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The Pros and Cons of Virtual Residency Interviews

2020 transformed how we did things. From mask mandates to city-wide shutdowns, the pandemic forced a variety of changes including how medical school and residency interviews were conducted.
Recently, a study was conducted in which medical students completed a questionnaire on their preference of interview. The study found that the majority of students and programs prefer in-person interviews. Currently, the word is that some programs may offer hybrid interviews as an option going forward, but for many, virtual interviews are here to stay. Here are some pros and cons of virtual residency interviews. What’s your preference?
The primary advantage this interview season is that applicants save a large sum of money from not traveling. The time savings is also a boon. For busy medical students, without an income this seems hugely helpful. Often, virtual interviews only take half a day over Zoom, and it happens all in the comfort of your room. Once finished, you can go about the rest of your day without interruption. Beyond the time and cost savings, programs often go above and beyond to enhance your virtual experience. I’ve seen some residency programs host virtual tours of their clinics and hospitals MTV cribs style and others take you on what a day in the life of a resident there would look like. Others provide care packages or Uber eats gift certificates to treat you to a dinner while you join their residents for a pre-interview “dinner”.
Despite these creative measures, most applicants and programs still prefer in-person. The biggest downside to virtual interviewing as an applicant is the inability to fully grasp the overall feel for a program despite programs’ best efforts to provide a comprehensive virtual experience. Programs find it difficult to convey their strengths and attract the type of applicant that would be a perfect fit. Nothing can replace visiting a hospital in person and having in-person interactions with current residents and faculty. Some other disadvantages include difficulty establishing rapport virtually and how technical issues or poor connections can make things awkward.
Video interviews are great, because they are accessible, programs can host a large applicant pool without many logistical problems. This is balanced out by the fact that students can schedule many virtual interviews without having costs or time be prohibitive factors. Ideally, this translates into great match outcomes. However, keep in mind that everyone is putting the best foot forward and there may be things about a program that they choose not to disclose virtually. Stay inquisitive and ask appropriate questions. Both recruiters and applicants need to be aware of what’s expected so that everything runs smoothly.