Original Article

Virtual Residency Interviews during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Applicant’s Perspective

Authors: Esther Lee, BS, Samantha Terhaar, BS, Leyn Shakhtour, BS, Eleanor Gerhard, BS, Margaret Patella, BS, Rohan Singh, , Philip E. Zapanta, MD


Objectives: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound impact on medical education at all levels, particularly on applicants applying to residency programs. The objective of the study was to gain a comprehensive understanding of applicants’ perspectives on virtual interviews in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: We conducted a quantitative survey and a qualitative study between March and April 2021. The link to an anonymous online survey was emailed to fourth-year medical students from one allopathic medical school. The survey link also was posted on the social media page of one allopathic medical school and one osteopathic medical school. Participants were then invited to participate in a follow-up 15- to 45-minute qualitative virtual interview.

Results: A total of 46 participants completed the survey, with a response rate of approximately 29.1%. The most beneficial aspect of the virtual interview was saving money on travel (31, 78.39%). In contrast, the least beneficial aspect of the virtual interview was the inability to personally explore the culture of the program (16, 34.78%), followed by the inability to explore the city and surrounding area (11, 23.91%). Thematic saturation was reached after interviewing 14 participants over Zoom. Four major themes of the virtual residency interview experience were discussed: virtual interviews offered many advantages, virtual interviews posed unique challenges, residency programs need more organizational improvements, and virtual specific preparations are needed.

Conclusions: Despite the challenges associated with the virtual interview process, applicants rated the overall virtual interview experience positively. Given the continued impact of COVID-19 on medical education, the majority of residency programs will elect to continue virtual interviews for the 2022 Electronic Residency Application Services cycle. We hope that our findings may provide insight into the applicant’s perspective on the virtual interview experience and help optimize virtual interviews for future cycles.
Posted in: Infectious Disease94

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Fig. Applicants’ experience and suggestions in virtual interviews.

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Table 1. Virtual interviews offered many advantages

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Table 2. Virtual interviews posed unique challenges

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Table 3. Residency programs need more organizational improvements

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Table 4. Virtual specific preparations are needed

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