American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons
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The Virtual Interview Experience: Advantages, Disadvantages, & Trends in Applicant Behavior
Thomas N. Steele, MD; Shamit S. Prabhu, MS; Ryan G. Layton, BA; Christopher M. Runyan, MD, PhD; Lisa R. David, MD, MBA
Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Winston Salem, NC, USA

Background: Residency programs and applicants were forced to hold virtual interviews during the 2020-2021 application cycle. Inability to evaluate a program and/or applicant in person has intangible drawbacks. However, there are obvious advantages: cost, convenience, and comfort. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? How have applicant behaviors changed to learn about programs in a virtual-only interview process?
Methods: A survey was distributed to 302 applicants to a single plastic surgery residency program during the 2020 application cycle. Demographics, social media presence and utilization, and experience with the virtual application and interview process were analyzed. A prior survey at our institution was compared to a subset of questions for longitudinal analysis.
Results: 76 respondents (25.2%) completed the survey. 88.2% of applicants spent less than $1000 during the interview and application cycle. 56.6% did not receive letters of recommendation from outside their home program. 27.6% of applicants attended more than one interview in a single day. Compared to 2018, applicants in 2021 were significantly more likely to access alternative digital resources (forums/discussion boards, social media, and podcasts) when learning about programs. Average number of interviews remain in the range of pre-COVID studies, but percentage of interviews attended increased.
Conclusion: Applicants spent substantially less money on interviews and relied on alternative digital sources to learn about residency programs. 27.6% participated in multiple interviews in a single day. This study objectively quantifies the advantages of virtual interviews. Disadvantages include inability to assess “fit” and lack of non-verbal communication.

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