becoming defensive and accusatory is not helpful
Nothing gives me more confidence in a residency program than when I ask an interviewer a question regarding a concern I have about the program and I get a very defensive and accusatory response. Over the last week, I was at a few residency interviews and at one of them, I asked one of the more senior interviewers about some of the rumors of “upheaval” within the department that I had heard of. You see, this department recently had a change in leadership and some prominent faculty members have subsequently left. In response to my question, my interviewer became very defensive and told me that he didn’t like the word “upheaval” and demanded that I explain what I meant by “upheaval”. Touchy touchy. In the context of the discussion we had prior, it should have been very obvious that I had no negative intentions with my question–only as an inquiry.
What to do in an uncomfortable interview? Well, as long as you haven’t done anything wrong, then just explain your reasoning. In this case, I just repeated the facts–i.e. leadership change and departing faculty members–and stated that I only wanted to hear if there was anything else going on first-hand, which diffused the situation.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t too concerned with the state of the department (it has traditionally been a powerhouse department and residency program) until I heard this guy’s response. I didn’t take this guy’s reaction to be very comforting at all. In fact now I’m a little worried. You would think people would be a little smarter and answer these questions more directly without getting defensive.
As you all go out for your interviews–whether for medical school, graduate school, residency whatever–be respectfully direct in order to get the information you need. And when your interviewers do the same to you, also keep in mind how your reaction can give you away. To quote one of the prominent philosophers of our time, Conan O’Brien, just “stay cool my babies, stay cool”.