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General FAQs

1) What is the benefit of signaling to the applicant? What is the benefit of signaling to the program?
Over the years, the number of applications submitted per applicant has climbed to over 70 programs, while the number of applicants has not changed. The saturation of applications to each program makes it difficult for the applicants to distinguish themselves amongst a large applicant pool. Programs likewise have difficulty discovering applicants that may have unique qualities that would lead to preferable matches. Signaling allows applicants a reliable and equitable approach to demonstrate a sincere interest in specific programs. Residency programs could choose to incorporate signals in their interview consideration process.

2) Why is signaling even more important this year?
Traditional methods of signaling include hints gleaned from personal statements, letters of recommendation, and visiting rotations. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latter option is unavailable this year for the majority of applicants. The preference signaling will provide a clear, reliable alternate method to signal sincere interest.  
The American Academy of Otolaryngology conducted a survey of medical student membership June 2020, soliciting concerns about this year’s Match season. The survey received a 50% response rate.

  • 46% were very concerned about how the pandemic would affect the Match process
  • 2nd most cited concern: How do applicants demonstrate their interest in programs?
  • Other areas of concern: How can applicants advocate for themselves? How can they stand out? How can programs determine interview invitations in a fair and inclusive manner?

3) Has signaling been used for other job markets?
To our knowledge, this approach has not been used in graduate medical education.  However, experience in other industries and computer modeling of the Otolaryngology application cycle demonstrate that signaling improves the likelihood of receiving an interview offer and results in improved efficiency of the interview selection process. The American Economic Association uses a signaling system to facilitate interviews between post-graduate applicants and employers.

4) When in the application process will signaling occur?
Applicants will submit their list of signals by October 9, 2020. Signals will be sent to programs around October 21, 2020.  Programs will have signaling data available as they make decisions about interview offers.

5) Does signaling conflict with NRMP Match rules?
No, so long as other Match rules continued to be obeyed. Per Section 6.2 of the Match Participation Agreement For Applicants and Programs, applicants and programs may express their interest in each other [hence signaling]; however, they shall not solicit verbal or written statements implying a commitment. Applicants shall at all times be free to keep confidential all information pertaining to interviews, their ranking preferences and the names or identities of programs to which they have or may apply or any information pertaining to interviews, including the number of applications sent and/or the number of interviews offered, accepted, or attended. Accordingly, programs cannot request applicants to reveal the names, specialties, geographic locations, or other identifying information about programs to which they have or may apply and interview. Neither can programs request applicants to reveal ranking preferences. Applicants and programs cannot request the other party to provide a verbal or written statement of preference as a contingency of ranking.  Violation of these restrictions within or outside of the signaling process may be referred to the NRMP for investigation of a possible match violation.

It is worth noting that Section 6.0 of the Match Participation Agreement for Applicants and Programs outlines the need for professional and ethically responsible behavior from applicants and programs and for participants to be able to consider selection decisions without coercion or pressure.  The Otolaryngology Signaling Initiative is and will remain voluntary and applicants are not obligated to participate in order to be viewed favorably by programs. Electing to participate does not guarantee an interview, and non-participation does not mean interviews won’t be extended.

6) How does signaling affect applicant or program rank lists?
Signaling is a program to facilitate the interview offer process. Applicant and program final rank lists should be constructed based upon the order of preference, irrespective of signals sent or received.
7) Program Code of Conduct
Programs that agree to receive signals will abide by the following:

  • Programs shall NOT divulge identification of applicants who have signaled.
  • Programs shall NOT ask interviewees where they have signaled.
  • Programs shall NOT divulge number of signals received.

Applicant FAQs

6) How many signals will I receive?
Each applicant will have the option to send 5 signals. The signal’s value is better retained if limited to a smaller number. Providing applicants with too many signals dilutes its sincerity and adds further “noise” to the process. Furthermore, with a high number of signals- the absence of a signal may signal a lack of interest.  As an example, the American Economic Association provides 2 signals per applicant in their interview procedure.

7) Is signaling required for applicants?
No, applicants are not required to participate in the signaling process.  

8) Does the signaling process limit the number of programs to which applicants may apply?
No, there are no restrictions on the number of applications an applicant submits.

9) How will applicants decide which programs to signal?

