63 Applications Sent
37 Invitations (2 complete, 28 scheduled, 7 unable to schedule)
6 Pending (programs who have not yet sent any invites)
14 Pending (invites sent to others but I have received no response)
Mostly, I’ve managed to schedule my interviews on three two-week swings, one each in November, December and January, with breaks interspersed.
Overall I think the system is shockingly inefficient. Programs often choose one or two dates, which commonly conflict with each other, forcing candidates to choose between several similarly desired programs. This is bad both for programs (because applicants cancel at the last minute and because programs don’t get as many desirable applicants due to scheduling) and for applicants (since they cannot interview at all the programs where they have been invited).
The system could be improved by strongly suggesting that programs to coordinate their dates (e.g. via a central SNS calendar). There are ~100 programs: if each program wants 3 dates, then there could be 300 possible dates. Ideally a central schedule ensure that the same tiers/locations of programs don’t conflict at every opportunity, and that programs in a single location had contiguous interview dates to minimize airplane travel costs (in terms of time, money and fatigue on applicants).
Additionally, interview days are often too long and involve many faculty asking similar questions. I’m not sure what the programs gain from having the program director, multiple senior faculty, and multiple junior faculty speaking with candidates in a (seemingly) uncoordinated fashion. At smaller programs, admittedly, I understand the desire to have every faculty member interview every resident. Applicants *could* gain a lot from speaking with all of these faculty, but the reality is that at most an applicant might get to ask a single question or two since the interviewer (rightly) controls most of the conversation. I often try very gently and tactfully to tie the end of my interview answers with questions for the interviewer, but this works more often in theory than practice. It’s also very difficult to ask most of the questions you really want to ask during a structured interview.
I actually liked the UK system where (as I understand it from speaking with one of the consultants/attendings) there is a more centralized and more practical interview attended by all of the departments (think NFL combine), followed by interviews with each program.
There are some logistical difficulties in translating that system into the larger world of US Neurosurgery with 100 programs and 200-300 applicants, but if the NFL can do it with their pre-draft Combine then so can we. I’m envisioning a one week process with 2 days of knowledge and skills testing, followed by invitations for a further 5 days of interviews with faculty from the program at a centralized location. If the individual school interviews were 2 hours each, one could easily accommodate up to 20 program interviews per applicant in addition to the “combine” testing.
Applicants would then be able to travel to programs of their choice for visits that are more akin to current “second look” visits where they get a better behind-the-scenes glimpse of the programs. Of course, if a program or an applicant wanted to have more than the 20 interview slots available, they could schedule those during their visit.
You are all invited to comment on how terrible this system would be and why my idea sucks.