• Michael Dworkin, MD

Top 6 most important factors in getting a residency interview and getting ranked

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

What's more important to program directors? Step 1 or letters of recommendation? Personal statement or Step 2? How about the interview? Read on to find out!


Data from the newly released NRMP 2018 program director survey are out! In this survey of 1333 program directors across the country, we get a closer view of what residency program directors are looking for in applicants.


It is important to note that program directors look at different factors when selecting students to interview vs. when ranking students. Here, I have gone through the data and listed the most important factors in getting an interview, and separately, the most important factors in determining your rank on the rank order list.




The top 6 most important factors for selecting applicants to interview are, in decreasing order:



1. USMLE Step 1 score / COMLEX Level 1 score.


This should come as no surprise. The Step 1 score is the single most important factor determining whether or not a program director is likely to select you for an interview. Check out our blog post on the best resources to use in preparation for the USMLE Step 1 and our posts on what goal scores (for each specialty) are reasonable as an IMG or as a US-allopathic senior.


94% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.1 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



2. Letter of recommendation in the specialty.


86% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.2 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



3. Medical student performance evaluation letter.


Also known as the MSPE or dean's letter, this letter summarizes your clinical performance during your clinical year of medical school. It includes direct quotations from your evaluations and summarizes your performance overall.


81% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.0 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



4. USMLE Step 2 CK score / COMLEX Level 2 CE score.


Also known as the MSPE or dean's letter, this letter summarizes your clinical performance during your clinical year of medical school. It includes direct quotations from your evaluations and summarizes your performance overall. Check out our blog post on the best resources to use in preparation for the USMLE Step 2 CK and our posts on what goal scores (for each specialty) are reasonable as an IMG or as a US-allopathic senior.


81% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.0 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



5. Personal statement.


Check out our blog post on how to write an outstanding personal statement for residency.


78% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 3.7 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



6. Grades in required clerkships.


The big required clerkships are medicine, surgery, pediatrics, OBGYN, and family medicine. Check out our posts on how to crush the medicine and surgery clerkships.



Note


Each specialty has different values. For example, the percent of program directors citing USMLE Step 2 CK score as a factor important in selecting candidates for interview was 93% vs 53% in vascular vs. orthopedic surgery. However, the aggregate data are likely to be most useful for all students applying for the match.




The top 6 most important factors for selecting applicants to interview are, in decreasing order:


1. Interactions with faculty during interview and visit.


96% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.8 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



2. Interpersonal skills.


95% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.9 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



3. Interactions with housestaff during interview and visit.


91% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.8 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



4. Feedback from current residents.


86% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.7 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



5. USMLE Step 1 / COMLEX Level 1 score.


78% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.1 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.



6. Letter of recommendation in the specialty.


72% of program directors cited this as an important factor.

Rated 4.1 on average in terms of importance on a scale of 1-5.


Note


The entire interview day is extremely important in helping the application committee see if you are a good fit for their program and figure out how to rank you relative to your co-applicants.


Final thoughts


Each specialty has its own quirks. Ask residents in your field of interest for any advice early and often. While most of the stress and anxiety of medical school is focused on performance on exams and clinicals, the fact of the matter is that your personal statement and interview are absolutely essential components of your application. Ask your MedSchoolGuru in May-June of your application year to read your personal statement and in September-October to do a dedicated mock interview session.



For more info on our tutoring and advising services, check out medschoolgurus.com or email us at info@medschoolgurus.com to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation.