What to wear for residency interviews

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ann Taylor Long jacket/ J.Crew drape jacket / J.Crew fitted blazer /  / J.Crew pinstripe jacket / J.Crew dress pants / J.Crew pinstripe skirt / Ruffle top / J.Crew button up shirt /Banana Republic Tailored Non Iron Dot Shirt J.Crew cotton shirt /

My original plan for today's post was to write about how much my rural medicine rotation has impacted me so far or the revelations I've had recently about what specialty I should choose, but instead I'm writing about what to wear on residency interviews. We had a long session on Friday all about residency applications, interviews, Match day, etc. We also were told that we need to have a professional photo taken in a few weeks for our applications. And I realized that I don't have a suit (for medical school interviews, I picked up a blazer at Express and wore it with a black skirt that I already had). So I spent some time this weekend looking for suits online, and here's what I found:

The Suit

There are a lot of options: black vs. navy vs. grey, pinstripe vs. plain, skirt vs. pants. I think that I'm going to need two suits, since it is looking like I will be applying to two specialties (yes, I'm that indecisive) and so I'll have to go on a lot of interviews. 

The options (above).

1. Ann Taylor: I've never bought anything from Ann Taylor (although I do own a few things from Loft). This grey suit was 40% off sale price this weekend, so I ordered it on a whim (and probably will be returning it, but we'll see). The grey seems like it would be very versatile.

2. J. Crew Factory: The navy pinstripe jacket and skirt (there's also pants) are available right now on their website for a decent price (with the 20% off coupon that I have). The navy pinstripe is a nice alternative to solid black, but I also think that sticking with black and grey might be a safer bet. I wore a skirt to most of my medical school interviews and I tend to have an easier time with skirts fitting right then with pants, but pants would be much more comfortable for walking around hospital campuses on the tour portion (and nylons do not last long when I wear them).

3. and 4. J. Crew: They have amazing suits but I never thought that I would shell out the $$$ for one of them. If I do go with one, I'll be watching for a promo code for 25-30% off (or one of the suits to go on sale OR ebay...but that's probably risky). I would probably go with basic black so that I could wear it forever and ever (and hopefully eventually get my money's worth). I'm not sure about the Hutton trousers vs. the 1035 trousers, or the 1035 blazer vs. the Sidney. I've heard that the 1035 trousers run small and I don't think my self-esteem can take going up a size, ha, since I'm already wearing the larger of my two pant sizes (thank you, medical school). About the blazers, I like the 3/4 sleeves on the Sidney, but the 1035 jacket might be more professional. 

The Blouse

This is a potential problem since I have a notorious button-gaping problem in the chest area (and if I go one size up, I'm swimming in the shirt). I would probably do best with a blouse like the first option above, the sleeveless ruffle one from J. Crew factory. Button-up shirts seem to be the most common thing to wear though on residency interviews. I love this mint one from J. Crew or this pink one from J. Crew Factory. And last but not least, the subtle polka dots on this Banana Republic button-up are perfect (not to mention that it's supposedly 'no-iron') but are the polka dots a little crazy for residency interviews?

Suggestions? Chime in :) Linking up with Medical Mondays.


  1. i have a gray suit (bought it from jcrew for med school interviews), then somewhere later down the line i got a black one from banana. honestly, i can't remember what i wore for residency interviews. i wouldn't worry about sticking to boring black, though, even if you are applying to 2 specialties (are they FM and OB??). EVERYONE wears black, so it's nice for something different. as far as skirt vs pants, wear whatever is more comfortable to you, but keep in mind that pants may be easier in the winter when there's snow/ice/etc.

    hope that helps! :)

  2. Thanks for linking up with Medical Mondays! I am loving the grey suit from Ann Taylor. Everyone will probably be wearing black or navy so choosing a different color may help them remember you better. I don't think you have to stick to a button up shirt. Have fun, let your choice reflect your personality!

