2016 ACAPS Winter Retreat
The purpose of this study is to examine the integrated plastic surgery residency interview process through a survey of current residents and program directors. Through shared insight into the perceptions, opinions, and experiences of both parties, we hope to improve the interview process by increasing the effectiveness of interview strategy and applicant preparation and satisfaction.
Two online surveys were conducted regarding the interview process and disseminated in December 2015. One was sent to all current integrated plastic surgery residents via their program coordinators. The other survey was distributed to all program directors through American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons. Responses were collected, analyzed, and compared between 2 survey groups.
Survey responses were received from 51 residents and 53 program directors. Applicants ranked informal time with residents as the most valuable interaction during interviews, with most (57%) preferring residents only at the preinterview dinner. Programs were reported using the following interview tasks: reason through a clinical scenario (52.8%), solve an ethical dilemma (50.0%), draw a picture (13.9%), and perform a procedure (2.8%). Additional tools included personality tests, multitasking, and video games. Only 7.7% of programs report asking applicants about their personal beliefs; the majority of applicants were asked by less than 25% of programs and 20% of those surveyed viewed these questions negatively. Thirty-eight percent of programs ask about applicants’ family life. The applicant experience was widely variable, with 1% to 50% of programs inquiring about family life. Fourteen percent of applicants regarded family questions negatively, and 7.7% of programs ask about relationship status. Eighty-three percent of applicants were neutral, and 8% viewed relationship inquiries negatively. In learning about a program, applicants found that rotating at that institution was most valuable followed by unstructured time with residents. Applicants felt program reputation to be most important followed by resident personalities. Family friendliness was the least-valued feature. Forty-nine percent of programs have a preference for future resident career paths. Eighty percent of applicants indicated a career preference; 80% of which were accurate to their actual interest. Hundred percent of programs ask residents’ opinions of applicants, and 73.6% viewed resident opinions as equally valuable as those of an attending. In ranking the value of applicant attributes, both residents’ and program directors’ top 4 attributes were letters of recommendation, interview performance, United States Medical Licensing Examination step 1 score, and rotating time at the respective institution.
Successful matching of applicants to residency training programs is integral to providing an optimal experience to both parties. Although training programs and those seeking admission agree on the importance of many aspects of the interview process, we have identified key areas in which the opinions differ greatly. With the information provided in this study, it is our hope that program directors and applicants alike will more successfully navigate the interview process.