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


The questionnaire was e-mailed to 996 residency program directors. Eighteen e-mails did not reach the intended recipient due to incorrect e-mail addresses or voluntary opt-out of SurveyMonkey surveys. A total of 454 directors completed the study, yielding a response rate of 46.4%; however, not all respondents answered every survey question. Fifty-two percent of respondents (n = 236) indicated having a personal Facebook profile. More than 25% of the respondents (n = 118) had a LinkedIn account. Fewer than 10% of respondents reported using MySpace (n = 36), blogs (n = 35), Twitter (n = 22), and other social media applications (n = 3), and 37% (n = 170) indicated that they did not use social media. Thirty-four percent of respondents (n = 154) rated themselves as novice users, 26% (n = 119) perceived themselves to be average users, and only 2% (n = 11) considered themselves experts in social media use.

About 54% (n = 244) of respondents were women. Generation X (born between 1961 and 1981) was the most widely represented generation, consisting of 313 respondents (69%). Twenty-one percent of respondents (n = 97) were members of the baby-boom generation (born between 1943 and 1960). The remaining respondents were members of the millennial (born between 1982 and 2003) and silent (born between 1925 and 1942) generations. Almost 65% (n = 295) of respondents represented postgraduate year 1 training programs. Most respondents (74%, n = 337) worked in hospitals or health systems, followed by primary or ambulatory care clinics (4.6%, n = 21), government agencies (4.8%, n = 20), and community pharmacies (4.3%, n = 18). The remaining 5.6% (n = 23) were employed by health maintenance organizations, pharmacy benefit management companies, the pharmaceutical industry, or psychiatric specialty facilities. The majority of respondents' residency programs (53%, n = 239) had two or fewer residency positions.

In general, residency program directors had strong feelings toward accountability, with 97% (n = 422) either strongly agreeing or agreeing that residency candidates should be accountable for illegal acts, and 90% (n = 391) either strongly agreeing or agreeing that residency candidates should be accountable for unprofessional behavior discovered through social media (Table 1). They also strongly agreed or agreed (89%, n = 390) that information voluntarily published online was "fair game" for judgments on character, attitudes, and professionalism.

Attitudes regarding the use of social media for resident recruitment significantly differed among respondents from different generations (p = 0.031). Agreement with the concept that social media information is open for judgment by others was the least from the millennial generation, with steady increases in agreement through each of the older generations. A significant difference existed among residency program directors with different social media experience levels regarding the concept that social media information is open for judgment by others (p = 0.006). Respondents who rated themselves as more-experienced social media users were less likely to agree or strongly agree that online social media information is fair game for judgments on character, attitudes, and professionalism. The range of agreement increased from 73% (n = 8) of experienced users to 92% (n = 151) of nonusers.

No significant difference existed among generations regarding the acceptability of reviewing online social media profiles. However, older generations were more likely to agree or strongly agree that using online social media information when making residency selection decisions is acceptable (p = 0.028).

Except for the generational and experience differences cited above, residency program directors did not significantly differ regarding opinions related to social media use. Respondents' opinions regarding the acceptability of social media reviews, acceptability of using social media information for decisions, and agreement with the concept that social media information is open for judgment did not significantly differ by respondents' sex, residency type (PGY1 or postgraduate year 2), and residency settings.

Twenty percent (n = 91) of respondents indicated that they had viewed either a pharmacy resident or pharmacy resident applicant's social media information. Of those who viewed social media profiles, more than half (52%, n = 46) discovered issues including questionable photos (44%, n = 39) and comments or posts revealing an unprofessional attitude (27%, n = 24). Only 4% (n = 20) of respondents had reviewed applicant profiles to aid them in making a residency recruitment decision. Of these 20 respondents, viewing the profiles resulted in no effect (52%, n = 13), a negative effect (28%, n = 7), and a positive effect (20%, n = 5) on an applicant's selection.

Residency program directors were uncertain about whether they would review applicants' social media information for aiding in future selection decisions. Over half (n = 219) were unsure, 13% (n = 55) indicated they will, and 34% (n = 143) indicated that they will not use social media information for residency selection decisions. However, if social media information about a residency candidate is presented to them instead of the respondent actively searching for it, only 9% (n = 38) indicated that they would not use it to aid in resident selection, 19% (n = 79) indicated that they would use it, and 72% (n = 300) indicated that they might use it, depending on who presented the information or how it was obtained.

The vast majority of respondents (82.4%, n = 374) indicated that if they were choosing between the two mock candidates whose Facebook profiles were presented to them, they would be inclined to choose the candidate with the sterile profile. Only 12% (n = 55) indicated that the social media information would not influence their decision.

Residency programs' use of Facebook for programmatic purposes was relatively rare. Only 19% (n = 79) of respondents' residency programs incorporated discussion of e-professionalism into the training program. Almost 85% (n = 355) of respondents' residency programs did not have a Facebook group or fan page. Seven programs (2%) had an official page created, administered, or approved by the residency program director; 5 programs (1%) had an unofficial Facebook page created and administered by residents without official approval by the residency program director or institution; and 51 respondents' residency programs (12%) were considering creating a Facebook page for their program. Most respondents (67%, n = 283) were unaware if their human resources department had social media policies. Only 2% of respondents (n = 8) indicated that a formal social media policy existed.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.