The Perfect ERAS Application: How to Strengthen Your ERAS Application for Residency

The Perfect ERAS Application:

Applying to residency for many medical students can be daunting. In some ways, you are applying for your first real job. Even though it’s still training, residency requires a different mindset when interviewing.

One of the most important things is the first impression you make. Your first impression will be your ERAS application. Before getting to your personal statement, faculty will go over your ERAS application. They will look at where you went to medical school, what awards you’ve won, and whether you have any publications. They will read about your work and research experiences.

Too often, we see candidates spend weeks or months on their personal statement but only a weekend on their ERAS. Don’t make that mistake. Every word on your application is precious. You have an opportunity to really highlight why you’re unique and the accomplishments you’ve had. Each paragraph offers you an opportunity to talk about yourself and strengthen your changes.

We are going to include our tips to improve your ERAS. Most importantly, we’re going to use our actual ERAS to provide real world examples.

1. Fill out your ERAS in a Word document first.  
You want to make sure you do not miss any spelling mistakes.  You will be editing this ERAS over and over again. Trust us, you want to have an easily searchable word document you can copy and paste back into ERAS at the end.

2. In your EDUCATION section, definitely put in whether you graduated with Honors or not.  So if you graduated from a university, do not just put your degree.

Here’s what MOST people do:
Undergraduate - John Adams University, Andersonville, FL
Psychology
07/2004 - 05/2008
Bachelors of Arts, 05/2008

Here’s what you SHOULD do:
Undergraduate - John Adams University, Andersonville, FL
Psychology (with highest honors)
07/2004 - 05/2008
Bachelors of Arts, 05/2008

3. Membership and Honorary/Professional Societies
Make sure you JOIN a professional society. We recommend a student membership to the American Medical Association. The reason is quite simple. It looks better to have something in a field compared to nothing. As an international medical graduate (IMG), it will also show that you are assimilating to the American medical culture. The cost is less than $100 bucks for a year membership.

4. Medical School Honors/Awards
First off, number each award. Second, provide the exact title of the award. Third, you have to provide the year when you were given the award. Lastly, give a short 4 to 5 word description of the award. Here’s how David and I do it.

Example:
1) John Welsh Award (2014): awarded to the top 3 research projects completed by medical students at Winthrop School of Medicine. 2) Allen Herbert Award (2013): awarded to the medical student with the highest clinical GPA at the Winthrop School of Medicine.

You can’t assume your interviewer will have any idea what your awards mean. This is why it’s important to provide short descriptions.


5. Work Experience
I think people run into problems here. The main issue is including things that are NOT NECESSARY. You should not include high school jobs. Any work related to medical research should NOT go into this section. This is for the research section. Work experience is different from volunteering in that work experience is generally paid. However, unpaid internships at prestigious companies should still be in work experience.

Here are some examples:

  1. Any of your U.S. based clinical experiences
  2. Healthcare consulting jobs
  3. Hospital based administration jobs
  4. Work in a healthcare related field such as physical therapy, respiratory therapy, nursing or pharmacy.
  5. Prestigious jobs such as those related to investment banking
  6. Any non-profit related jobs for social justice
  7. Engineer
  8. Investment banking
  9. Consulting
  10. Non-governmental organization (NGO) work
  11. Non-profit work
  12. Government based work

This is also a great place to put hobbies you’ve done that are particularly interesting. It does not have to be paid. We have used this to very good effect in interviews.

  1. Art work - especially if the artwork is displayed at a gallery or show. This show doesn’t have to be national. It can be a local art show.
  2. Carpentry – we have a good friend that built furniture for fun. He even sold a few chairs online. He put this in work experience and it was one of the most interesting aspects of his interviews. He was asked about this every time.
  3. Music - make special note of shows or places you have performed at
  4. Dancing – this is especially true if you participated in shows or competitions.

Many people make the mistake of putting significant artistic skills in the ‘Hobby’ section. This does not give yourself enough credit if you have significant artistic accomplishments. You have to realize that faculty members are glazed over by all the research projects from candidates.  

Think about this, wouldn’t you rather talk to someone about artwork than their summer research project on colon cancer screening? Most interviewers would too. I’d rather hear about something unique and new. So if you have done some significant artistic, musical or talent PUT it in the WORK SECTION. The faculty member is much more likely to bring it up.  HINT: bring some pictures to show off during the interview.  It adds significant credibility.

Here’s how you should fill out the box for work experience.  Remember, you need to keep the text short and meaningful.  You want to put yourself in the best possible light.

1) First sentence: explain, briefly, the main responsibilities you had.  If you worked on a team, be specific about what you did.

Example 1: “Co-designed electronics module for a cutting edge diagnostic device for point of care blood testing.”  

Example 2: “Directly observed, participated and managed hospitalized patients in a general medicine and pediatric floor.”

2) Second sentence: talk about your mentor and the environment you worked in.  This is important because if your work experience is not at a U.S. based company or institution.

Example 1: “Worked directly with the Chief Technology Officer, John Prescott MD PhD, at Health-X Labs LLC, a NIH funded start-up company in Boston, Massachusetts.”

Example 2: “Observed and supervised directly by Program Director, John Panday MD, of Winthrop Hospital (234 bed hospital) in Baltimore, MD”

3) Emphasize the results and impact of your work. Too often, people forget to mention what their work LED to OR what YOU got out of it. This is important because too often people do work and not follow-up on results. You should show your interviewer that the work you do leads to important outcomes.

Example 1: “The electronics module is incorporated in the device currently undergoing FDA approval”
Example 2: “Obtained direct clinical experience working within an advanced, U.S. hospital under expert supervision”

6. Volunteer Experience
Volunteer experience is actually quite similar to Work Experience.  The difference is that volunteer experiences are generally unpaid and involve giving back to the less fortunate.  The formula is the same in regards to creating your answer.

