CaRMS Rodeo – How to prepare for a crazy ride

In CaRMS Guide, Mentorship by Nadim LalaniLeave a Comment

In the Canadian Residency Matching Service(CaRMS) applicants apply to all programs and, if selected for interview, rank these programs. The residency programs also rank all the interviewees [which is becoming increasingly difficult]. The computer spits out a match.

In bull riding, the rider is matched to the bull randomly before the competition, however, since 2008 some ranked riders are allowed to choose their own bulls from a bull draft for selected rounds in PBR events.

It may seem random, but like pro bull riders you can get an edge by following these simple rules. Interestingly, an article by Yousuf and Jones about the recent US Ophthalmology Residency Match Program (OMP) supports what I have been telling nervous medical students for years: students that match tend to be more accomplished and have put themselves out there.1

Top 5 CaRMS Survival Steps

1) Don’t blow the edge of having trained at an accredited Canadian Medical school. You get out what you put in to med school and you have everything you need to succeed. There are ways to get more out of it – extra anatomy, peer learning groups, and specialty interest groups are a must!

2) Don’t be an MPL’er [minimum pass level] – not only is this is insulting to the other 15 people that wanted your med school spot. But, if you work hard and do well in all your classes people will notice this during your clerkship. The result? Looking smart in clerkship = strong reference letters. Strong reference letters = MATCH!

2b) Local applicants – you need to understand that we know about you before you think we know about you. You need to create a personal brand that reflects our ideals [link]. Work hard and be humble.

3) Get yourself out there! Shadow, do electives – get to know the program and allow them to get to know you! Involve yourself in research in their department. When you’re on elective, work hard and showcase your passion. When you apply for CaRMS – apply everywhere (and interview everywhere).

4) This is the most important job interview of your life. You need to have all your ducks in a row and not leave any stone unturned. This means having a tight CaRMS application package – especially your personal letters. You will likely need help on these, ideally from the recent medical school grads or faculty who are your mentors.

5) The interview process is a “speed-date” we both have limited time to see if we’re going to be compatible for the next five years. Prepare for the interview.  Prepare for the interview. Prepare for the interview. I had a dossier on each program. I had questions for the Program director/faculty and residents. I prepared for every question and had gone over the answers time and time again.


In the end, if you have honestly done everything that you could and didn’t match, that’s called karma. For some reason your life is going in a different direction. Pause, reflect, talk to mentors and move on. You WILL end up somewhere in a discipline in which you will thrive – trust me.

Here’s an infographic from Dailyinfographic about succeeding at interviews and also be sure to check out the full CanadiEM CaRMS Guide.

Originally published on the ERMentor Blog on October 18, 2012. Revised by Rob Carey (@_RobCarey) and Michael Bravo (@bravbro) and reposted on CanadiEM in August 2016.

Nadim is an emergency physician at the South Health Campus in Calgary, Alberta. He is passionate about online learning and recently made a transition into human performance coaching. He is currently working on introducing the coaching model into medical education.