From how to position webcams to proper etiquette in virtual social events, no detail was overlooked in preparing OUWB’s Class of 2021 for the unique residency interview season currently underway.

Practice, practice, practice: How OUWB prepared M4s for a virtual residency interview season
An image of virtual residency interview
Banners like the one in this image were created for OUWB students to hang behind them during virtual residency interviews.

From how to position webcams to proper etiquette in virtual social events, no detail was overlooked in preparing OUWB’s Class of 2021 for the unique residency interview season currently underway.

So said Sandra LaBlance, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs, who indicated the unique process of preparing fourth-year medical students (M4s) for a different kind of residency interview season began in March.

Changes in planning were needed this year because the interviews are taking place virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, interviews are done in-person.

“Our students are prepared and in good position to do well in terms of the match process,” said LaBlance. “We did everything we could to get them ready.”

Among other things, OUWB’s Student Affairs team recruited more than 30 faculty members and residents from Beaumont Health and OUWB to conduct about 200 hours of practice interviews with M4s.

They also arranged for nearly 40 locations on the campuses of Oakland University and Beaumont Health that will allow students to set up for interviews, held mock social events, and more.

“I felt good,” said Bhavneet (Bobby) Singh, OUWB M4. “It was nice to have the ability to set up mock interviews with physicians. They gave some really good advice and really helped me feel better going into my interviews.”

Rethinking the process

Using a timeline established annually by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), medical students typically begin putting their applications into the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) in June of their third year.

In mid-September, applications are released to the various residency programs. Interviews generally take place between November and January. Students then have until late February to place their rank order lists into the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) where the final match is determined. Match Day is traditionally scheduled for the third Friday of March. 

For 2020, everything was pushed back a month and adjusted for virtual interviewing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Match Day remains scheduled for the third Friday of March.)

Berkley Browne


OUWB’s Student Affairs started planning for the changes almost as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting everyone’s life, said Berkley Browne, Ph.D., assistant dean for Student Affairs.

“Back in March, we started thinking there would be a chance our students wouldn’t be able to go on residency interviews,” said Browne. “We needed to rethink how we were going to deliver all the preparation sessions that we deliver.”

A significant amount of time was spent preparing students for virtual interviews, said Browne.

“We’ve helped students with virtual interviewing skills before, but not to this scale,” she said.

Professional perceptions

Browne said the increased level of engagement from faculty members and residents and was one of many positives to come out of the process.

“Being virtual has allowed for clinical faculty to get more involved, particularly with the mock interviews,” she said.

Beyond helping with interviewing skills, school officials set out to help students understand the uniqueness of the virtual interview environment.

Tips included helping students understand how to position cameras properly, have the right lighting, and identify appropriate backgrounds. OUWB banners were created for students to hang behind them during interviews, too. 


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“The room you’re interviewing in is going to be a reflection of who you are,” said LaBlance. “Your background can have an impact on how interviewers perceive you and the thought you put into presenting yourself.”

Further, OUWB’s Student Affairs also identified as many interview locations as possible for students to access at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, and on the OUWB campus.

Browne said there are numerous reasons an M4 might want to find a different location to do their virtual interviews. Those reasons include wanting to avoid any potential Internet connection issues or just about any other distraction that could be in the home setting, she said.

Students had the option to to take part in two mock interviews that were followed by a debriefing.

“The feedback does give students more to think about,” Browne said. “All of the sudden, it matters what their apartments or bedrooms look like when those cameras are on.”

In addition to the mock interviews, Student Affairs also arranged for two virtual mock social events for students to experience socializing in this way. Browne said many residency programs are offering such events as part of the interview process, replacing traditional in-person social gatherings intended to help interviewees get a feel for programs.

“I think the virtual social events are going to be the most different for our students,” she said. “If you’re at a dinner or cocktail party, everybody’s chatting. In a virtual situation, people are waiting to speak…and it’s a lot more obvious if you’re not talking.”

‘Prepared and in good position’

Overall, LaBlance and Browne feel good about the M4s’ level of preparedness for the current interview season.

“Based on the early feedback from students, they found the preparation helpful,” said Browne.

LaBlance said the true measure of success will be on Match Day.

“We meet with the student to get feedback on how their interviews are going so we can help them along the way,” she said. “In the end, though, we’ll really know on Match Day — how successful they are and how happy they are with the results.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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