Sentence 1: Talk about your role
Sentence 2:  Talk about your supervisor and the organization you worked for
Sentence 3: Talk about the outcome of your volunteerism.

Example
Sentence 1:  Led 3 separate bone marrow transplant drives during medical school.
Sentence 2: Worked directly with the Director of the Division of Hematology Oncology of Winthrop Hospital.
Sentence 3:  Successfully screened 300 individuals, subsequently leading to 1 bone marrow transplantation.

7. Research Experience 
The research experience is the very important section of your ERAS application.  A well-written, well-thought out section can HELP overcome lack of actual publications.  When letters of recommendation can back it up, this makes your application MUCH stronger.

There are some important things to remember when you are filling out this section.  It should be longer than Work Experience and Research because your faculty will be able to interpret this more critically.  

Section 1: Talk about the overall purpose of your research.  This sentence should convince the reader that the work you did was both interesting and important.  
Section 2: Talk about YOUR role and YOUR contributions.
Section 3: Talk about your supervisor and the organization you worked for.  
Section 4: Talk about the outcome of your research.

Section 1
Example 1: The purpose of this research was to demonstrate the relationship between cancer screening and survival outcomes.

Example 2: The purpose of this research was to characterize the K-RAS signaling pathway in the pathogenesis of melanoma.

Example 3: The purpose of this research was to assess whether clinical ethics consults reduced ICU lengths of stay.

Section 2
Example 1:  My responsibilities included hypothesis development and experimental protocol for IRB approval.  Furthermore, I conducted a significant portion of the data collection.

Section 3
Example 1:  Worked directly under the supervision of the Chair of Oncology, Dr. John Smith, at Winthrop Hospital. 

Section 4
Example 1:  This example is used for completely unpublished work.
“Currently, the work is under preparation as a full-length manuscript where I will be listed as an author.  In addition, the abstract will be submitted to the 7th Annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.”

Example 2: This example is used for work accepted as a poster or abstract at a conference BUT NOT a full length paper.
“The work was presented at the 7th annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Currently, the work is undergoing preparation as a full-length manuscript where I will be listed as an author.”

Example 3:  This example is used for published work in a full length journal.
The work was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, considered one of the top oncology journals in the United States.  The paper has been cited 4 times since its publication.  The abstract version of this was also presented at the 7th annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Example 4: This is for published work that has also garnered press attention or follow-up editorials.
The work was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, considered one of the top oncology journals in the United States.  The paper has been cited 4 times since its publication.  The abstract version of this was also presented at the 7th annual Southwestern Oncology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.  In addition, Wired magazine featured the results of this research in their 2014 article titled “new gene discovery in cancer means a breakthrough.”  

What if I don’t have any research?
We understanding if you do not have much research experience. In fact, you may have not any.  IMGs are at a disadvantage when it comes to this. There is still some great ways to be able to tell a story that illustrates an interest and future in research.

8. Publications
This is pretty much self-explanatory.  We suggest using a standard citation format for journal articles. Make sure the citations are in the same format. Here’s a question we get now and then. So what goes into the ‘OTHER ARTICLES’?  

Our suggestions are as follows.
Any kind of articles that are not medicine or healthcare related.  If you published an article on art, music or a hobby of yours then include it in this section. If you are listed as a co-inventor in a patent, definitely include it in this section.

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9. Hobbies and Interests
This is a very short section. Instead of putting a long list of hobbies, pick 1 or 2 and give a few details. The main goal of this section is to see if there’s something you do that connects with an interviewer.

Here’s the way we do it.
Sentence 1: Write out your hobby.
Sentence 2: Give a short description of any accomplishments or interesting facts about your hobby.

Example 1: Classical piano, preference for the impressionist composers.
Example 2: Custom audio speaker construction, specifically the design and development of custom electronics for high-fidelity audio.  

Now remember, if your hobby is very serious and you have done serious work put it in the work section. 

We DO NOT recommend you overinflate your hobbies.  There is a chance someone will call you out on this.  Remember, faculty and interviewers can easily notice lies or discomfort in answer questions. If you are not confident talking about classical piano, then just drop it. It’s simply not worth it.

10. Other Awards/Accomplishments
This is exactly the same format as Medical School Awards/Accomplishments except that awards outside of medical school go here. So, if you have prestigious undergraduate scholarships put them here.

First off, number each award.  Second, provide a the exact title of the award.  Third, you have to provide the year.  This helps organize your awards but also adds credibility to your award. Lastly, give a short 4 to 5 word description of the award.  Here’s how David and I do it.

Example: 
1) John Allen Award (2011): awarded to the top 3 undergraduate projects completed by engineering students at Winthrop University.  
2) Allen Herbert Award (2010): awarded to the undergraduate student that most exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism at Winthrop University in the Department of Biology.

We hope this provides a solid guide on how to improve your ERAS. We have other great how-to guides that are completely free. This includes how to write a great residency personal statement or essay.

http://www.residencyinterviewquestions.com/blog/personal-statement-how-to-write-the-perfect-eras-personal-statement

Again, we include our own personal statements as a real-world example. Check out some of the other awesome guides right here on MomMD on strengthening your personal statement.

http://www.mommd.com/residencystatements.shtml 

After you’ve nailed down your perfect ERAS and personal statement, don’t forget about the interview! As a short aside, we believe that focusing on the most common questions and applying those answers to variations is the best way forward. Stumble on "Tell Me About Yourself" and you may never recover. Check out our list of the most common questions here.

http://www.residencyinterviewquestions.com/blog/most-common-residency-interview-questions

Steve @ www.residencyinterviewquestions.com