Friday, October 14, 2011

Your online identity

What does your Facebook profile tell the residency directors about you, and is it helping you or hurting you? What types of quotes, photos, and "likes" are on your page? Do you start the day by posting how much you had to drink the night before? Are your posts full of profanity, or do you constantly complain about your boss? Is there a photo of you smoking tobacco from a hookah that could be misinterpreted as smoking marijuana from a bong? These could all stop you from getting invited for an interview, and even if you do get invited, do you really want to waste time during the interview giving excuses about your online profile rather than talking about what a great resident you would be?

Let's say that a typical residency director gets 1000 applications, schedules 100 interviews, and can only match 10 people at that program. These people are looking for an excuse to narrow that list, either by not granting you an interview at all, or deciding not to put you on their NRMP rank lists after they interview you. Searching for information about you online happens more frequently than you think! There are many qualified applicants out there who have professional-looking online profiles, and they could very easily move ahead of you in the applicant pool. Don't get rejected because you insist that your Facebook page is a place to "be yourself." You're a doctor, and it's time to be professional. Take down the worst photos, and clean up your online presence. Privacy settings are not enough, especially since Facebook seems to change its format and settings every few months.

This is also a great time to create a professional profile for yourself. There are many sites out there, but I'll mention LinkedIn specifically since I've heard that some residency search committees search it. You've already done all of the work creating your Common Application Form in ERAS; why not create a professional resume on LinkedIn using the same descriptions from the CAF that you spent so much time editing? Give the residency directors something positive to find about you online.

Right now, residency directors are continuing to review the huge numbers of applications that they have received. After you get interviewed, the residency search committees will continue to seek out more information about you before making final rank list decisions. Yes, they will contact your letter writers, but it's very easy to go online to search for more information. Although residency directors have invited some applicants, they're still deciding what to do about the rest of you. Your MSPEs (formerly known as the "dean's letters") will be released on November 1, and many residency directors don't make final interview decisions until they read what your medical school dean has to say about you. There's still time to clean up your online profile, which will hopefully lead to more interviews and might enhance your chance of matching. What are you waiting for?