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    Conveying Your Program and Culture in a Virtual Context

    Overview and Intended Audience

    This section includes guidance for program directors, staff, and interviewers regarding ideas for conveying your program’s culture in a virtual context both in and outside of the interview process. This section covers the following topics:

    Program Website

    Your residency program’s website is the primary resource for potential applicants to find information. It is important to ensure that the website has updated, accurate information (e.g., deadlines, contact information). It is also helpful to include information on the following, if available:

    • Residency program leadership.
    • Featured news.
    • Faculty profiles.
    • Rotation schedules.
    • Current residents.
    • Current research and notable publications.
    • Key initiatives.
    • Mission/strategic plan.
    • Community information.

    It may also be helpful for the website to include videos that showcase the facilities, town, and people associated with the residency program such as faculty, current residents, nurses, and staff. This allows applicants to get a sense of the program’s culture and environment before interviewing.

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    Social Media

    Since social media has become a part of modern culture, the preferred social media platforms have continued to change and evolve. In light of this, it is recommended that residency programs confirm which platforms are most popular with the majority of their applicants and hone their social media efforts accordingly. By actively utilizing these channels, programs can share content that focuses on the educational experiences and daily lives of residents, giving applicants valuable insights into their future journey. While research and educational content remain important, priority should be given to showcasing the program’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is worth noting that underrepresented in medicine (URiM) applicants place significant importance on an institution’s social media presence when making decisions about attending (Strumpf et al., 2023). Therefore, leveraging social media offers an opportunity for programs to not only inform but also engage with a wider audience of prospective residents.

    The table below provides some ideas for digital substitutes that can be used to address common applicant questions:

    Common In-Person Applicant Questions Digital Substitutes
    Do attending physicians provide intraoperative teaching?
    • Posts showing attending physicians and residents working together in the operating room on various open and microscopy cases.
    Does the institution support research?
    • Posts by the program and attending physicians highlighting resident publications.
    • Posts of residents at clinical conferences or podium presentations.
    Is there a community among the residents and do they have time for extracurricular activities?
    • Posts showing residents together at dinners or sporting events.
    • Social media groups or pages with pictures and videos of residents and their families.
    What is it like to live in the program’s city?
    • Posts by residents highlighting the city, parks, dining scenes, or sporting venues.
    • Posts with a link to “a day in the life” point of view video of a resident’s daily activities.

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    Structured Virtual Social Events

    Applicants highly value opportunities to gain insights into residency programs through structured virtual social events. These events provide a platform for applicants to interact with current residents in an informal setting, free from the pressures of the selection process. By engaging in such events, applicants can better grasp the unique culture and atmosphere of the institution. While the nature of these events may vary depending on available resources, here are some examples that programs may consider implementing:

    • Virtual breakout rooms. These smaller group settings create a welcoming environment where applicants can comfortably ask questions and engage in discussions.
    • Resident-led social hours. By excluding faculty presence, applicants can freely connect with current residents and gain authentic perspectives on the residency experience.
    • Open discussion sessions. Incorporating preformatted discussion topics along with dedicated time for applicant questions allows for both structured and spontaneous interactions.

    To further foster open communication, programs may also consider offering an anonymous survey where applicants can submit questions they may feel hesitant to ask openly. This provides an additional avenue for applicants to seek information while respecting their privacy and comfort levels.

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    Additional Considerations When Preparing for Virtual Interviews

    Below are some considerations for preparing for virtual interviews, in particular, regarding the environment in which you conduct the interview and the use of technology.

    Identify a suitable environment:

    • Identify a private, quiet, and well-lit space where you can complete the interview by yourself. The space should be free of potential distractions, where you can speak freely. To the extent possible, make sure you have control over the background noise.
    • Make sure enough light is available (e.g., window, lamp) so the applicant can see you clearly. If you’re doing the interview at night, make sure there’s a lamp available that can light up your face.
    • Consider the backdrop you will use during your interview and try to keep it neat and free of distractions.
    • Have an outlet nearby in case you need to plug in your device.

    Practice using technology before conducting interviews:

    • Check your microphone and camera to make sure they’re working well and that both the picture and sound are good quality.
    • Check your internet speed. You can do this it at SpeedTest.net. Sometimes switching from Wi-Fi to a wired ethernet connection improves your internet speed. If your home’s internet connection is too slow, consider using a space at your institution where you can do the interview in a private room with stable Wi-Fi.
    • Note how the camera and microphone are positioned so you can recreate a setup that works when you log in to the system to complete your actual interview.
    • Make a trial call to someone you know to practice using the software program you will use for the interview and collect feedback on your audio and video.

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    Peer-Reviewed Articles About Conveying Program Culture in a Virtual Context

    1. Brian R, Wang JJ, Park KM, et al. Virtual interviews: assessing how expectations meet reality. J Surg Edu. 2022;80(2), 200–207.
    2. Finney N, Stopenski S, Smith BR. Applicant perspectives of virtual general surgery residency interviews. Am Surg. 2022;88(10), 2556–2560.
    3. Huppert, LA, Hsiao EC, Cho KC, et al. Virtual interviews at graduate medical education training programs: determining evidence-based best practices. Acad Med. 2020;96(8), 1137–1145.
    4. Lee E, Terhaar S, Shakhtour L, et al. Virtual residency interviews during the covid-19 pandemic: the applicant’s perspective. South Med J. 2022;115(9), 698–706.
    5. Ponterio JM, Levy L, Lakhi NA. Evaluation of the virtual interviews for resident recruitment due to covid-19 travel restrictions: a nationwide survey of us senior medical students. Fam Med. 2022;54(10), 776–783.
    6. Robinson KA, Shin B, Gangadharan SP. A comparison between in-person and virtual fellowship interviews during the covid-19 pandemic. J Surg Edu. 2021;78(4), 1175–1181.
    7. Singh A, Haddad AG, Krupp JC. Reply: covid-19, virtual interviews, and the selection quandary: how a program’s digital footprint influences the plastic surgery match. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2022;149(6), 1263e–1264e.
    8. Steele TN, Prabhu SS, Layton RG, Runyan CM, David LR. The virtual interview experience: advantages, disadvantages, and trends in applicant behavior. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2022;10(11), e4677.
    9. Strumpf Z, Miller C, Abbas KZ, Livingston D, Shaman Z, Matta, M. Year two of virtual interviews: longitudinal changes and diverse perspectives. BMC Med Edu. 2022;23(1), 41.