So says Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize winner for Economic Sciences. In relation to making important recruitment decisions, this quote couldn’t be more apt. Medical consultants have traditionally been recruited based on a short (45 minute) interview based largely on their CVs, and often influenced by where they have studied, who they have worked with and how many papers they have written.  The “trial by sherry” as many described how they were recruited in the not so distant past, is a selection exercise based purely on opinions, impressions and judgements. While it is extremely difficult to eliminate subjectivity completely, using a selection of modern recruitment methodologies such as presentations, simulation exercises, psychometric testing and a structured interview based on insights into the candidates from psychometric testing, can go a long way to standardising the process and reducing bias. The current interest in values based recruitment in the NHS provides all the more reason to put robust processes in place for recruitment because assessing someone else’s values is tricky and easily skewed by bias.  In a recruitment decision that is so important, costly and with long-term implications (most consultants are likely to stay in their job for a very long time if not for life) “the effort investing in ‘getting it right’ should be commensurate with the importance of the decision” (Kahneman).

by Dr. Megan Joffe