Context: The ideal format for residency and fellowship interviews has been consistently debated. Secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions, including all hand surgery fellowship programs, transitioned interviews to an all-virtual format. In the past year, with ease of travel restrictions, some programs have transitioned back to in-person interviews, while others remain solely virtual. Hand surgery fellowship programs are continually assessing what are the best means for conducting these interviews, with little perspective regarding the applicant’s preferences.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine hand surgery fellowship applicants’ perspectives regarding in-person and virtual interviews. It was hypothesized that applicants would value interpersonal relationships between faculty when deciding upon their ideal hand surgery fellowship, which would be easier to appreciate in-person.
Methods: All hand fellowship interviewees at a single institution were given a voluntary, electronic survey. The survey consisted of questions examining different aspects of the program’s interview day and supplemental resources. Responses were recorded after the in-person interview for the years 2018–2020. Questions were altered for the virtual 2021 and 2022 interviews. Questions were scored on a Likert scale.
Results: For the in-person interview cycles, there were 60/86 respondents (69.8 %). For the virtual interview cycles, there were 45/73 respondents (61.6 %). During the in-person interview cycles, applicants reported that the current fellows’ perspective talk was the most helpful component. Many applicants commented that they enjoyed meeting their potential co-fellows. The virtual interviewees felt that they had the best understanding of the program’s core values/culture and the worst understanding of faculty personalities and personal/family life. Twenty-nine (64.4 %) of virtual applicants would prefer an all in-person interview. Of the 16 respondents who did not advocate for a completely in-person interview, 56.3 % preferred the option for an in-person site visit.
Conclusions: Hand surgery fellowship applicants desire interpersonal interactions to better understand prospective fellowship programs, which can be difficult to convey with an all-virtual interview. The results of this survey can help guide fellowship programs as they continue to optimize in-person, virtual, and hybrid interview formats and refine recruitment resources.