Use of Social Media by Residency Program Directors for Resident Selection

Jeff Cain, ED.D., M.S.; Doneka R. Scott, Pharm.D., M.A.; Kelly Smith, Pharm.D., BCPS, FASHP, FCCP


Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010;67(19):1635-1639. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose. Pharmacy residency program directors' attitudes and opinions regarding the use of social media in residency recruitment and selection were studied.
Methods. A 24-item questionnaire was developed, pilot tested, revised, and sent to 996 residency program directors via Demographic, social media usage, and opinions on social media data were collected and analyzed.
Results. A total of 454 residency program directors completed the study (response rate, 46.4%). The majority of respondents were women (58.8%), were members of Generation X (75.4%), and worked in a hospital or health system (80%). Most respondents (73%) rated themselves as either nonusers or novice users of social media. Twenty percent indicated that they had viewed a pharmacy residency applicant's social media information. More than half (52%) had encountered e-professionalism issues, including questionable photos and posts revealing unprofessional attitudes, and 89% strongly agreed or agreed that information voluntarily published online was fair game for judgments on character, attitudes, and professionalism. Only 4% of respondents had reviewed applicants' profiles for residency selection decisions. Of those respondents, 52% indicated that the content had no effect on resident selection. Over half of residency program directors were unsure whether they will use social media information for future residency selection decisions.
Conclusion. Residency program directors from different generations had different views regarding social media information and its use in residency applicant selections. Residency program directors anticipated using social media information to aid in future decisions for resident selection and hiring.
Index terms Administrators; Computers; Data collection; Education; pharmaceutical; Pharmacy; Professionalism; Recruitment


E-professionalism is a relatively new topic, but one that is receiving considerable attention in the workplace, in academia, and in professional occupations such as pharmacy and medicine.[1,2] This emerging construct accounts for attitudes and behaviors that are associated with a traditional professionalism paradigm but manifested through digital media.[3] The rapid adoption of social media applications like Facebook (Palo Alto, CA), Twitter (San Francisco, CA), LinkedIn (Mountain View, CA), and others has thrust a set of issues upon society not previously encountered. Social media is a connective technology that assists communication and information sharing in a mediated public setting,[4] resulting in the voluntary sharing of massive amounts of personal information with the online public. Because of this, a larger audience now has access to actions, comments, attitudes, and opinions that have conventionally only been shared with or witnessed by close cadres of friends. This private information may potentially affect how others judge an individual's character, attitudes, professionalism, and other personal traits. The e-professionalism of job seekers is becoming important for many hiring managers. Almost half of all employers have reported using social networking sites to research job candidates.[5]

Several studies involving people in the health professions have revealed e-professionalism issues among students and residents. One study of student pharmacists revealed a general attitude that online personas formed from social media should not be used to judge their professional attitudes or ability.[6] A percentage of student pharmacists, medical students, and residents have displayed potentially unprofessional material,[6,7] and 60% of U.S. medical schools reported incidents of medical students posting unprofessional content through online social media.[2] While much has been written in the lay press about employers and other authority figures using social media in their hiring and selection procedures,[8] no published studies of pharmacists were found. The objectives of this study were to determine pharmacy residency program directors' attitudes and opinions regarding the concept of e-professionalism and to examine the use of social media in residency recruitment and selection.


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