Do you have the personality to ace your medical school interview?

A new study from the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine has found that the more uninhibited and sociable you are, the better you’ll perform during the Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI) process.

While past studies have shown that conscientious individuals possess many of the attributes widely regarded as core attributes of effective physicians, the end result, as the study authors noted, is that being extroverted helps applicants perform better during interviews. And along with interview performance, those with higher levels of agreeableness are more likely to be offered admission to medical school.   

During the 2010-2011 admissions cycle, lead researcher Dr. Antony Jerant, a professor at UCD, and his colleagues studied 444 applicants who went through the interview process. Each applicant’s MMI performance was given scored. The applicants were then invited to participate in the study by completing a questionnaire designed to measure personality factors.  The researchers looked for associations of personality factors with MMI score, and associations of personality factors and MMI score with acceptance offers. The new study, which was published online in the Academic Medicine, looked at five personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, openness), each with multiple sub-traits.
Extroversion: Most influential on interview
Of the five personality factors, only “high-level” extroversion was associated with significantly better performance during the MMI process. According to the study, personality traits like uninhibited, enthusiastic, sociable, and adventurous as well as displaying a level of confidence may be an important part of gaining admission to medical school.

“Our results suggest that applicant personality influences aspects of the medical school admissions process, including performance on the MMI,” the authors wrote. And to get more technical, being somewhat extroverted won’t help – those who were considered “lower-level” extroverts did not perform as well as “higher-level” extroverts.

Conscientiousness: No biggie, already accounted for
In this study, the number one personality trait most consistently found to predict performance in medical school and eventual physician practice – conscientiousness – was actually not associated with MMI score. The researchers explained that the reason that better MMI performance may not have been associated with higher conscientiousness because the UCD SOM screening process for MMI participation had already selected for conscientiousness.  “Different findings related to conscientiousness might be observed at medical schools employing different pre-MMI screening processes,” the authors wrote. “It may also be possible to modify MMI elements to further select for conscientiousness, which is another issue for future study.”
Agreeableness: Linked to acceptance offers
In addition to extraversion, agreeableness was the second personality trait significantly associated with acceptance offers. For this study, characteristics of agreeableness were defined as being cooperative, compassionate, considerate, kind, patient, reasonable, amiable, sympathetic, trustful, courteous, generous, adaptable, modest, ethical, sincere, or easygoing.  “Higher agreeableness may be advantageous in aspects of the selection process other than the MMI, whereas higher extraversion may influence both MMI scores and acceptance offers,” the authors noted.

“Our findings suggest that applicant personality influences both MMI performance and the medical school admissions process,” the authors concluded. “They also raise the concern that the widespread adoption of the MMI could result in a narrower range of student personalities in medical schools, possibly reducing diversity of thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors among medical students.”

Additional Study Findings:

  • Women, older applicants, and individuals with higher MCAT Verbal Reasoning scores had significantly higher MMI scores compared with other applicants. Authors wrote: “MCAT Verbal Reasoning scores have been positively associated with interpersonal communication ratings in medical school, and women are more likely than men to communicate in ways that foster rapport building in new social situations.”
  • Older applicants had better MMI performance than younger applicants. Specifically, younger applicants, 19 to 21 years old, had significantly lower mean total MMI score compared with older applicants who were 25 to 39 years old. Authors wrote: “This makes sense because they are more likely to have had prior life experiences requiring effective communication in high-stakes situations.”
  • Higher MMI scores, California residence, and higher MCAT Biological Sciences scores were significantly associated with acceptance offers. 

The study titled “Does Applicant Personality Influence Multiple Mini-Interview Performance and Medical School Acceptance Offers” was published online ahead of print.