Tip of the week: Remember the importance of first impressions during recruitment

Residency Program Insider, October 5, 2010

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You’ve heard the saying, “First impressions can make or break you.” It holds true during recruitment on both the program and applicant sides. Programs want to make a good impression on potential applicants, who are deciding to which programs to apply.

Make sure your program’s page on the American Medical Association’s Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access (FREIDA) website is complete and up to date. Including comprehensive information regarding the program on this site shows applicants you care about making a good impression by showing them all of the great opportunities your program has to offer. Check links to the program’s website that you post on the FREIDA website. If residents click on the link and receive an error, it does not reflect well on your program.

Most candidates will spend a lot of time reading about your program on your website. Update application deadlines, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and program information, such as rotation schedules, list of hospitals where residents train, goals and objectives, and faculty bios. Several programs include information specifically for potential applicants on their websites, such as:

  • Letter from the program director/department chair
  • Letter from the chief resident(s)
  • Promotional videos showing a typical day in the life of a resident
  • Podcasts created by residents or faculty describing what makes your program better than others
  • Sample manual for new residents
  • Description of special training opportunities available, such as simulation centers

Applicants continue to form impressions as they communicate with the program to submit their application and set up interviews. Coordinators are the face of the program; they are typically the first person with whom candidates interact. Most communication between coordinators and applicants occurs via e-mail, and these exchanges are telling for both the program and the candidate.

By reading applicants’ e-mails, the program coordinator can gauge whether candidates can clearly present their ideas, use the English language appropriately, and conduct themselves professionally. Similarly, the program coordinator’s responses will tell applicants whether the program is willing to answer questions, explain processes, and offer assistance, and whether staff members are courteous, professional, and prompt in responding.

Another impression given, albeit a subtle one, is how important compliance and adherence to deadlines is to the program. If candidates miss the program’s deadlines for application materials, will those candidates have the same problems with timeliness once they’re in the program? If the training program accepts materials after the deadline, it may send the message to candidates that deadlines are not important to the program.

This week’s tip is from The Complete Residency Program Management Guide, by Ruth H. Nawotniak, MS, C-TAGME.

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