Both of us (WF, JA) interviewed for our medicine internship positions during the fall-winter of 1968. Wearing our dark pressed suits, we visited, by invitation, institutions of interest where we might ultimately get selected in the match for house-staff training. The interview process in a given hospital usually took a half to an entire day, where we met in person with the current house staff and the members of the attending staff. The interview day also included a selective tour of the institution (emergency department, wards, and clinics), breakfast, lunch (sometimes a dinner the night before), and sometimes we attended morning report and/or grand rounds. We had 1-2 formal interviews with attending physicians, sometimes by committee, and often meetings with the chief resident and/or the Chairman of Medicine. The interviews then were a bit intimidating, and there would be questions asked of us regarding our clinical knowledge and research experiences, and sometimes about our political opinions (Richard Nixon was elected President in the fall of 1968). However, we did have the inner assurance that if the program didn't want us, they wouldn't have asked us to come for an interview in the first place. At the end of the encounter, we also would wait for “Son, if you rank us first you will match here,” a promise often not kept by either side.
With the COVID-19 epidemic reaching an early peak in March 2020, all the medical schools in the country suspended on-site basic science teaching for students and clinical rotations. Away clinical electives were eliminated, the house-staff interview process would become “virtual” for training programs throughout North America during the following fall and winter.
Applicants no longer had on-site personal interviews, but a face-to-face web conferencing interaction. Luckily, the technology was available to accomplish this. Both of us (WF, JA) participated in these “Zoom” house-staff and fellowship interviews, and although not perfect (we couldn't visualize the trembling hands of an applicant), the technology provided a satisfactory process for getting to know the individual, along with having detailed paper application folders still available of the candidates.
To get around the personal visit to our institutions, a website presentation about the hospital is available, and for those applicants granted an interview, video presentations were sent out days before, which included a welcome by the Chairman of Medicine and the program directors, the chief residents, and other house-staff members. Videos showing the campus and the hospital are also included.
Overall, the virtual interview process for house staff was a great success nationwide, and included in the Table
are lists of the pros and cons related to the experiences utilizing this new technology.
TablePros and Cons of Virtual Zoom Interviews
In conclusion, the virtual interview process has been a “virtual” game changer, and we predict that this will become the new standard for the future, post COVID. However, for it to be successful long term, all the training programs, in North America and perhaps the world, must adapt to this process, which will undergo ongoing refinements, similar to the universal adaptation of the match by training programs.
Male and female applicants can still wear their dark suits at their interviews; however, this time in front of a computer screen.
Published online: March 11, 2021
Conflicts of Interest: None.
Authorship: Both authors participated in the preparation of this manuscript.
© 2021 Published by Elsevier Inc.