In the latest Med Student Over Easy, host Andy sits down with Brian Barbas, Kristy Schwartz, and Meenal Sharkey to discuss what their programs are looking for in an applicant during match season.


As an applicant, I am sure many of you wonder what happens after you hit “submit” on ERAS. Who looks at it? What part of your application has the most weight? What jumps out to programs – both in a good and bad way? While many programs have similar approaches, each program weighs variables differently as they are not all looking for the same type of applicant. It is essential as an applicant to be familiar with the process as there is one thing that all programs will agree upon – that is that they get ALOT of applications for a small number of residency spots. How will you get your application to stand out?

  • Tell us what you are passionate about
  • Allow your character to stand out
  • Show us what is driving you to move forward
  • Talk about a time you struggled and how you managed to succeed
  • Share your hobbies
  • Know the strengths of each program you are applying to and explain how that fits with your career goals


Most importantly – be honest because your entire works’ life has boiled down to this one application. You’re going to get asked about these things at your interviews. You’re gonna ask and get asked a lot of the same exact questions over and over again. These are the things that are going to stand out that you’re going to talk a lot about. So pick things that you’re proud of, that you’ve worked hard at, and be honest about them!


On the flip side, what are some red flags that you should try to avoid in your application?

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes

You have several weeks to get all of this information organized. Be sure to have someone review the content, spelling, and grammar of your entire application. It is important to show you are detail-oriented.

  • Program Inaccuracies

Do your research about every program you are applying to. If you plan to send a personalized personal statement to certain programs be sure you send it to the right places. Also, if your personal statement discusses your career goals and you for example talk a lot about your desire to do a toxicology fellowship but the program you are sending it to doesn’t have that fellowship it can come across like you aren’t actually interested in them. So be sure to double-check any geographic or fellowship references and make separate personal statements.

  • Unexplained weaknesses

Be sure to use your personal statement to address any red flags that are not explained elsewhere in your application. Own your mistakes and don’t make excuses. Instead, talk about what you have learned from the situation and how you have grown as a person.

  • Overexaggerating

Anything in your application is fair game to be discussed at an interview. If you include an experience or research project you should be able to talk about it during an interview. If you can’t do this, don’t include it in your application!

Another big component of the residency application that is unique to emergency medicine is the standard letter of evaluation (SLOE). This templated letter of recommendation asks preceptors specific questions about your skills and character, includes a comparison to other students who have rotated at that institution, and provides additional comments about both your performance and the type of practice setting you rotated in. This standardized evaluation is very important to application committees. What are some ways to stand out on your SLOE?

  • Be a team player – even with the ancillary staff
  • Be on time!
  • Show improvement
  • Be willing to take feedback
  • Remember no task is too small

Finally, let’s talk about the interview day. The interview is a chance for the program to get to know you as a person. Try to approach the interview more as a conversation. Even if you don’t have the same interests as your interviewer you want to be able to sit and connect just like you would at 3 am on a shift. You will realize at the end of the best interviews that you don’t even remember being asked any specific questions. Also, be sure to have questions prepared. If your questions are all answered consider asking your interviewer about themselves and how they have gotten to where they are. Most importantly remember that it is not only about if you are right for them but also if they are the right program for you!


Listen to the Episode



Predictors of a Top Performer During Emergency Medicine Residency. Bhat, et al. JEM. August 01, 2015. DOI:

Will You Be My Mentor?—Four Archetypes to Help Mentees Succeed in Academic Medicine. Chopra, et al. JAMA IM. November 27, 2017.

What Characteristics of Applicants to Emergency Medicine Residency Programs Predict Future Success as an Emergency Medicine Resident? Hayden, et al. ACAD EMERG MED.

March 2005.



What Programs Are Looking For- Med Student Over Easy

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