The Importance of Choosing the Right Person from the Applicant Pool

As graduates from universities and colleges enter the workforce, the student and society should expect that the performance rating of the students will vary between individuals.  The student needs to know and understand what best suits them when they leave the “learning world” and enter the world of practice.  The corporate, government and social sectors also need information on which to base hiring/appointments.

A hiring mistake is costly to both parties both in terms of direct costs and opportunity costs. Hence the importance of choosing the right person from the applicant pool.   Marks alone do not provide a sufficiently rich picture of the individuals because academic scores lack assessment of the “soft skills” or non-cognitive skills.  Previous work experience and interviews are used to further qualify candidates.   Previous work experience as a qualifier usually selects for those who have had work in the specific field and so is limiting.  Interviews tend to be unstructured and highly subjective.  One key indicator of role fit and can be the prime differentiator between success and failure are the Soft Skills.     

The Oxford Dictionary defines soft skills as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.  The enabling attributes would certainly include and/or subsume: responsibility; ethical & moral judgement; communication skills, management skills, problem solving skills, self-awareness, team work and ability at conflict resolution.

The importance of soft skills is becoming increasingly recognized in the health professions and indeed in many other professions and occupations.  Perhaps the most dramatic example of an institution that stresses the importance of the soft skills is, the Royal Navy. Her Majesty’s Navy has been in operation over centuries and one has the hardest outcome measures “runs on soft skill” in its management.

Clearly there is a need to assess these skills at some point (or several points) in the academic process and in the workforce.   Fortunately, there is a method for doing so.  Using the choke point of admissions, professional schools in the health sciences adopted the multiple mini-interview (MMI) to assess non-cognitive skills.  The MMI predicts performance of the professional program (e.g. medical) graduates in the soft skills domain on the licensing exams that occur 4-5 years after admissions to medical school.  The technique is also commercially available from Prospecthrmmi making it easy to institute the technique in any organization that wishes to consider high quality soft skills as an important selection measure in education and the workforce.

Improving the success rate of new hires in general will improve the performance of organizations and reduce the costs associated with the wrong hires.