Peter Martin has an interesting post on a turnaround by the UQ Medical School, who’ve decided to scrap interviews as part of the selection process for their graduate medical degree. He cites an American psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, who is also a Nobel prize winner for economics:
Kahneman says we would get better results picking candidates for jobs by using almost any objective measure – length of service, academic qualifications, it doesn’t really matter – rather than by subjecting them to interviews.
He says we appear programmed to believe that we are good at picking talent – “delusional optimism” he calls it – and impervious to evidence that suggests we are not.
I’m not sure if I’d agree with the conclusion that “human judgement” is always inferior to data because – rather in the manner of the economist – that seems to ignore that data is itself a human construct (exam results, for instance, aren’t objective measures of ability or intelligence and indeed often they measure the ability to do well on exam papers more than anything else). But all the evidence I’ve ever seen in the HR literature says the same – job interviews suck as a predictor of job performance. I imagine they’re still used because employers like to “eyeball” candidates, but having sat on heaps of selection panels in my time, I can only recommend that they be weighted very lowly in the overall selection decision. Martin also writes:
Other medical schools haven’t caught on, including the new one at the ANU. It is setting itself up for the sort of embarrassment faced by Adelaide University which some years back was found to have rejected students with Tertiary Entrance Scores of 99.9 and family backgrounds in medicine, apparently because its interviewers didn’t like they way they presented.
Adelaide has been charged with using interviews to socially engineer its student mix, ensuring that it is not overwhelmed by the children of doctors or the products of private schools or brainy Chinese and Vietnamese.
Here I want to quibble a bit. I was a student rep – a long time ago – on an Academic Board committee at UQ which considered the switch to graduate entry. The whole point was a recognition that academic performance at high school alone wasn’t sufficient to predict who would be a good doctor – so the committee went for a graduate model that would admit candidates with more life experience and with academic backrounds in other disciplines (it’s possible to do a medical degree after doing a BA or a BMus or whatever if you pass the GAMSAT test). The idea was that forming a person as well as getting high marks was an important part of medical training. If this counts as “social engineering”, so be it, but perhaps where these medical schools have gone wrong is by hiding behind subjective judgements in an interview rather than being explicit about wanting to widen the net for the medical profession. That aim deserves discussion that goes beyond “my daughter got a 99 TER and five generations of our family are surgeons and didn’t get into Adelaide” which has been the way that it’s normally been framed.