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Guidance for Program Directors and Mentors

1) Signaling Code of Conduct for programs:

There are three primary rules that all programs must comply with.
  • Programs shall NOT disclose the identification of applicants who have signaled.
  • Programs shall NOT ask interviewees where they have signaled.
  • Programs shall NOT disclose the number of signals they have received.
Asking applicants where they have signaled is a violation of NRMP regulations – programs are not allowed to ask applicants about where they are applying for residency.  Reports of potential match violations will be forwarded to the NRMP.  Programs that violate other aspects of these signaling rules may jeopardize their ability to participate in future Signaling programs.

2) Timeline


3) The signaling program is voluntary.  While we believe signaling benefits both applicants and programs and hope for wide-spread or universal participation, programs that wish to opt out can do so here.

Opt out requests must be received by September 23rd so that Programs can be removed from the list of signaling options prior to the September 28th start of the Signaling process.

4) Applicants are told NOT to signal their current (this year) home program or any program at which they completed an in-person clinical subInternship. Programs should expect that all students will have a strong interest in their home program but will not receive signals from their home students.
Applicants could consider signaling:

•    Their previous home program (applicable to those that are reapplying this year to otolaryngology, but please consult your previous home program)
•    a program that they have attended a virtual Sub-I
•    a program that they were supposed to (but didn’t) attend a Sub-I as a result of COVID.
•    a program that they did research with ONLY.

5) Programs will receive only a list of applicants who have sent them a signal.  There is no ranking of signals, nor is there an ability to see the list of programs that applicants have signaled.

6) Strategies for counseling applicants:

  • Advice to applicants should be individualized based upon the relative competitiveness of the application and the desires of the applicant.
  • Mentors should provide applicants with a realistic appraisal of the relative strength and competitiveness of their application within the Otolaryngology applicant pool.  This is critical in preventing applicants from "wasting" signals on programs that are unlikely to offer an interview.  NRMP data related to the 2020 Otolaryngology Match may be helpful to mentors.
  • Applicants should specifically consider signaling programs in which they have a particular interest that is not otherwise evident in their application.  One example is perceived geographic bias.  Students whose academic and personal background is limited to a single state or region may be viewed as unlikely to matriculate to a program in a different geographic region and an interview may not be offered despite excellent qualifications of an applicant.  A signal in this scenario changes the program’s erroneous perception of applicant disinterest.
  • Applicants should consider signaling programs which may be less competitive according to rankings (e.g. Doximity, US News, and World Report) and geographic desirability.  Signals sent to the most competitive programs may not be as impactful.  The American Economic Association, which developed and implemented a similar signaling program, has found that signals sent to less highly ranked programs have the greatest impact on obtaining interview offers.
  • Along with identifying unexpected applicant interest, signals are likely to be used as a “tie-breaker” by programs considering two similar applicants for interview offers.  Applicants should consider signaling programs in which they anticipate to be solidly competitive alongside a mix of similar applicants. 
  • With 5 signals, applicants could consider strategically dividing signal allocation to one or two “dream/reach” programs and use the remainder for programs at which they are solidly competitive.
  • The ultimate decision on which programs to signal belongs to the applicant.  Similar to deciding how many applications to submit or how to arrange their rank list, they have the final say. 

7) Signals are not a screening tool.  Applicants should be evaluated on their merits, not their specific interest in a program at this early phase of the process.  Programs will lose the opportunity to attract strong candidates who do not signal if they fail to identify and offer interviews to these individuals.  Signals are to be considered as one of many factors when deciding on interview offers, not a screening tool.

8) Signals are relevant only for the interview offer phase of the application cycle.  After this time, initial signals of interest do not carrymeaningful information.  The match algorithm will effectively determine applicant interest in your program.

8) NRMP Program Director Survey. Review the survey results here.


Guidance for Applicants

The Otolaryngology Residency Signaling Program is a voluntary program designed to provide applicants with an equitable and credible approach to notify Programs of particular interest to facilitate the interview selection process.

9) Timeline


10) The signaling program is voluntary.  While we believe signaling benefits both applicants and programs and hope for wide-spread or universal participation, participation remains voluntary for both applicants and programs.  Programs that opt out will be removed from the list of choices on the signaling website prior to opening the signaling portal.

11) DO NOT signal your current (this year) home program or any program at which you have completed an in-person clinical subInternship. It is assumed that all students will have a strong interest in their home program or those at which they have completed an in-person subinternship.  Programs have been instructed not to expect signals in this scenario.
Applicants could consider signaling:

•    Their previous home program (applicable to those that are reapplying this year to otolaryngology, but please consult your previous home program)
•    a program that they have attended a virtual Sub-I
•    a program that they were supposed to (but didn’t) attend a Sub-I as a result of COVID.
•    a program that they did research with ONLY.

12) Programs will receive only a list of applicants who have sent them a signal.  There is no ranking of signals, nor is there an ability to see the list of programs that applicants have signaled.

13) Programs are required to attest to the following Code of Conduct prior to receiving signals.  Violations of this Code of Conduct may be reported anonymously through the comment portal.

 i.    Programs shall NOT disclose the identification of applicants who have signaled.
ii.    Programs shall NOT ask interviewees where they have signaled.
iii.    Programs shall NOT disclose the number of signals they have received.

14) Applicants are strongly encouraged to meet with a Mentor familiar with the Otolaryngology application process and discuss signaling strategy.  The strategy advice below has been provided to Program Directors and Faculty Mentors of Otolaryngology applicants

  • Advice to applicants should be individualized based upon the relative competitiveness of the application and the desires of the applicant.
  • Mentors should provide applicants with a realistic appraisal of the relative strength and competitiveness of their application within the Otolaryngology applicant pool.  This is critical in preventing applicants from "wasting" signals on programs that are unlikely to offer an interview.  NRMP data related to the 2020 Otolaryngology Match may be helpful to mentors.
  • Applicants should specifically consider signaling programs in which they have a particular interest that is not otherwise evident in their application.  One example is perceived geographic bias.  Students whose academic and personal background is limited to a single state or region may be viewed as unlikely to matriculate to a program in a different geographic region and an interview may not be offered despite excellent qualifications of an applicant.  A signal in this scenario changes the program’s erroneous perception of applicant disinterest.
  • Applicants should consider signaling programs which may be less competitive according to rankings (e.g. Doximity, US News, and World Report) and geographic desirability.  Signals sent to the most competitive programs may not be as impactful.  The American Economic Association, which developed and implemented a similar signaling program, has found that signals sent to less highly ranked programs have the greatest impact on obtaining interview offers.
  • Along with identifying unexpected applicant interest, signals are likely to be used as a “tie-breaker” by programs considering similar applicants for interview offers.  Applicants should consider signaling programs in which they anticipate to be solidly competitive alongside a mix of similar applicants. 
  • With 5 signals, applicants could consider strategically dividing signal allocation to one or two “dream/reach” programs and use the remainder for programs at which they are solidly competitive.
  • The ultimate decision on which programs to signal belongs to the applicant.  Similar to deciding how many applications to submit or how to arrange their rank list, they have the final say. 

15) Signals are not a screening tool.  Applicants should be evaluated on their merits, not their specific interest in a program at this early phase of the process.  Programs will lose the opportunity to attract strong candidates who do not signal if they fail to identify and offer interviews to these individuals.  Signals are to be considered as one of many factors when deciding on interview offers, not a screening tool.

16) Signals are relevant only for the interview offer phase of the application cycle.  After this time, initial signals of interest do not carry meaningful information.  At the time of the Match, applicant preferences are managed through the match algorithm, not the pre-interview signal process.