  3. Oh, one of my fave topics and TV shows... SUITS! Most of my suits are from The Limited. Their suits fit me without need for alteration and they always have good sales! I also have the same blouse problem with gaping holes between buttons. I just wear a cami underneath, but if I ever found one that fit correctly, I would be ever so loyal to it. I have a no-iron Banana Republic blouse and I LOVE the quality (even though I iron it anyway). I've also heard Brooks Brothers no-iron shirts are the gold standard of no-iron shirts and they truly don't need ironing. But I have yet to shell out the $$ for one of those! This may not be a problem for you, but I prefer not to wear sleeveless shirts under my suits because, well, I sweat, and it means I have to get jackets drycleaned more often.

  4. Hi - stopping by from MM. You have a new follower on bloglovin :)

    Love JCrew and I totally hear you on the button-gaping issue. I feel like I always have that problem with blouses. I have two suits from Ann Taylor and they fit and look great!

    Happy shopping :)

  5. I'd consider my office on the more casual end of corporate, so I'm not sure if the same rules apply for the medical field, but I totally vote for the ruffle blouse over a buttondown. I think it looks professional and feminine while not being totally cookie-cutter, if it's in a nice neutral color, and if it gives you the peace of mind of no gappage, then all the better!

  6. I vote yes on the ivory sleeveless ruffle with the grey suit. I think the ruffle combined with ivory gives it a very professional and classy look. But if you want to go with button up I say yes to the mint one from J crew. I like a little pop of color, for sure! It makes it a little sassy, but not too much! I like the polka dot but I can't picture it with a suit. More with a pencil skirt. Hope this helps! Stopping by from medical monday link up! Good luck!

  7. This is awesome. I have no sense of style. In South Africa, we have a six year program, and for most of that we can get away with jeans and a shirt with our white coats. But in August I begin what is called "student internship", when we're not supposed to wear white coats and instead dress neatly!
    Problem is I'm short and curvy. So getting nice pants like those are nearly impossible since shortening = losing the style. So I might just have some made and then buy some neat shirts and blazers.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Happy MM... and thanks for the reminder that I need to start thinking about interview suits, too! It's so nice to have a head start on where to look! :)

    Also, joining you in the indecision club. It's SO not easy to choose one thing for the rest of your life!!!

  9. Gray can wash people out, so make sure you pick a good color to make it less drab. As for button down vs non, a salesgirl I worked with when I worked for Banana (which has a HUGE suiting section and cheap hemming, and they almost always have a 40% off sale) used to tell people that with a pant-suit, it's better to wear a non-button down, something a little less stiff...a ruffle...interesting detail..etc. But if you go with a skirt suit, do a button-down, since a skirt can seem a little less serious. I could see you doing a skirt with a button down, but something with a neat detail or trim on it. I am one to wear basics and a cool necklace, but I've always heard that statement jewelry is a no-no in interviews because it can be too distracting. :)
    By the way, regular j.crew sent out an email coupon for 30% off EVERYTHING ;) let me know if you didnt get it and i can share the code with ya!

  10. Oh and great thing with j.crew (and a lot of other stores) is you can buy as much as you want online (or as much as your credit card can handle, haha) in terms of sizes/colors, and usually get free shipping if you're over a certain amount. Then just try everything on at home, whatever didn't work, take straight back to the store. Never take a risk on size! Remember that a good suit is ALL about the fit. Worst case--if you find a really great deal somewhere, it can be worth it to go for it and have it tailored. :)

  11. My experience in the legal world (which is as conservative as it gets) was that women in shells or camis under suit jackets was fine, as long as everything was generally conservative. Given your great style, I have no doubts that you could pull it off!

    Popping over from Medical Mondays (DH is a rising 4th year), but I think I've introduced myself before, as I run in the Catholic blog circles as well. :)

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  13. I love the grey suit! I had a black one for med school interviews and I felt so boring - like everyone else! I wish I could get away with a shift dress and a blazer - I just look way better in dresses and skirts.

