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by Vault Careers | July 11, 2011


"[A new interview technique now being tried at a handful of medical schools across the country] grew out of research that found that interviewers rarely change their scores after the first five minutes, that using multiple interviewers removes random bias and that situation interviews rather than personal ones are more likely to reveal character flaws.

That information comes courtesy of a New York Times piece today on a new interviewing technique designed to screen out med school candidates who have trouble communicating or working in teams—phenomena that have been found to contribute to the 98,000 deaths each year caused by medical error, according to the piece.

But the technique—known as the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)—has ramifications that could stretch far beyond the world of medicine. Consider again the first item from that quote above: interviewers rarely change their scores after the first five minutes.

While there's no clarification in the piece whether that stat is derived solely from med school interviews or from a wider sample, it seems reasonable to assume that it would be consistent in the corporate world either way. To counter it (and presumably to waste less of everyone's time), the MMI spreads the interviewing process across a series of short meetings with a variety of interviewers, so every candidate has multiple opportunities to make a decent first impression.

Sound a little too much like speed dating? Fear not: the series of interviews described in the piece were designed so candidates would have to discuss situations related to their field, rather than simply repeating their resume and a few stock lines about what they'd bring to the institution. As one successful applicant put it: "'I thought the whole process was more geared toward problem-solving than to me talking about who I was as an applicant,' he said. 'And I liked that.'"

Sure, it might take a little more in terms of resources for employers to conducts interviews in this way, but the system seems to have its merits, at least on the surface. And if it can genuinely help medical schools to get beyond canned answers and identify tendencies that could make a difference in life or death situations down the line, it's a fair bet that a similar interview process could soon be finding its way into corporate America as well.

Whatever you think of that as a potential outcome, it has one serious upside: imagine a world where you never have to answer the "greatest weakness" question ever again. That's reason enough to hope the MMI makes a mainstream breakthrough.

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--Phil Stott,


Filed Under: Interviewing

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