In-person interviews have traditionally been considered a crucial component of the residency application process. Virtual interviews (VIs) became the standard format for the 2020 to 2021 application cycle due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. VIs offer a new perspective and challenge to this process which warrants unique considerations and further understanding of effects on applicants. Objective This study aimed to assess the perceived efficacy of a VI preparedness exercise for ophthalmology residency applicants in the 2021 residency application cycle. Design, Setting, and Participants A cross-sectional survey was distributed online. All participants in a mock VI exercise conducted via video-telecommunication technology were invited to complete the survey. Data collection occurred from October 12, 2020, to November 2, 2020. A follow-up survey after a match results released was distributed to all participants and data collection occurred from February 18, 2021, to February 25, 2021.
Main Outcome and Measures
Applicant demographics, comfort, and attitudes toward VIs and VI practice were the primary measurements of this study.
Responses to the initial survey were received from all 35 participants (100%) in the VI mock interviews. There was a statistically significant difference between the pre- and post-interview responses for “How prepared do you feel for virtual interviews with residency programs?” (p = 0.0003) and “How likely are you to practice virtual interviews with someone you know?” (p = 0.0023). Participants reported feeling more prepared for VIs with residency programs after the mock interview (p = 0.002). A greater proportion of participants responded with “Very Likely” after the mock interview in comparison to before the interview to the questions “How likely are you to practice interviews with someone you know?” (p = 0.039) and “How likely are you to practice virtual interviews in the same room/area as you will during the official interview season?” (p = 0.021). Of the 35 original participants, 20 completed the follow-up survey. There were an equal number of participants who responded either “Helped Somewhat” (n = 9) or “Helped Greatly” (n = 9) to “How much did the VI mock exercise help you for the actual interview season?” in the follow-up survey. The majority of follow-up survey respondents (17/20) reported that they had additional practice in the virtual environment for interviews after the VI mock exercise. There was no significant difference in perceived helpfulness of the VI mock exercise during the actual interview season between matched and unmatched participants. Conclusion and Relevance As residency applicants prepare for future VIs, practice and adequate preparation will be essential. In this study, implementation of a VI preparedness exercise had a positive impact on applicants' perception of their preparedness and intention to practice the format in the future.