    A million times good luck with getting your applications ready for residency! I'm rooting for you and can't wait to hear how it all goes :)

  14. Hi Erika! I agonized over my residency interview outfit and having recently been through the process, I'd love to offer my tips!
    I, too, wanted two interview outfits, so I splurged on a J. Crew Super 120s black suit jacket with matching Emmaleigh dress and also purchased a Long No. 2 pencil skirt from the Super 120s collection. (I did make these purchases with my 15% student discount and waited for the tax-free week in my home state to save some $$$). I also bought a Calvin Klein black blazer from Macy's for $22 off the clearance rack. For the blouse, I purchased a long sleeve silk top from Ann Taylor (I used my student discount there too and waited for a 40% off day). My shoes were from DSW -- low-ish heel black Calvin Klein for like $50.

    Why I LOVED my choices? The dress was sleeveless so it kept me cool throughout the day. I could pair it with either blazer. The longer version of the No. 2 pencil skirt was modest (without being matronly) and I never worried about it hiking up when I sat down.

    Some tips I have based on POOR outfit choices on interviewees: I noticed halfway through the interview trail that black nylon stockings looked better than tan, so I switched! Your shoes MUST be comfortable, but I would avoid flats because I think they look less professional. I also think switching shoes for the hospital tour looks tacky. Watch your skirt length and err on the side of too long! Also, it doesn't sound like you are considering it, but you must ABSOLUTELY wear a suit -- I saw people in everything from sweater dresses to clinic wear and it did not look pretty!

    Lastly, consider the bag you are bringing. I opted to purchase a black "leather" portfolio from Staples that allowed me to fit my license, some cash, iPhone, and even my car key. Then I didn't need to worry about my bag looking professional and it also had room for pens/paper and for storing all the info they give you on interview day.

    Hope this helps!!

  15. I just went through residency interviews last year and found that a lot of the best sales were in the middle of summer (July and August). I got one black suit with pants and a skirt from Brooks Brothers when they were having some crazy sale. I think it was 50% off everything so keep an eye out for that. I'm fairly busty and they were the only ones that offered free tailoring on the jacket, which is a must for me. I also got a light grey suit from Banana during a 40% off all suits promotion. I think that one happened over Labor Day weekend. Full price they are around the same price point as J.Crew, but I just never saw J.Crew do a discount like that. As far as tops, I got 2 button ups and pinned them so they wouldn't pucker. I went on 20 interviews and I found only having 2 tops was enough. Hope that helps!

    PS I read in one of your earlier posts that you are doing an away in St.Louis. I start my residency there this July so feel free to drop me a line for tips on where to sublet and which areas to avoid.

  16. I've had two great, stand-out suits... one was from Ann Taylor. That thing stood the test of time and I wore it until the poor thing died. Great suit for the money!!
    So happy to see you on the MM grid again this month!! :)

  17. Have you thought about getting a blouse tailored to fit? You may be able to get a tailor to alter a blouse (in a bigger size) by taking it in to fit you. It might be worth it just for residency interviews.

    Also, shells are nice. Just you might have to wash the suit jacket more often. And hospitals are usually on the cold side so you probably won't need to take the jacket off.

    Just some thoughts from a self-taught seamstress,

  18. I just wanted to throw my two cents in for the Limited. I bought my med school interview suit there, and it has served me super well.
    Also, and I don't know if this will help you- but my problem with button downs isn't that they don't fit (they're not pulling across the chest- just gaping, if that makes any sense). I fix that by sewing the front together, just across the bust. Then it can't gape, I can still unbutton the top few buttons to put it on, and I think the ironing lasts longer. It's worth a shot!

  19. The blouse underneath is what gets me every time! I just can't comfortably wear a collared, button up shirt. I don't know why it bothers me so much but it just does! It's so not me! (Although I could probably get behind that gorgeous mint one!)

    I like the sleeveless! That's probably what I'll end up going with (it's what I did for med school interviews too).

    I'd like to play with colors (I saw this GORGEOUS rust pink suit at the thrift store) but I feel like that would be pushing my luck.


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