This study provides unique insight into the impact of research experiences on the residency interview by showing that on average 40% of interviewers asked students about their research experiences. This supports the previously demonstrated observation in the literature that students with a greater number of research experiences are more likely to be successful in the NRMP match [7,8,9,10]. These findings also challenge applicants to view these experiences as more than simply a bullet on their resume but rather as a dynamic piece of their application about which they should anticipate questions during the interview process. Although this study suggests that interviewers inquire about research experiences less than half of the time, this knowledge provides value to students and advisors as they seek to better understand the role of research on the residency application. Research experiences are discussed during the residency interview at a similar frequency compared with volunteer experiences and work experiences.
All medical students at UACOMP are required to complete a longitudinal SP. Among the medical students surveyed in this study, approximately one-quarter (27%) of their interviewers utilized this as a discussion topic during their residency interview. This finding may encourage medical schools to consider adding programmatic objectives focused on student communication about their scholarly research. This may create opportunities for teaching students not only how to be investigators, but how to communicate their scholarly research in a compelling way. Additionally, a student’s chosen specialty, competitiveness of specialty and relatedness of SP topic to their chosen specialty had no significant impact on the proportion of interviewers inquiring about their SP. This may indicate that interviewers are more interested in the types of skills and traits acquired through scholarly research than the actual topic of the research. Furthermore, this observation may serve to diminish the notion that research is not important for students applying to primary care specialties. Overall, a mandatory scholarly project during medical school could provide a topic of conversation during the interview process regardless of the specialty students are applying for and the relatedness of their research topic to this specialty.
The literature suggests that students with a greater number of publications and presentations are more likely to be successful in the match than their peers [7,8,9,10]. This may lead students to believe that research is only valuable on their application if these milestones are obtained, however, the findings of this study suggest that research may be important as a discussion topic during the interview regardless of whether it received publication and presentation status. It is likely that interviewers see value in discussing these academic endeavors with students regardless of the project’s result. The impressive frequency of publication (48 and 78%) and presentation (33 and 48%) of students’ SP and additional non-SP research, respectively, should not be overlooked. Despite publication and presentation status not significantly impacting the number of interview questions a student received about research, the incorporation of a formal SP curriculum does appear to lead to increased achievement of these milestones. Although measuring the impact of this is beyond the scope of this study, this observation is in line with prior conclusions drawn by the University of Pittsburg .
There are two circumstances in which students may anticipate a greater number of interview questions about their SP. First, if the residency setting is academic the percentage of interviewers asking about a student’s SP increases from 33 to 50%. It is understandable that interviewers at academic programs may use research endeavors to learn more about an applicant’s attributes while interviewers at community programs may utilize alternative discussion topics to get to know the applicant. Second, students who undertake additional research beyond their mandated SP receive a greater number of interview questions about the topic compared to those students who do not undertake additional research, 50% compared to 29%, respectively. It is reasonable that with research experiences making up a more substantial piece of these student’s extracurricular activities, the SP, as a piece of the research portfolio, becomes a more frequent part of the interview discussion than students who only completed mandatory research requirements.
Although multiple interesting observations were revealed in our study, there are several limitations including a small sample size of residency applicants from only a single medical school. The retrospective nature of the survey lends itself to recall bias in which survey participants may not have been accurate in their estimations of the number of interviewers asking them about their experiences. There was range of one to 4 months between student completion of interviews and participation in the study survey. Furthermore, the study population is one-sided in that it only examines the experiences of the interviewee regarding discussions about research during the residency interview and does not evaluate the experience or intentions of the interviewer. Despite these limitations, this study provides unique quantitative observations about the topics of discussion during the residency interview. The findings of this study could help to guide future medical students within our institution regarding the impact of their scholarly project in the residency interview, and it is our hope that these findings may be useful for research programs at other schools of medicine as well.