Doctors and Recruitment best practice often don’t mix

6 min | Medical Careers
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John Bethell

November 25, 2011

I started my career as a doctor but have spent the past 20 years in recruitment, which gives me a unique perspective on how these two worlds interface. One of the things I find most striking is the extent to which they don’t, or possibly won't mix.

I was fortunate early in my recruitment career to work for a large organization that was a market leader in contemporary recruitment practice and I, therefore, had a chance to witness cutting-edge recruitment methodology in action.

Take psychometric testing for example. This is now so routine in most professional recruitment settings that candidates expect it as part of their recruitment process to a new role. For my own company, we ask prospective candidates to sit a range of on-line tests before they even turn up for the first interview and use the results as a screen in the shortlisting process. This has vastly improved the quality of candidates we meet and hire and saved us a lot of wasted time.  For us this vindicates the many studies which show that psych testing is a far more reliable indicator of likely success in a role than references or even interview.

And yet I cannot recall a single occasion where a doctor has been asked by one of our clients to submit to psychometric testing as part of their recruitment process. I have routinely suggested it but the reaction I get ranges from skepticism to incredulity. I have equally asked many doctors how they would feel about sitting a psych test. The word indignation comes to mind.

What of other contemporary recruitment tools? Skills assessment is something I did see half-heartedly deployed once to dramatic effect. We once flew an overseas-trained pathologist into Australia for a face-to-face interview and everything was going swimmingly until he was asked to comment on some pathology slides. He excused himself from the room – and never came back. When we found him at home two weeks later he told us he had “…never been so insulted in his whole life.”

Perhaps if he had been warned he may have taken less offense but his reaction, whilst extreme, was not atypical. Doctors are subjected to assessments of all kinds throughout their careers and yet the idea that this should be part of a recruitment process seems anathema to them.

The list of modern recruitment techniques that could be deployed goes on but at a bare minimum, it would be great to see psychometric testing and skills assessment implemented as a routine part of the medical recruitment process. The two most common reasons we see doctors fail in their new role are that they either don’t have the competence (despite glowing references that indicate otherwise) or they don’t fit appropriately into the work environment or culture. Both risk factors can be greatly reduced by adequate testing.

Doctors carry positions of great responsibility and surely there is a duty of care on the part of the employers to ensure that the candidate is suited to the role, both temperamentally and in terms of their skills?

This is not an issue of availability of tools – these are now ubiquitous, sophisticated and can be highly tailored. This is a paradigm shift that doctors and health employers need to make to accept such best practices as mainstream.

It remains to be seen if and when this might happen. Any time before hell freezes over would be great.

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