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Are Multiple Mini-Interviews Useful in Healthcare Recruiting?

Are Multiple Mini-Interviews Useful in Healthcare Recruiting?

By: Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Acronyms are part and parcel to the healthcare industry -- MRIs, EEGs, CBCs -- and then there are MMIs.

MMI isn’t a new-fangled medical test -- it’s actually a multiple-mini-interview.

MMIs are being used by a growing number of top medical schools in their interview process to select the next generation of physicians.

The hope is that this methodology will yield physicians who are team players and better able to communicate and connect with healthcare practitioners and patients. Studies have identified miscommunication as one of the leading causes of medical errors.

Interviewing as Speed Dating
A recent article in the NY Times compared the process of MMIs to speed dating. The analogy is apt. In fact, MMIs differ from the typical interview process in some fundamental ways.

Here’s how it works: applicants spend a brief period of time with interviewers and move to the next interview room when the signal is given. The interviewers then assess candidates on their ability to think on their feet and work well in teams.

Jason Johnson, managing partner of the Texas-based recruiting firm KBIC, Kaye/Bassman, believes this approach to hiring produces higher quality candidates both with physicians, mid-level practitioners and their ancillary staff.

“MMI’s give the candidate two or more first impressions, as many people may not put their best foot forward when nervous.” He has seen MMI’s being effectively used to staff positions in teaching hospitals.

While MMI’s may be all the rage in medical schools, is this methodology ready for prime time in healthcare recruiting?

“From my experience dealing with multiple-mini interviews is they work when they work, they fail miserably when they don’t,” states Fred Cooper, managing partner of Scottsdale, Arizona based Compass HR Consulting LLC. “There are a multitude of behind the scenes -- often conflicting -- elements to consider when considering this or any approach to establishing a recruiting program,” he adds.

Here are a few things to consider before introducing MMI’s to your healthcare organization:

1) Does your practice or healthcare organization have the administrative staff and resources needed to facilitate this process? Setting up MMI’s requires having a staff member who can act like a conductor. This person ensures that the interview schedule stays on track and that everyone is moving in harmony.

Johnson goes out of his way to make sure candidates, who are interviewing for the same position, never see one another. This allows candidates to keep their searches confidential. Having everything run like clockwork during MMIs requires that all interviewers are fully trained and know how to interview effectively.

2) Can your organization afford to take a group of people away from patient care at the same time in order to participate in MMI’s? If you follow the model that is being used in med schools, then all candidates must be interviewed simultaneously.

Organizations with limited staff may choose to modify this model to meet their patient care needs. This can be done by conducting abbreviated interviews and following a more traditional model of having candidates move from one interview to the next, rather than having all candidates interview simultaneously.

Given the logistical challenges, MMIs may not be a feasible format for your staff to execute. Yet the effort can be a useful exercise in how to conduct an interview more efficiently. 

3) How receptive will candidates be to this new method of interviewing? In a down economy, candidates will do whatever it takes to find meaningful employment. This may not be the case where worker shortages exist, such as with healthcare specialists.

For example, a candidate who is conducting a confidential search may decline interviewing with a healthcare organization that is using this model for fear that too many people will know he is seeking other employment. It’s one thing for word to get out once you are in the final stages of the interviewing process. It’s another for this to happen after your first round of interviews.

Highly sought after candidates may not be interested in participating in what they may perceive to be a “beauty pageant.” These candidates preferred to be wooed. 

Adopting MMIs for Healthcare Recruiting
Tammie McMann Brailsford, RN, Chief Operating Officer, MemorialCare Health System in Southern California believes it’s too early to tell if MMI’s will produce better healthcare workers.

“Organizations need to evaluate the effectiveness of their hires based on performance and turnover in the first year, and if they have a problem, they either have a selection problem or an onboarding problem. If it’s the former, they need to revise their interviewing and selection process.”

When asked whether MemorialCare Health Systems would consider moving to a model where MMI’s were the standard, Brailsford replied by saying, “When we re-evaluated our process several years ago, we went to a model of using pre-employment testing and behavioral based interviewing. The model has worked well for us. By doing this, we’ve been able to cut first year turnover in half. The results speak for themselves.”

When deciding on whether this is a practice worth further consideration, Cooper suggests that this be done on a case-by-case basis.

“A larger practice may have the resources and time to incorporate a MMI recruiting program as their standard approach. A smaller practice may need to balance its patient load, remaining staff resources, workload and other factors in considering what to establish as their recruiting program.”

At the end of the day, it’s about delivering quality healthcare. The path you take to get there may vary depending on the resources and specific needs of your organization.

© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.

Author Bio
Roberta Chinsky Matuson
is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the highly-acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.