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Residency Program Coordinators: 5 tips to Sell Your Program Director on Interview Scheduling Software

Posted by: in GME , Productivity , Program Coordinators , Thalamus

Date: July 8, 2019

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With each passing year, the residency application process becomes more competitive and more expensive.  Over the last two decades alone, the average number of applications submitted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) has eclipsed 60 applications for US graduates and 150 applications for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) respectively.  

These numbers are five times greater than two decades prior. Overall, the 2018-2019 application season would see over 4.2 million applications submitted, totaling over $80M in cost. 

As a result, programs are receiving hundreds or thousands of applications to fill a limited number of training positions. Similarly, they are interviewing more candidates than ever before, at times between 10 and 20 candidates for each position offered. The majority of this burden is falling on residency program coordinators and directors, whose time is being further monopolized by this process.

Yet, fortunately for program leadership, several technological solutions have become available to streamline this process. This post will focus on interview scheduling software, its benefits, and ways for program coordinators—the gatekeepers, managers and unsung heroes of this process—to sell their program director on optimizing their recruitment by using this unique tool.

One: Candidates want it.

Millennials have become the largest cohort in the current US workforce.  Medicine has followed suit. Graduating students rely on technology more and more with each passing day. Today, nearly all appointments of any nature may be booked online. This includes OpenTable for restaurant reservations, ZocDoc to book a doctor’s appointment, and online reservation systems for visits to the DMV! Mobile phones have also created a world where information is at everyone’s fingertips.  

It should, then, come as no surprise that candidates want a similar experience when scheduling their residency interviews. In fact, several studies have been completed showing that the overwhelming majority of candidates prefer online scheduling to traditional phone/email scheduling. This has matched internal surveys we have done at Thalamus of >5,000 candidates, which has shown similar results.  

Candidates prefer online scheduling due to the ease and flexibility of booking. It eliminates having to wait for an interview confirmation and quicker ability to book travel, which in the long run saves candidates money. Applicants also view programs’ use of such software as a program’s commitment to technology and their trainees’ overall wellbeing, thereby affecting the branding possibilities for your program as well.  

Two: Program coordinators want it: it improves job satisfaction, increases productivity, decreases burnout, and enhances the personal touch. 

The duties of a program coordinator are both plentiful and varied.  Throughout interview season, program coordinators still have to maintain their duties running their residency program IN ADDITION to managing the entire recruitment process. As a result, it is not uncommon for program coordinators to work weekends during interview season (we know first-hand because our customer service team has been happy to work with program coordinators most weekends during this time…).

Throughout the five-year history of Thalamus, >90% of our program coordinators have experienced improved job satisfaction and >80% reported decreased burnout.  90% reported saving significant time due to a 95% reduction in emails and phone calls. 

One question we field often is “What about the personal touch?  I love interacting with the candidates and learn a lot about them on a phone call.” Well, with Thalamus, >90% of coordinators report enhancement of the personal touch. Program coordinators can still call their applicants if they like, but it eliminates the monotony of scheduling hundreds of interviews through automation.  

Three: Your program director will love it. Because it means more than just scheduling.

Thalamus is proud of our >99% program retention rate.  We are able to celebrate this because program directors truly value our product and recognize the efficiencies and synergies it provides to themselves, their coordinators and their candidates. >95% report that Thalamus provides an added recruitment benefit and >85% notice a significant increase in program management efficiency.

But most importantly, comprehensive software like Thalamus provides more than just interview scheduling. Waitlist management, rescheduling, additional interviews, facesheet creation, itinerary building, applicant scoring and evaluation, and even automated rank lists all become possible. 

For less than the price of an interview day dinner, programs may enjoy a secure, accessible and easy-to-use recruitment platform. If your program director loves data, you can impress them with instantaneous data reports.  

Four: It’s all about the data

The program coordinators we speak with often mention that their program director likes to use data for interview management and rank list decisions. Well, online software provides the easiest way to manage and collect such data. Software such as Thalamus tracks candidate scheduling, aggregates data, and provides outputs in the form of customizable reports.

Additionally, one of our newest initiatives is using interview data to help provide programs greater insight into their recruitment processes. As the process becomes more competitive, it is vital for programs to be able to more easily identify candidates interested in their program. Data allows for such insight, including predictive analytics. 

So if efficiency isn’t enough to get your PD excited, ask them if data would be useful? Software can better aid programs in recruiting the best residents to their programs.

Five: New specialty-specific guidelines may impact the future of recruitment.

As application inflation continues to be more of an issue, specialty-specific organizations are considering regulatory changes and recommendations to recruitment processes. Some are mandating specific times when interview invitations may be sent to candidates. Others are proposing a limited window to schedule interviews. As a result, the ability to easily manage data, invite candidates and provide customizable rules for scheduling will continue to streamline the process regardless of what guidelines are implemented.

When customers write to us “Can Thalamus do this if this change occurs?” Our answer is unwaveringly “Yes!” And in the rare event that it cannot, we are continuously building and updating our software to fit any and all scenarios. 

Further, if your program director is on a committee proposing these changes, software such as Thalamus can collect data both before and after new guideline implementation for comparison analysis.

We believe in the power of data because as academics and scientists, we know it is the most evidence-based method of ensuring we promote the best practices for all involved. We are so committed to the process that we’ve submitted letters pointing out an increased need for collaborative studies of GME interview software.

And we practice what we preach, as our analytics team has begun work on several publications utilizing Thalamus data to better optimize the recruitment and interview scheduling process. Our goal is to ensure that we assist our program users in innovating and improving this process for all involved.

Why wouldn’t you?

In summary, interview scheduling software is safe, secure and preferred by all involved in the GME recruitment process. Email, phone calls, and even snail mail are becoming increasingly difficult to manage with worsening application inflation, an issue software can solve with ease.  

Instead of spending weeks to months coordinating your interview season, let interview scheduling software fill your interview season promptly and efficiently, organize and manage wait lists, score candidates, and optimize all other processes that are part of your interview season workflow. Candidates love it. Coordinators love it. Program directors love it. The data helps lead the way and can mitigate issues regardless of current and future administrative policies.

Looking for an interview scheduling software? Thalamus is the most-preferred GME interview management solution by applicants, program coordinators, program directors, and GME leadership. It provides the most comprehensive software package at an affordable price. 

Want to learn more? Please request a demo here or by emailing us at sales@thalamusgme.com. We look forward to hearing from you!


Written by: in GME , Productivity , Program Coordinators , Thalamus

Jason Reminick, MD, MBA, MS, is the CEO and Founder of Thalamus. He is passionate about medical innovation, education, and technology. Jason is a published author with work featured in top journals including The Journal of Graduate Medical Education (JGME) and The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Formerly, Jason trained in the combined Pediatrics/Anesthesiology residency program at Stanford University with clinical interests in pediatric chronic pain management. He was recognized as a Physician of Tomorrow award recipient (2012) by the American Medical Association for his entrepreneurial and medical journalism pursuits. Trapped in NYC during Hurricane Sandy at the start of his residency application season, Jason and Thalamus Coming! Founder Dr. Suzie Karan, are committed to optimizing the application process for applicants and programs alike.

Thalamus is the premier cloud-based interview management platform designed specifically for application to Graduate Medical Education training programs. We are the experts in the residency and fellowship application processes. Learn more about Thalamus.

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