Residency Interviews: The Look - What to Wear to your Residency Interview

I can't believe it, but I am feeling nostalgic about the residency application process! I have decided for my first set of blog posts to share the fruits of my neurosis and give you my best advice for the trail.

  1. what to wear
  2. how to pack/what to pack
  3. how much you should prepare ahead of time
  4. and the price of it all.

For those of you new to the site - welcome! My name is Elyse Love, MD (yes, Doctor Love) and I am a dermatology resident in NYC. Without patting myself on the back too much, interviewing is kind of my thing. I danced for 13 years and I took a four year course in undergrad on how to interview well/give strong and persuasive presentations. If you want to learn more about me - check out the about elyse section of the blog. I hope the advice in this series is helpful to you, and there's a ton of additional advice on the site, so explore!



General advice:

  1. Cover almost all of your skin.
  2. You don't want to be remembered for what you wore. This means don't be sloppy, but also don't be fashionable. Your interview attire should be generic. You shouldn't stick out from other interviewers in a headless line-up. This is about who you are, not what you're wearing. I absolutely hated my interview attire. My personal style is more 'unkempt chic' than put together, but showing up to an interview with uncombed hair is not an option. Remember, you're interviewing to be a doctor. Look the part.
  3. Stay away from anything that will cause you anxiety during the day - For example, โ€œI hope I donโ€™t have a run in my tights!โ€ or โ€œIs this shirt cut too low?โ€ or "I hope we don't walk too much because these shoes aren't very comfortable." You should put enough thought into what you're wearing before the interview so that it doesn't cross your mind during the season.
  4. Buy everything on sale during Christmas season. Theory, Saks, and Bloomingdales all had suits on sale for half price alternatively starting in October.

Disclaimer: I looked at my interview attire as a time to make investment purchases for my career (dermatology is a clinic based practice), so I bought high quality items that will last for years. You can take my advice without buying as expensive items.

Now for more specifics:

Some of this advice is specific to women because there is more nuance to female professional attire. Guys, you know what to wear - the same thing you wear to a wedding, a funeral, a poster presentation, an awards banquet, etc UPDATE: GUYS - I'M WORKING ON A VERSION FOR YOU!

[ 1 ] the suit(s)

Black, navy, or gray.

The pants shouldn't be tight or baggy.

The skirt should hit below the knee.

The dress should be A-line.

Buy two suits. If you're not doing multiple interviews a week then you can maybe get by with one go to suit and top, but I recommend two suits. Buy the second suit from somewhere with a lenient return policy and you can return it if you don't end up using it.

What I wore: I went on 17 interviews in 6 weeks. This required A LOT of traveling and not a lot of time for dry-cleaning. Luckily, I didn't have a problem because I did the easiest thing possible. I bought 2.5 Theory suits that allowed me to mix and match throughout the season - 1 black pant + blazer, 1 blue pant + blazer, 1 black skirt, 3 tops - white, rose, and dark purple. I didn't wear the skirt once so that was a waste.

What my co-first years wore: I wanted to find cheaper options to recommend, but I only tried on the Theory suit. You'll also see from the comments that the Theory suit was the staple of my medical school friends going into various fields, also. I polled my female coresidents and one bought 2 Theory suits, one bought a theory and a Banana Republic suit, one bought 1 Banana republic suit, and one had two suits custom made.

 Shopping for the perfect top - Atlanta, Ga - 11/10/2014

Shopping for the perfect top - Atlanta, Ga - 11/10/2014

[ 2 ] Tops / suit dress

Neutral and jewel tones.

Avoid button ups if they gape on you.

Avoid deep v-necks, or v-necks in general if you have a short torso.

Silk will lay better under a suit than other materials.

Despite being on sale, my tops were very pricey buys. Everlane is a company that I discovered after interview season. They pride themselves on high quality products without the significant mark-up (they're an online retailer only). I haven't tried their tops personally, but I've heard great reviews from friends. Their silk tank and silk shell appear to be almost equivalents of the top I wore for 1/3 of the the price. 

Another option that looks very clean is a suit dress with blazer. With this look, you skip the annoyance and cost of the shirt but have to deal with hosiery.

What i wore: I had a very difficult time finding the perfect top and finally landed on this Theory top in white and rose.


[ 3 ] Shoes

Keep it simple.

Solid black with a short heel or a chic oxford (I would go with a loose (not baggy!) pant and an oxford if I was interviewing today - so chic!)

Make sure you break new shoes in before your first interview! Wear them around the house, a lot.

The most important thing is that your shoes are comfortable. Be professional and be comfortable.

What I wore: I fell in love with these Tory Burch wedges as soon as I saw them. Unfortunately, they were pretty uncomfortable for such a modest shoe (Tory Burch shoes take a lot of wears to break in so this is mostly my fault).

[ 4 ] Purse/Tote:

A simple black bag, preferably with a zipper is all you need. I really like this one from Madewell

If you know you'll want to carry your bag with you throughout the day choose a simple, small cross-body bag.

Donโ€™t use this bag as part of your carry on luggage!! it will be tempting since you're trying to keep everything essential on you while traveling.

What I wore: I alternated between two bags I already owned - this Tory Burch tote and a Lauren by Ralph Lauren tote, both in Black. I showed up to my first few interviews with my straightener and large make-up bag hanging out of my purse because all of my stuff didnโ€™t fit into my luggage.


[ 5 ] Hosiery:

Flesh toned (your flesh, not just anything labeled 'nude').

Black tights are okay - either sheer or opaque but nude looks better in my opinion.

What I wore: I'm a fan of spanx although they can be uncomfortable. Taking them off at the end of the day was the best feeling.


[ 6 ] Undergarments:

Neither you nor anyone looking at you should be aware of your undergarments.


[ 7 ] Make-up:

It's really up to your comfort level.

If not wearing make-up makes you uncomfortable: wear it. Keep it neutral and light.

If wearing make-up makes you uncomfortable: don't wear any. Well, maybe some concealer, one coat of non-dramatic mascara, and a nude lip tint (not gloss). If you only do one thing, get your eyebrows threaded. It will instantly make you look more put-together.

What I wore: I'm Southern, so there's a 0% chance I'll ever go to an interview with a bare face.


[ 8 ] Hair

Low bun, low pony-tail, or down

This doesn't matter too much as long as you look like you're familiar with the concept of a hair brush.

What I wore: I usually started the day with my hair down, but my hair tangles really easily so I usually threw it in a low bun right before the interview so I didn't have to worry about it.

What to wear to the interview dinner:

The interview dinner attire caused me more anxiety than the interview attire because of the ill-defined expectations. I was stuck between "I don't want to come off too stuffy" vs. "I don't want to be the only person in jeans." I would advice you to stick with business casual, but you don't have to dress like a robot for the dinner. You can show off your personal style with a cool scarf, bright bag, patterned shirt, etc.

more on this topic coming in September.

Leave whatever questions you have in the comments section! I'm happy to answer them!!