen with posts about technology and medicine, and pics of me smiling, riding my bike, fishing, and spending time with my family and girlfriend.
I read The Checklist Manifesto (highly recommended) while traveling for interviews, and I immediately decided to make a few lists for packing. I realized that I generally needed the same things — or at least to consider the same things — for almost every interview, and that while the effort required to think of those things was minimal, the cost of forgetting something critical could be enormous. It’s a perfect scenario for a checklist.
So I made a few checklists. I didn’t use all of the items for every interview. Not even close. But I did at least glance over the list, just to make sure that I at least thought about it, that nothing slipped through the cracks just because I forgot.
Questions to answer before an interview
<<SchoolName>> famous for?
What is fun to do in
<<CityName>> famous for?
Unique features of
Research or personal interests of program director
Rotations outside the hospital?
Number of shifts per month, by PGY year
How long are the shifts?
Rotations by Year
Logistics about the interview
Review Gmail thread (where I kept all of the relevant receipts and reservations)
Transportation to lodging in
Transportation to interview at
Transportation from interview at
Time and location of social event
Transportation to social event
Transportation from social event
Parking at interview?
Where and when to meet in the morning
Approximate time we’ll be done with interview
Transportation back to airport
Print my paperwork (boarding passes, etc.)
Make Due reminder to change calendar time zone on all devices
Due reminder to shine shoes
Transportation to ABQ airport
Transportation from ABQ airport
Check weather forecast
“Social event” clothes
Wallet: Cash for tipping shuttle driver, credit card for flight check-in
Bring Thank You Cards to write on flight
Extra plug adapter for iPad for movies?
Phone charger adapter for rental car
HDMI adapter and cable
Thank you card to
Thought on the program’s academics
Thoughts on the program’s clinical teaching
Thoughts on the people
Thoughts on the work environment / benefits / hours
Thoughts on the population
Thoughts on the location
Thoughts on the reputation
Anticipate ranking high or low
Pay it forward
I guess my last tip isn’t really a tip, but just a suggestion. As I’ve said, interview season can be a ton of fun, but it’s also stressful. During interview season, I decided to write this series of posts to try to spread a few lessons I’d learned. Consider doing the same. Post it to your blog, to the SDN forums, in the comments below, or just meet with an MS4 next year in your abundant free time as an intern. Any way you choose to do it, we’re all in this crazy medical world together, and sharing your experiences could make a big difference for someone following a challenging path you’ve already traveled.