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Interview guidelines for programs

CaRMS, in conjunction with the Undergraduate/Postgraduate Medical Education (UGME/PGME) standing committees of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), has developed guidelines to assist programs in conducting applicant interviews. These guidelines are based on the terms of the CaRMS agreements, CaRMS privacy policy, as well as applicable privacy and human rights legislation.

We encourage UGME/PGME standing committees to develop their own program-specific materials and to consult with their own legal counsel as required.

General match participation principles

As an institution or program, you have the responsibility to:

  • Define specific eligibility criteria for your residency program(s).
  • Recruit, select or rank the most suitable persons based on your programs’ criteria.
  • Set employment terms and conditions.
  • Require Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status.

In addition, the following match principles apply:

  • You must provide all required information related to your program description and selection criteria to CaRMS in a timely manner.
  • You must schedule any mandatory out-of-town interviews in accordance with the CaRMS program timetable.
  • Institutions, programs and applicants are bound by their CaRMS agreements. We advise you to carefully review all CaRMS policies.

In accordance with CaRMS’ privacy policy and the institution contracts, you are only permitted to use and/or hold the personal information of applicants, disclosed to you by CaRMS, for the purpose of selecting candidates for postgraduate residency training programs. You must securely destroy, delete or convert personal information into anonymous form for all unmatched applicants unless otherwise permitted by CaRMS.

Applicant rights

Applicant rights are defined by applicable human rights legislation that is intended to ensure all individuals have equal employment opportunities without regard to: race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, family or marital status, sex, a pardoned conviction, disability or sexual orientation.

Human rights legislation is not intended to prevent organizations from choosing candidates based on skills that are required for the position. A particular skill or qualification can be specified if the preference is based on a bona fide occupational requirement. Occupational requirements should focus on a person’s actual ability – not assumptions based on a group characteristic. We encourage your selection committees to obtain additional information on determining bona fide occupational requirements from the human rights office within your institution or from the human rights commission in your province/territory.

Preparing for interviews

We recommend you keep applicants informed about the progress and status of their application, including:

  • Communicating with unsuccessful applicants by thanking them for their interest in the program and informing them that they will not be invited to an interview.
  • Inviting shortlisted applicants for an interview, in keeping with the CaRMS match timetables, no less than three weeks before the interview date and coordinating interview itineraries for out-of-town interviewees within the national interview period.

The following tips will help you prepare for conducting interviews:

  • Prior to interviews, develop a set of questions to ask all applicants – including internal applicants.
  • Determine, in advance of interviews, the criteria that will be used in decisions to NOT rank an applicant.
  • Determine, in advance of interviews, the criteria for ranking applicants scored equally.
  • Ask all applicants, regardless of their gender, about their ability and availability to travel to distributed and/or distant training sites.
  • Ask questions that relate directly to the residency position and avoid questions relating to protected human rights grounds. Human rights legislation prohibits both intentional and unintentional discrimination. Keep in mind that compliance with human rights legislation does not rest upon intentions, but rather upon the consistency with which applicants are treated and the types of questions they are asked. Ensure that questions assess criteria that can be evaluated objectively.
  • It may be reasonable for the selection committee to consider “fit” when evaluating applicants. “Fit” refers to an applicant’s ability to make a positive contribution to the program environment. However, “fit” must not be used inappropriately to indulge personal biases or to discriminate against applicants.
  • Ensure conversations and written communications with applicants do not depart from the university’s policies and collective agreements.
  • Remember that applicants are also making decisions about which universities/programs to rank.

Interview tips

We have compiled the following tips for conducting interviews:

  • Interviews should be conducted in privacy and without interruption.
  • Interview length is left to your discretion. CaRMS urges you to keep in mind the travel costs and effort applicants dedicate to attending interviews. We also suggest you consider allowing a minimum of 30 minutes per interview or 30 minutes total for multiple short interviews. Other recruitment strategies such as tours and meeting with residents will require additional time.
  • Interviews must be free of intimidation.
  • Interviews cannot include personal questions about family, religion, marital status, age or finances.
  • Interviews cannot include questions, allusions, remarks or coercion about other applications, interviews or ranking.
  • Interviewers cannot exert undue or unwarranted pressure on the selection decisions of applicants. Both applicants and participating residency programs may express a high degree of interest in each other but may not make statements implying a commitment.
  • Program directors and/or agents of the program (e.g. faculty members, interviewing teams including residents) are not permitted to ask applicants how they intend to rank programs or request any information on other programs the applicant may have applied to.
  • Reference letters are confidential and should not be shown to the applicant, nor should their content be revealed to the applicant.
  • Reliable decisions are those based on aggregates of multiple assessments, either in the form of multiple interviews, multiple interviewers or both.

We also encourage you to develop your own additional guidelines and to provide faculty/interviewer education sessions and workshops outlining the guidelines and policies relevant to your own university and provincial legislation.

Sample questions

The questions you ask during the interview process must respect the applicant’s rights but are left entirely to programs’ discretion. We have provided samples of appropriate and inappropriate questions to help guide you in preparing your interview questions.

Examples of appropriate questions:

  • How do you deal with problems when they arise?
  • What are you looking for in terms of learning opportunities?
  • What have you found to be your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What has your experience been in working with people in authority?
  • Do you have any ideas about how you learn best?
  • Are you legally entitled to work in Canada?
  • What past experiences have you had that would suit you to undertake this residency program?

Examples of inappropriate questions:

  • Where were you born?
  • How old are you?
  • What is your ethnic background?
  • Are you married/planning marriage?
  • What does your spouse do for a living? Is the job transferable?
  • Do you have children or plan to have children?
  • What is your sexual orientation?
  • What is your religion?
  • What is your first language?
  • Can a photo be attached to your application or sent to the interviewer before the interview? (CaRMS will unmask the photograph in the electronic applicant file after the interviews begin.)
  • Please list your disabilities, limitations or health problems?
  • Do you drink or use drugs?
  • Have you ever received psychiatric care or been hospitalized for emotional problems?
  • Have you ever received worker’s compensation?
  • Are you currently under a physician’s care?
  • What is the name of your family doctor?
  • Are you currently receiving counseling or therapy?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Do you have a criminal record?
  • What other programs did you apply to?
  • Have you received other interviews?
  • Do you plan to rank our program?
  • Where on your list will you rank our program?