Assessment of competence and performance at interview

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7258.449/a (Published 12 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:449
  1. Jacky Hayden, dean of postgraduate medical studies,
  2. John Adams, associate postgraduate dean
  1. Department of Postgraduate Medicine and Dentistry, Manchester M60 7LP

    EDITOR—We read the paper by Wood and O'Donnell on an overhaul of the traditional interviewing system with interest.1 They have identified an important area in medical education and assessment that needs to be addressed. Our current processes of selection pale into insignificance compared with those for industry, but two issues need to be considered.

    Firstly, as a profession we seem to have difficulty in giving constructive and honest feedback to doctors working with us and in references. If we were able to give constructive criticism more effectively, there would subsequently be less need to measure competence through objective structured clinical exams or other means at an appointment process.

    Secondly, at interview we often lack skills in assessing performance. It is possible through structured questions and experiential interviewing to assess how a candidate performed in a series of situations, rather than evaluate how they might perform in a fictitious situation. In the North Western Deanery we have been working with a group of consultants to identify a range of questions that ask candidates—“Tell us about a time when …,” rather than, “What would you do if …”. This change in emphasis gives a much greater insight into previous performance, which is usually the best indicator of future performance. It has also encouraged us to think about the professional values we seek in doctors who apply to join our training schemes, rather than experience that they have to date.

    We do need to develop better evaluation of performance and competence in the workplace, and we need to become more skilled at interviewing, particularly in identifying professional values. However, objective structured clinical exams are expensive in time and resources and may not be appropriate for selection processes. More effective and honest references and experiential interviewing might help us to select at interview more effectively.


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