BackgroundIn Israel, there is a shortage of family medicine (FM) specialists that is occasioned by a shortage of students pursuing a FM career.MethodsA questionnaire, based on methods adapted from marketing research, was used to provide insight into the medical specialty selection process. It was distributed to 6th-year medical students from two Israeli medical schools.ResultsA response rate of 66% resulted in collecting 218 completed questionnaires. Nineteen of the students reported that they were interested in FM, 68% of them were women. When compared to students not interested in FM, the selection criteria of students interested in FM reflected greater interest in a bedside specialty which provides direct long-term patient care. These latter students were also more interested in a controllable lifestyle that allowed time to be with family and children and working outside the hospital especially during the daytime. These selection criteria aligned with their perceptions of FM, which they perceived as providing them with a controllable lifestyle, allowing them to work limited hours with time for family and having a reasonable income to lifestyle ratio. The students not interested in FM, agreed with those interested in FM, that the specialty affords a controllable lifestyle and the ability to work limited hours Yet, students not interested in FM more often perceived FM as being a boring specialty and less often perceived it as providing a reasonable income to lifestyle ratio. Additionally, students not interested in FM rated the selection criteria, academic opportunities and a prestigious specialty, more highly than did students interested in FM. However, they perceived FM as neither being prestigious nor as affording academic opportunitiesConclusionThis study enriches our understanding of the younger generation's attitudes towards FM and thus provides administrators, department chairs and residency program directors with objective information regarding selection criteria and the students’ perceptions of FM. We identified the disconnect between the selection criteria profiles and the perceptions of FM of students not inclined to pursue a residency in FM. This allowed for recommendations on how to possibly make FM more attractive to some of these students.