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Virtual Interview Guidance

Published on Tuesday, June 15, 2021

From the APPIC Board of Directors:

The intent of this document is to provide guidance for the upcoming 2022-2023 doctoral internship and postdoctoral selection season. As the COVID-19 public health crisis improves, we anticipate the pandemic having less of an impact on the ability to travel, hold in-person meetings and attend public gatherings, all of which have historically played a central role in Health Service Psychology (HSP) recruitment and selection processes. While health and safety remain a priority, equitable and inclusive selection processes are equally paramount. Furthermore, a majority of programs successfully implemented fully virtual selection processes in the last cycle and the best practices and lessons learned can be capitalized upon in future selection cycles.

The APPIC Board of Directors supports the autonomy of internship and postdoctoral programs in ensuring the safest and most equitable selection process. Thus, this document is not intended to override the judgment and responsibility of doctoral programs, internship programs, postdoctoral programs, and the larger institutions where they reside. The process for developing the current guidance was iterative and involved review of evolving recommendations from other healthcare disciplines, input from subject matter experts, review of recently collected APPIC Survey Data from applicants and training directors, and the consideration of five guiding principles listed below.

 

Guiding principles:

•     Safety. The safety of HSP service recipients, trainees, trainers, and our communities is of utmost importance.

•     Equity. It is vital to make the HSP recruitment and selection process as accessible and fair as possible for diverse applicants and programs.

•     Ethics. Reliance on an ethical framework for decision-making to guard against bias and lapses during a stressful time when systems and the people within them are taxed.

•     Science. Use of science, evidence-based findings, and the recommendations of public health experts to inform our process and recommended procedures.

•     Autonomy. It is acknowledged that training programs will have different requirements and needs; therefore, programs will have final determination of the most appropriate pathways for their own programs to safely evaluate applicants.

 

What we learned from internship applicants about virtual interviews

•     In 2021, applicants indicated a strong preference for virtual interviews. This finding is a change from the  2016 Applicant Survey Results when applicants ranked on-site interviews as their #1 preference.

•     69% of applicants have a preference for continuing virtual interviews even if there are no pandemic-related concerns.

•     Despite this preference, applicants reported that if they were provided an option by the training program between an in-person interview versus a virtual interview, they would be concerned that choosing a virtual option would negatively impact a program’s ranking of them.

•     Applicants indicated virtual interviews were most effective for being able to discuss the training program with current interns, for getting to know the training staff, and for learning about the training experiences.

•     A virtual format was least effective for learning about the physical space of the program, the community, and location of the program.

•     Applicants indicated the most helpful aspects of virtual interviews were having interviews in one day, meeting with interns, and individual rather than group interviews.

•     Group interviews were perceived to be the least effective.

 

What we learned from internship training directors (TDs) about virtual interviews

•     Over 98% of internship programs offered exclusively virtual interviews for the 2021-2022 application cycle.

•     46% of internship TDs preferred virtual interviews of 2 hours or less in duration.

•     38% of internship TDs preferred virtual interviews of 4-5 hours duration.

•     90% of internship TDs reported adequate access for virtual interviews.

•     The majority of internship TDs indicated having interviews in one day to be most effective.

•     47% of internship TDs indicated virtual interviews were effective in providing applicants with necessary information about their site.

•     55% of internship TDs indicated virtual interviews were effective in gathering necessary information to rank applicants.

•     88% of internship TDs were very likely or likely to use virtual interviews for recruitment next year.

•     62% of internship TDs cited social justice and equity as reasons for their virtual interview preferences.

 

What we learned from postdoctoral fellowship applicants about virtual interviews

•     Overall, postdoctoral applicants were very to extremely satisfied with virtual selection processes.

•     Postdoctoral applicants listed reduced travel costs and time, ease of managing scheduling interviews, and an ability to apply to a broader geographic area as benefits of a virtual selection process.

•     Similar to interns, postdoctoral applicants indicated gaining an understanding of the program’s training experiences, discussing the program with current trainees, getting to know the training staff/supervisors, gaining a feel for the program’s overall culture and diversity/inclusion as the most effective aspects of the virtual interview process.

•     Virtual interviews were least effective for learning about the geographic location, community, and seeing the physical space of the institution.

•     Postdoctoral applicants rated individual interviews, meeting with current postdocs, interviews occurring within one day, online brochures or websites, and communication about the selection instructions as most helpful.

•     Four hours or less duration of an interview was most optimal from a postdoctoral applicant's perspective.

•     55% of postdoctoral applicants rated virtual interviews as being the same or better than in-person interviews (than they had experienced when applying to internship, pre-pandemic).

•     57% of postdoctoral applicants indicated a preference for virtual interviews in the future, regardless of pandemic while 21.8% of postdoctoral applicants indicated a preference for in-person interviews in the future regardless of pandemic.

•     73% of applicants would be concerned or very concerned that they would be penalized (ranked lower) if they chose to interview virtually at a site that had also offered in-person interviews.

 

What we learned from postdoctoral fellowship training directors (TDs) about virtual interviews

•     84% of fellowship programs offered exclusively virtual interviews for the 2021-2022 application cycle.

•     35% of fellowship TDs preferred virtual interviews of 2 hours or less in duration

•     34% of fellowship TDs preferred virtual interviews of 4-5 hours duration

•     The majority of fellowship TDs had good access to video conferencing options, saw value in engaging in virtual interviews, and had good skills with video conferencing platforms.

