Abstract: Virtual Reality Job Interview Training Reduces Job Interview Anxiety in Returning Citizens: Preliminary Findings from a Prison-Based Randomized Controlled Trial (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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746P Virtual Reality Job Interview Training Reduces Job Interview Anxiety in Returning Citizens: Preliminary Findings from a Prison-Based Randomized Controlled Trial

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Brittani Parham, Joint Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Matthew Smith, PhD, MSW, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Jamie Mitchell, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Brittany Ross, Project Manager, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Meghan Harrington, Clinical Subjects Coordinator, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Jennifer Johnson, PhD, C. S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health Professor of OBGYN, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Michigan State University, Flint, MI
Gary Cuddeback, PhD, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Aaron Suganuma, Social Worker, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, MI
Kyle Kaminski, Office Success Administrator//Legislative Liaison, Michigan Department of Corrections, MI
Robert McGeorge, Assistant Education Manager, Michigan Department of Corrections, MI
Sheryl Kubiak, PhD, Dean & Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Background and Purpose: High recidivism rates are a pressing public-safety issue facing many communities and unemployment is recognized as a leading mechanism of recidivism. Research suggests returning citizens struggle with obtaining employment. There are mixed results in utilizing vocational services to increase employment amongst returning citizens, particularly due to the varied implementation of and evidence-based nature of these services. Most vocational services value practicing job interviewing skills; however, the methods used are not evidence-based. As returning citizens prepare to re-enter their communities, there is a critical need to enhance their employment readiness with evidence-based services, including job interview training. Specifically, virtual reality job interview training (VR-JIT) is a computer-based simulation with established efficacy at improving interview skills and increasing access to employment among several populations (e.g., autism, schizophrenia) (Smith, et al., 2014; Smith, et al., 2015) and preliminary evidence to support its effectiveness (Smith et al., 2019). We are currently evaluating the effectiveness of a prison-based delivery of VR-JIT at enhancing job interview anxiety, self-efficacy, and motivation for returning citizens.

Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of VR-JIT compared to pre-employment services-as-usual (SAU) implemented by two Vocational Villages within Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). Participants (26 - 58 years old) were recruited from two state facilities and were randomized to receive SAU+VR-JIT (n=27) or SAU-only (n=16) using a 2:1 randomization scheme. Self-report measures of job interview self-efficacy, motivation, and anxiety and VR-JIT acceptability were obtained. MDOC employment readiness staff oriented participants on how to use VR-JIT on a laptop computer. A repeated measures analysis of variance (RM-ANOVA) evaluated between-group differences over time regarding self-reported job interview self-efficacy, motivation, and anxiety.

Results: SAU only and SAU+VR-JIT groups did not differ with respect to demographics, employment and justice-involved history (all p>0.10). RM-ANOVA revealed a significant decrease in job interview anxiety among SAU+VR-JIT (-12.8%) compared to SAU only (-3.8%; F=2.8, p=.05) This difference was characterized by a medium effect size (Partial Eta-Squared = -.10). The SAU+VR-JIT and SAU only groups did not differ between pre-test and post-test on self-reported measures of job interview self-efficacy and motivation. In addition, more than 90% of returning citizens self-reported that VR-JIT: 1) was enjoyable and easy to use; 2) helped them prepare to interview; 3) fit their learning goals; and 4) helped improve their job interview skills.

Conclusions and Implications: The study is the first to implement a computerized simulation to train social skills in a prison-setting. Moreover, this study used a rigorous RCT design that is uncommon in prison settings. Overall, our preliminary results suggest VR-JIT may be effective at reducing job interview anxiety for returning citizens and that returning citizens find VR-JIT to be highly acceptable. Job interview anxiety is a known mechanism of interview performance and may help facilitate access to employment. Future research is needed to evaluate whether VR-JIT enhances job interview skills and employment, while reducing recidivism.