This article originally appeared on The Wealthy Physician Blog.
There are a number of activities that you may participate in outside of medicine that you think are not that important, unique, or even worth putting in an application. However, if you have ever had an intriguing experience that’s worth sharing, why wouldn’t you include it?
By including your interesting story in your application you allow the reader (usually an interviewer) to get to know you better.
In addition, you open yourself up for softball questions during your interview. These are questions that are easy, non-threatening, and help take some of the stress out of interview day.
Beyond these benefits your story can also reveal that you are a passionate person. This will make you really stand out because program directors and interviewers are seeking passionate people.
This in turn will make your overall rank by residency programs higher for the match. Of course, this is the ultimate goal of the residency application process.
HOW MY HOBBIES HELPED ME STAND OUT DURING RESIDENCY INTERVIEWS
Let me clarify the above with some examples. Men’s Health Magazine organizes a number of competitive urbanathlons every year and I love competing in them.
Many people do not know what an urbanathlon is so I used this to my advantage. An urbanathlon is a 7-13 mile race within an urban environment with obstacles sprinkled throughout the course.
In my applications I was certain to include that I was an “urbanathloner”. This is a single word that I basically made up at the time, but at every single interview I was asked about it.
This gave me a great opportunity to share my experience at the Chicago event I attended. I described running up the steps at Soldier Field to the top of the stadium, how both my calves completely cramped up with 2 miles left in the race, and how I hobbled the rest of the way until I crossed the finish line.
By including this extracurricular life experience from outside of medicine in my residency application I created the added bonus of dictating ahead of time what one of the questions in my interview would likely be.
Even better the answer to this question would allow me to build rapport with my interviewer while demonstrating that I could be both vulnerable and powerful at the same time.
This should give you a good idea of how to master your application on a higher level than your competitors to earn a coveted residency spot.
“OH YEAH I REMEMBER HIM…HE’S THE FIRE DANCER!”
Here’s another great example. An applicant once contacted me complaining that his application didn’t help him stand out enough from his classmates.
I happened to know this applicant was originally from Hawaii so I asked him to brainstorm about an interesting activity from his past or present. About 10 minutes later he informed me that he used to be and still was a fire dancer.
I instantly got excited and told him he must include that experience in his application. Not only would this help him master one of his interview questions ahead of time and reduce stress, but it would also give the interviewer something to emphatically remember him by.
This is the holy grail. When the members of an admissions committee are meeting to discuss the applicants to create their rank order list you want them to remember you and say something like, “Oh yeah I remember him…he’s the fire dancer!”
Its all about making a positive and lasting impression. Something that initially seems insignificant could be the key piece to making you stand out among the other candidates!
HOW WILL YOU STAND OUT DURING YOUR INTERVIEW?
Now here’s how you can create a winning edge for yourself:
Brainstorm about any interesting experiences you have had outside of medicine, in particular, something you are passionate about.
If you absolutely have no idea ask someone close to you if they can think of anything. Maybe something as simple as a funny story will spark your memory.
If none of this yields a great experience and you’re still truly stumped don’t t fret because thankfully you still have time to go out and pursue a unique activity.
Next, include your interesting experience in your residency application. Even just a vague mention of your unique activity can be enough to yield a question about it in an interview.
Lastly, tell your unique story in your residency interviews. Interviewers are trying to get to know you so take your time, deliver all the interesting details, and ultimately make a lasting impression on the members of the admissions committee.