•     The majority of fellowship TDs perceived their virtual interview formats were effective with several components of their selection process including meeting with current postdocs, individual interviews with staff, communication and instructions about thevirtual interview process, interviews occurring in one day, online brochures, and information orienting applicants to the geographic area.

•     53% of fellowship TDs indicated virtual interviews were effective in gathering necessary information to rank applicants.

•     61% of fellowship TDs were very likely or likely to use virtual interviews for recruitment next year.

•     A majority of fellowship TDs cited social justice and equity as reasons for their virtual interview preferences for next year.

 

CONSIDERATIONS:

Guiding Principles: The APPIC Board of Directors recommends doctoral internship and postdoctoral training programs utilize the guiding principles delineated in this document to assist with their decision-making about whether to use virtual or in-person interviews for the upcoming selection season. To come to a decision, sites are encouraged to consider the uniqueness of your site in conjunction with the following questions: Is it safe? Is it equitable? What biases may negatively impact our selection processes? How will we address these biases proactively? What data support our decision to use either virtual or in-person interviews?

 

Survey Data: Both internship and postdoctoral applicants and Training Directors overwhelmingly supported virtual interviews during the pandemic and continue to do so moving forward. It proved to be the safest and most equitable interview format during the pandemic. The APPIC Board of Directors recommends doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship programs incorporate the survey data in their decision-making about the use of virtual or in- person interviews for the upcoming 2022-2023 selection season.

 

Transparency: Training Directors of doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship programs are encouraged to communicate their interview processes accurately in all of their public materials (APPIC Directory, UPPD, website, brochure, etc.) with as much advance notice as possible. Furthermore, any expected changes including any minimum requirements for applicants, COVID-19 related testing, employment/interview related vaccine requirements, quarantine requirements, and recruitment and selection format and processes (with information currently available) should be communicated as clearly as possible in all of their public materials. Please ensure ongoing general and COVID-19 updates occur in all materials as well.

 

Rationale: The APPIC Board of Directors encourages doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship programs to provide applicants with a rationale for in-person interviews at their site and continue to ensure low risk health and safety options for applicants and staff for in-person interviews. In addition, programs must take into consideration the limitations of trainees whose ability to travel is restricted (e.g., perhaps having to quarantine for 2 weeks upon return home state/province/territory) and consider what type of accommodations your program would provide to ensure accessibility and safety.

 

Applicant Concerns: Both the doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship applicants expressed concern that their application would be negatively impacted if they chose to interview virtually, when given the option between virtual or in-person interviews. Thus, it is incumbent upon Training Directors to address how applicants who choose virtual interviews will not be penalized for doing so and how they will mitigate the impact of bias. Furthermore, it is essential for programs to communicate clearly to applicants the ways in which they are ensuring that virtual and in-person interviews will be treated equally by the selection committee. Another concern expressed by applicants was that virtual formats were least effective for learning about the physical space of the program, the community, and the location of the program. We encourage programs to consider the use of virtual tours, informational videos with current staff and interns, and links to local and community based websites to address this concern.

 

Contingency Plan: Although the health crisis is improving, Training Directors are encouraged to develop contingency selection plans ahead of time and clearly communicate the plan in all public materials to inform applicants how your site will proceed with selection processes, should health and safety concerns increase.

 

US-Canada Considerations: Doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship programs must consider the impact of requiring in-person interviews given the uncertainty with ease of access across the US-Canada border and how this may impact international applicants. The APPIC board does not want to discourage cross-border applications/interviews/training per se; however, the board does strongly encourage applicants and programs alike to be fully aware of and prepared to navigate the multiple costs, barriers and complications that arise in cross-border recruitment, selection and training situations. Furthermore, programs must consider similar factors when matching with applicants from international countries, states, provinces, or territories given the possibility of difficulties with travel, visas, immigration, institutional requirements, and the political landscape. More information on this topic can be found on our COVID-19 FAQ's and at a conference program titled  SUCCESSFULLY MATCHING, TRAINING AND GRADUATING INTERNATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY INTERNS AND POSTDOCS from our 2018 Membership Conference.

 

Evaluation of applicants: Doctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowships are encouraged to be creative and innovative with their evaluation strategies of applicants to their programs. It may be beneficial for sites to review their minimum hour requirements, to clearly identify them, and to consider exceptions for applicants whose clinical hours and training experiences were impacted by the pandemic. Relying exclusively on minimum hours requirements is discouraged in general. Given the impact of the pandemic on training and ongoing disruption to training experiences for many applicants, heavily weighting the number of direct service hours over and above other variables may be problematic as direct service hours are likely to be lower than in previous years. To account for these deficits, doctoral programs have implemented additional training opportunities to keep improving their students' skills (e.g. simulated patient exercises, online training) and to prepare them for internship. Thus, minimum hour and direct service hour requirements should be examined along with other related variables (e.g., evidence of achieved competencies) in evaluating potential candidates.

Respectfully submitted,

APPIC Board of Directors

 

Resources:

https://appic.org/Portals/0/downloads/COVID-19/Comprehensive_Guide_to_Virtual_Interviews_UCM.pdf

  https://ccppp.ca/news/10444471

Visit the APPIC Website for these resources:

Association of American Medical Colleges. (2020) Virtual Interviews: Tips for Program Directors. Association of American Medical Colleges. (2020) Virtual Interviews: Tips for Applicants.

Association of American Medical Colleges. (2016) Best Practice for Completing Residency Interviews.

Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. (2020). Virtual Interviewing Guide

 

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