Medical College of Wisconsin
CTSICores SearchResearch InformaticsREDCap

Discriminatory questions asked during residency programme interviews: perspective from both interviewers and applicants. Postgrad Med J 2021 Jun;97(1148):355-362



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85089733665   2 Citations


BACKGROUND: The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) policy requires interview officials to refrain from asking illegal or coercive questions that may introduce discrimination; however, compliance is insufficient.

METHOD: An Institutional Review Board-approved 12 question survey was distributed to 130 allopathic medical schools with 551 responses from 18 187 students applying in the 2015-2016 residency match. In addition, a 16-question survey was distributed through residency coordinators to residency programme interviewers with 481 responses from 21 of 22 residency specialities.

RESULTS: Discriminatory topics were frequently discussed across all specialities. Surgical interviews were significantly more likely to discuss age (relative risk (RR) 2.0, p<0.01) and gender (RR 2.7, p<0.01) during formal interviews. More-competitive specialities more frequently discussed age (RR 1.9, p<0.01) and gender (RR 2.0, p<0.01) during the formal interview, and gender (RR 1.4, p<0.05) during informal interview events. 47.8% of interviewers discussed potentially coercive topics during the interview, 57.5% considered these topics when evaluating candidates and 72.6% had misunderstandings. Interviewers given both oral and written instruction showed the greatest effect change towards discussing coercive topics (p<0.01) and correctly identifying non-discriminatory and discriminatory topics (p<0.01). While age and gender both constitute discriminatory topics, each of these topics is included in the majority of written The Electronic Residency Application System applications (85.5% and 89.8%, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: In modern recruitment where differential attainment is of interest, the presence of such explicit discrimination is worrisome. Formal interview training might reduce discrimination, but more active overnight is needed and a zero-tolerance approach to overt discrimination should be the ambition.

Author List

Harkin E, Murphy M, Liskutin T, Nystrom L, Wu K, Schiff A


Elizabeth Harkin MD Assistant Professor in the Orthopaedic Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Education, Medical, Graduate
General Surgery
Internship and Residency
Interviews as Topic
Personnel Selection
Surveys and Questionnaires
United States