A Tale of Two Interviews: An Interviewer’s Account of Combining Long- and Short-Form Interviews

Choosing the right person from a group

Editor’s Note: This post is one of two pieces on the hybrid interview format used at the University of Michigan Medical School. Read the other piece here.

By: Heather Hervey-Jumper, MD

Heather Hervey-Jumper is a clinical instructor at the Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

An applicant having a strong knowledge base is essential in choosing medical school trainees but so many other skills are involved in building a physician. Compassion, professionalism, and communication, just to name a few, are essential skills for building our future doctors. Traditionally, medical school interviews have not simulated the situations and scenarios the applicant will encounter on the wards and with fellow trainees.

Short-form interviews, on the other hand, are a mix of ethical issues, communication challenges, and/or challenging situations with actors created to help an interviewer see a broader spectrum of skills than what a long-form (i.e., traditional) interview may demonstrate. I’ve had the privilege of participating in both forms. This model is highlighted in a recent innovation report by Bibler Zaidi and colleagues, “A Hybrid Interview Model for Medical School Interview: Combining Traditional and Multisampling Formats.”

The short-form interview I was a part of was a communication challenge. We were observing two applicants perform a task with their backs to each other. This eliminated communication via nonverbal cues and hand gestures and allowed only verbal communication. As we observed the interactions there were some applicants that really had an opportunity to showcase their ability to instruct, redirect, and adjust to the communication style of their partner.

It was an opportunity to see how the applicants handle frustration with their peers as well. There was an interviewer observing the applicant giving directions and another interviewer observing the applicant receiving the directions. Each applicant had a turn in both roles. The interviewers did not have any background information about the applicants prior to seeing them interact in this challenge. Seeing an applicant only under pressure allows an observer to focus on their interactions under stress. Short-form interviews, then, can fill in the blanks about each applicant that might otherwise go unseen.

The long-form interviews I participated in were 30-minute interactions with each applicant, much like a conversation about themselves and their path. With these interview sessions the interviewer was allowed to access the applicant’s background information, such as where they came from, and personal statement. This form of interview was much more personal and gave the applicants an opportunity to highlight their strengths and to learn more about what was exceptional about the University of Michigan as well.

I found both interview forms to be highly valuable assessment tools. The short-form appears to compliment the long-form as its focus is on specific details not distinctly assessed in a traditional interview. The goal of an admissions committee is to assess the applicants’ overall readiness for medical school not just in terms of their academic preparation but also their compassion, professionalism, and interpersonal and communication skills. A holistic assessment via a combination of short- and long-form interviews allows skills that may have been otherwise missed to be demonstrated and noted in the selection process. The approach is also a message to the applicants about what their training will be like at the University of Michigan. It gives a glimpse into our mission to produce well-rounded, academically robust but also compassionate, outstanding physicians.

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