July 02, 2015
1 min read

Virtual training improves job interview outcomes among veterans, patients with mental illness

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Virtual reality job interview training increased the likelihood of receiving a job offer among patients and veterans with severe mental illness, according to study findings in Psychiatric Services.

“Individuals with severe mental illness have low employment rates, and the job interview presents a critical barrier for them to obtain competitive employment,” study researcher Matthew J. Smith, PhD, MSW, of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, and colleagues wrote. “Prior randomized controlled trials indicated that virtual reality job interview training improved job interviewing skills among trainees.”

Matthew J. Smith, PhD

Matthew J. Smith

Seventy individuals with severe mental illness or U.S. military veterans diagnosed with PTSD and a mood or psychotic disorder completed virtual reality job interview training, which involved interviews with a virtual human resources staff member named Molly Porter. The participants spoke their responses to interview questions using voice recognition software and received feedback from a job coach as to whether their responses helped or hurt their interview. Interviews became more difficult as they progressed through the training program.

To assess the efficacy of virtual reality job interview training, researchers surveyed 39 interview training participants and 12 others in a comparison group, 6 months after completing the program.

Fifty-one percent of those who received training received a job offer compared with 25% of comparison group.

When adjusting for cognition, recency of last job and diagnosis, those who received training were nine times more likely to receive a job offer than those in the comparison group (OR = 9.64; P = .02).

Individuals who received training had greater odds of receiving a job offer for every training trial they completed (OR = 1.41; P = .04).

A greater number of completed training trials correlated with fewer weeks of searching for employment (P = .02).

Veterans with PTSD and people with mental illness such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia are prone to anxiety, which can escalate during stressful social encounters such as the job interview,” Smith said in a press release. “The training was a big confidence builder for them.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Healio.com/Psychiatry was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.