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Selecting applicants one attribute at a time Editor - Susan Bannister
Modified Personal Interviews: ResurrectinG Reliable Personal Interviews for Admissions? Hanson MD, et al. Academic Medicine 2012;87:1330-1334.


Reviewed by Randy Rockney

What was the study question?
Do multiple, brief, single-rater interviews enhance the reliability of the personal
interview for a program within medical school?

How was the study done?
First year medical student applicants to a special leadership program at the University
of Toronto completed four modified personal interviews (MPIs), 10-12 minute semi-
structured interviews with pre-determined questions, a sort of speed-dating
approach to admission interviews. Interviewers rated maturity, communication and
interpersonal skills and one unique attribute per interview related to leadership (such
as ability to work in teams, self-reflection and insight, adaptability, and vision).

What were the results?
High inter-interviewer reliability (0.79) was achieved with just four MPIs. Compared
to traditional personal interviews lasting 40 minutes, the MPIs consumed 33% less
faculty time.

What are the implications of these findings?
Studies that try to make correlations between performance measures in medical
school and physician quality outcomes largely come to the conclusion that the single
best predictive factor for success in medicine is … admission to medical school.
Admitting the best, brightest and most committed applicants remains the best
strategy for training the best doctors. It is likely that most if not all COMSEP members
sit on admissions committees. Anything that promises a more reliable and efficient
process is to be welcomed.


Editor’s note: This study consisted of a small sample size of students applying to a select
program within the medical school curriculum. A few faculty, with expertise in
leadership education and knowledge of the program, conducted all the interviews. The
results are impressive; but what is not known is how well the results from this study
population translate into a larger, more diverse population (say, the application pool for
medical school) with interviews done by a larger group who may or may not be as
knowledgeable about the key attributes desired in the candidates (SLB).

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