Applicants will have signals to use at their discretion.  The ultimate decision will be an individual choice for each applicant.  Applicants should consider the relative strength of their application and the relative competitiveness of otolaryngology programs.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to work with faculty and resident mentors to assess these issues.  Applicants will also weigh personal considerations including alignment of departmental interests and applicant interests. For a more detailed description of guidance for applicants and mentors in determining signals, please see the guidance page of the signaling website.

10) When will applicants be able to submit signal choices?
Applicants have a set time frame to enter and submit their signal preferences – September 28th to October 9th.  During this time frame, the system will remain open to applicants to revise or remove any signals as many times as they wish until the close of signaling at 9PM Eastern time on October 9th.
11) How can I edit or rescind my signaling submission?
Because only one submission is allowed per AAMC ID, applicants must use the edit link they receive on the submission confirmation page or confirmation email to edit their signals. If an applicant wishes to rescind all signals, they should use the contact form found here.

12) Should I signal my home program? Should my home program expect a signal from me?
No, applicants should not signal their home program or any program at which they completed an in-person subinternship. These programs already know of your interest and already have insight into you.

13) How will I know that programs receive my signals?
Following submission of signals, applicants will receive a confirmation that lists the programs to which their signals have been sent.  Programs are encouraged to ensure signal contact information matches ERAS application information. If any discrepancies arise, the program should contact the OPDO signaling team through this link.

14) Does a signal guarantee an interview?

No. A signal does not guarantee an interview offer from the signaled program. However, given the limited number of signals provided to each applicant, programs are better able to judge credible interest.

15) Can I receive an interview offer from a program that I do not signal?
Yes, signals are only one factor programs will use when offering interviews. Programs are expected to offer interviews to many highly-qualifiedapplicants who may not have signaled their program.  

16) Are signals ranked? Is the order in which I list programs on the signaling site significant?
No, signals are not ranked.  All programs will be notified that they have received a signal, there is no difference between the first and fifth signals listed.

17) Will other non-signaled departments be notified of the signals that I send? Will an applicant’s signal choices be made public?
Applicant signals will remain confidential.  Programs will only be notified if they receive a signal from an applicant and will not receive information about additional programs signaled by the applicant. Programs will receive names and ERAS ID for each applicant that sends them a signal.  In order to receive this information, programs will agree not to share or publicize the number of signals that they receive.  Programs will not know the destination of signals sent elsewhere

Program FAQs

18) How should faculty advise applicants to use their signals?
Faculty and resident mentors should provide honest feedback to applicants about the relative strength of their application.  Additionally, applicants will benefit from knowledge of and insights into programs of interest.  Applicants will decide which programs to signal; mentors will help applicants make informed choices. For more information on advising applicants, please see the Guidance page of the signaling site.

19) When will programs receive signals?
Signal delivery is anticipated to occur around October 21, 2020, concurrent with the release of applications to program by ERAS. Programs should ensure signal contact information matches ERAS application information.

20) How should programs utilize signals?

Programs should consider all applications received, regardless of whether accompanied by a signal or not. Signals may be used to gauge credible interest and may highlight candidates that programs may not have recognized as a prospective candidate. Given the limited number of signals provided to each applicant, programs should not rely on signals as a screen for application review. Programs should expect many non-signaled applications from interested and highly-qualified applicants.  

21) Is it expected that programs offer interviews to all applicants who have signaled?  
No. Signals may provide further insight into applicant interest, which may or may not factor in deciding interview offers.

22) Is it expected that programs offer interview to applicants who have NOT signaled?
Yes. Programs will receive applications unaccompanied by a signal from many qualified applicants. Thus, programs will still find it desirable to extend interviews to applicants who have not signaled.

23) Should programs expect to receive a signal from home applicants or applicants that have participated in a visiting rotation?
No. Applicants have been instructed not to send signals to home programs or to programs visited on away rotations.

24) Will the number of signals a program receives be made public?

No.  Programs will receive names and ERAS ID for each applicant that sends them a signal.  In order to receive this information, programs will agree not to share or publicize the number of signals that they receive.  Programs will not know the destination of signals sent elsewhere.

25) What Code of Conduct is required of program for participation?

  • Programs shall NOT divulge identification of applicants who have signaled.
  • Programs shall NOT ask interviewees where they have signaled.
  • Programs shall NOT divulge number of signals received.

26) Are programs required to participate in the signaling process?
No.  Programs are free to choose how they wish to utilize or not utilize signals received.