Residents & Young Ophthalmologists

Surgeon applicants divided on ideal interview format for retina fellowships

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There is a nuanced balance between the cost advantages of virtual interviews and the enhanced ability to gain a more accurate perception of the program and location offered by in-person interviews for surgical retina fellowship applicants, according to a study that found applicants with mostly or completely virtual interviews experienced lower average expenditures but reported a diminished ability to understand the program and location compared to those participating in in-person interviews.

The study, conducted across 3 vitreoretinal surgery fellowship programs, included a survey distributed via email to all applicants for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 application cycles. Overall, 36 out of 151 applicants responded.

Participants were questioned on various aspects, including cost, scheduling burdens, the ability to assess the program, location, and preceptor, as well as the number of applications and interviews completed, and the impact on work and surgical days.

Key findings:

Cost Considerations: The study found that applicants with mostly or completely virtual interviews reported significantly lower average expenditures compared to those with mostly in-person or a combination of virtual and in-person interviews (P < 0.001).

Perception of Programs: Applicants with mostly virtual interviews expressed a lower ability to gain a true perception of the program and its location compared to those with in-person interviews (P = 0.003 and P < 0.001, respectively).

Interview Preferences: When asked about their preferred interview format, participants who interviewed mostly in-person largely favored in-person interviews (72.7%). However, those who interviewed mostly or completely virtually were evenly split between in-person, virtual, and hybrid formats (P = 0.136).

As fellowship programs and institutions grapple with the decision of whether to return to in-person interviews or maintain a virtual format in the long term, the study suggests a complex interplay of factors. While virtual interviews offer cost advantages, in-person interactions provide a more accurate perception of the program and location, potentially leading to greater satisfaction with the in-person format. The findings underscore the need for a careful balance between the financial considerations of virtual interviews and the value of in-person interactions in shaping the overall fellowship experience.

Besagar S, Patel S, Vajzovic L, et al. Applicant Perceptions of In-Person versus Virtual Interview Format for Surgical Retina Fellowship. J Acad Ophthalmol. 2023;15(2):e271-e275. doi: 10.1055/s-0043-1777415. PMID: 38059192; PMCID: PMC10697792.