Significant demographic, legal, and educational developments during the last ten years have led medical schools to review critically their selection procedures. A critical component of this review is the selection interview, since it is an integral part of most admission processes; however, some question its value. Interviews serve four purposes: information gathering, decision making, verification of application data, and recruitment. The first and last of these merit special attention. The interview enables an admission committee to gather information about a candidate that would be difficult or impossible to obtain by any other means yet is readily evaluated in an interview. Given the recent decline in numbers of applicants to and interest in medical school, many schools are paying closer attention to the interview as a powerful recruiting tool. Interviews can be unstructured, semistructured, or structured. Structuring involves analyzing what makes a medical student successful, standardizing the questions for all applicants, providing sample answers for evaluating responses, and using panel interviews (several interviewers simultaneously with one applicant). Reliability and validity of results increase with the degree of structuring. Studies of interviewers show that they are often biased in terms of the rating tendencies (for instance, leniency or severity) and in terms of an applicant's sex, race, appearance, similarity to the interviewer, and contrast to other applicants). Training interviewers may reduce such bias. Admission committees should weigh the purposes of interviewing differently for various types of candidates, develop structured or semistructured interviews focusing on nonacademic criteria, and train the interviewers.
(C) 1990 Association of American Medical Colleges