S01E15 - Illegal Questions

S01E15 - Illegal Questions

Countdown to the MATCH

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Illegal questions are always a hot topic surrounding interviews. As you all know, the NRMP sets very strict communication rules surrounding the Match process, and have very specific requirements of what constitutes “legal” communication.  From the proverbial horse’s mouth, the NRMP Code of Conduct reads: “To promote the highest ethical standards during the interview, ranking, and matching processes, program directors participating in a Match shall commit to: Refraining from asking illegal or coercive questions Program directors shall recognize the negative consequences that can result from questions about age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and family status, and shall ensure that communication with applicants remains focused on the applicant’s goodness of fit within their programs”. Furthermore, federal law prohibits most of these questions for any job, not just residency, and it is illegal to make hiring and firing decisions based on this information.  SDN, reddit, ValueMD, the usual forums people frequent usually have some version of “is this an illegal question” threads with arguments for and against. My personal and professional thought are that they will happen. Overall - it will happen - these things come up in casual conversation all the time, and usually work their way into conversations that are comfortable during an interview session. Sometimes it is not the interviewer, but the applicant who brings it up, and the conversation flows from there. Just a quick PubMed search has a 2016 study from Academic Medicine with a sample size of 11,000 applicants - Two-thirds of applicants reported being asked potentially illegal questions. Their data revealed that more women than men reported receiving questions about marital status or family planning in that study.  Similar results were reported in the initial study in 2013 in the same journal - about two-thirds report an illegal questions, and questions about marriage and childhood were a large majority of those questions. There is no red light, no button, no siren that goes off, and no red phone you pick up to report the incident when these topics slip out, and my recommendation is to just keep rolling and try to redirect to more topical issues. The rules are there to protect YOU, so you can offer the information, hospitals are just not allowed to ask you. Conspiracy theorists will say that you will give too much away by asking these loaded questions - and that may be true, but I’d say you are reading too much into it. Often these are not brought up in a malicious way. Some examples of how they can work their way into conversation: The real Catch-22 in my opinion is that they are important issues to you as an individual - if you have kids childcare is important - if you are a specific religion, perhaps being close to a specific house of worship is important - lots of decisions can hinge on these so called “illegal” topics and could help you pick one program over another, or at least give you some comfort about your overall “fit” with a program. .  If you feel you have been targeted - discuss first with the PD, then the NRMP / ACGME. Thanks for listening, hope you enjoyed the content and find it useful. Please subscribe to catch each new episode as they are uploaded, and if you find the content valuable please take a bit of time to leave a review on iTunes to help get the word out to other med students looking for answers.  Also feel free to give us some feedback on what you think we could improve on. Remember to send your questions to us through our website at www.matchgurus.com, or twitter @theMatchGurus - I personally answer every email and twitter DM we get.  Our book is also available on Amazon in paperback and eBook - less that 10 bucks - it is a quick read you can easily knock out on the flight to your next interview. If you find it helpful, please take some time to leave a review for that on Amazon as well - it means a lot. And of course, any of you looking for in-depth specialty-specific preparation for your interviews drop me a line and we can discuss our coaching packages. Take care.
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Illegal questions are always a hot topic surrounding interviews. As you all know, the NRMP sets very strict communication rules surrounding the Match process, and have very specific requirements of what constitutes “legal” communication.  From the proverbial horse’s mouth, the NRMP Code of Conduct reads: “To promote the highest ethical standards during the interview, ranking, and matching processes, program directors participating in a Match shall commit to: Refraining from asking illegal or coercive questions Program directors shall recognize the negative consequences that can result from questions about age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and family status, and shall ensure that communication with applicants remains focused on the applicant’s goodness of fit within their programs”. Furthermore, federal law prohibits most of these questions for any job, not just residency, and it is illegal to make hiring and firing decisions based on this information.  SDN, reddit, ValueMD, the usual forums people frequent usually have some version of “is this an illegal question” threads with arguments for and against. My personal and professional thought are that they will happen. Overall - it will happen - these things come up in casual conversation all the time, and usually work their way into conversations that are comfortable during an interview session. Sometimes it is not the interviewer, but the applicant who brings it up, and the conversation flows from there. Just a quick PubMed search has a 2016 study from Academic Medicine with a sample size of 11,000 applicants - Two-thirds of applicants reported being asked potentially illegal questions. Their data revealed that more women than men reported receiving questions about marital status or family planning in that study.  Similar results were reported in the initial study in 2013 in the same journal - about two-thirds report an illegal questions, and questions about marriage and childhood were a large majority of those questions. There is no red light, no button, no siren that goes off, and no red phone you pick up to report the incident when these topics slip out, and my recommendation is to just keep rolling and try to redirect to more topical issues. The rules are there to protect YOU, so you can offer the information, hospitals are just not allowed to ask you. Conspiracy theorists will say that you will give too much away by asking these loaded questions - and that may be true, but I’d say you are reading too much into it. Often these are not brought up in a malicious way. Some examples of how they can work their way into conversation: The real Catch-22 in my opinion is that they are important issues to you as an individual - if you have kids childcare is important - if you are a specific religion, perhaps being close to a specific house of worship is important - lots of decisions can hinge on these so called “illegal” topics and could help you pick one program over another, or at least give you some comfort about your overall “fit” with a program. .  If you feel you have been targeted - discuss first with the PD, then the NRMP / ACGME. Thanks for listening, hope you enjoyed the content and find it useful. Please subscribe to catch each new episode as they are uploaded, and if you find the content valuable please take a bit of time to leave a review on iTunes to help get the word out to other med students looking for answers.  Also feel free to give us some feedback on what you think we could improve on. Remember to send your questions to us through our website at www.matchgurus.com, or twitter @theMatchGurus - I personally answer every email and twitter DM we get.  Our book is also available on Amazon in paperback and eBook - less that 10 bucks - it is a quick read you can easily knock out on the flight to your next interview. If you find it helpful, please take some time to leave a review for that on Amazon as well - it means a lot. And of course, any of you looking for in-depth specialty-specific preparation for your interviews drop me a line and we can discuss our coaching packages. Take care.
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