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Orthopaedic surgery residency program directors (PDs) and candidates consider interviews to be central to the application process. In-person interviews are typical, but virtual interviews present a potentially appealing alternative. Candidate and PD expectations and perceptions of virtual interviews during the 2020/2021 orthopaedic surgery application cycle were assessed.

Methods: Candidates and PDs were surveyed electronically. Questions covered pre-virtual-interview and post-virtual-interview expectations and perceptions, and past in-person experiences (PDs and reapplicants) on the relative importance of application components, ability to assess fit, interview costs, and preferred interview mode. Identical questions allowed between-group comparisons.

Results: Responses included n = 29 PDs and n = 99 candidates. PDs reported diminished ability to assess candidate fit; social, clinical, and surgical skills; and genuine interest in the virtual context (each p ≤ 0.01). They placed greater importance on research and less on the interview in the virtual vs. in-person context (each p = 0.02). Most candidates (78%) reported fair/good ability to demonstrate potential and were better able to assess research opportunities than expected (p < 0.01). Candidates expected virtual interviews to increase the importance of research, transcripts, and recommendations (for each, p ≤ 0.02) and decrease the importance of the interview itself (p < 0.01). Compared with PDs, candidates overvalued research, United States Medical Licensing Examination scores, transcripts, and recommendations (each p ≤ 0.02) and may have slightly undervalued the virtual interview (p = 0.08). Most candidates (81%) and PDs (79%) preferred in-person interviews, despite both groups reporting monetary savings.

Conclusions: Despite cost savings associated with virtual interviews, orthopaedic surgery residency PDs and candidates identified reduced abilities to assess candidate or program fit and displayed a preference for in-person interviews.


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