Perceptions of Preference Signaling in Orthopaedic Surgery: A Survey of Applicants and Program Directors

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To improve transparency between candidates and training programs, a preference signaling program (PSP) was implemented before the 2022 to 2023 orthopaedic surgery match. The PSP allows applicants to ‘signal’ up to 30 programs, informing the program of the applicant's particular interest in interviewing for their available position(s). This study reports the perspectives of orthopaedic surgery residency applicants and program directors (PDs) on the effects of preference signaling on the orthopaedic match.


Electronic surveys were distributed to PDs and applicants.


Almost all programs participated in the PSP (90%), and most of the applicants (97.6%) used 25 to 30 of their allotted preference signals. Most of the applicants (67.2%) thought that their likelihood of obtaining an interview was improved at ‘signaled’ programs but decreased at programs without a ‘signal’ designation (85.3%). Both applicants and PDs considered preference signaling to be one of the three most important factors for interview selection, along with Step 2 CK score and letters of recommendation. The applicants did not think that their likelihood of matching would improve with fewer allotted signaling tokens (35.2%), and 55.2% of PDs believed 21 to 30 tokens were optimal.


Preference signaling is highly regarded by applicants and PDs. Signaling a program will likely improve an applicant's chance to interview. The optimal number of signaling tokens remains unknown, although both groups favored a larger allotment of tokens than has been seen in other specialties. Universal guidelines and recommendations for applicants and PDs would improve the utility of preference signaling.



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