What can medicine admissions learn from Google?

In a New York Times column, Thomas Friedman recent wrote about what Google values and seeks in its new employees. Striking to me was the fact that overall intelligence ranks lower on their values totem pole than several traditionally more important attributes.

So, what can medicine learn from Google and how can we apply it to our admissions process? Here are five key points from the article, adapted to our admissions process:

1. Cognitive ability. GPA and MCAT scores are likely poor measures. Cognitive ability has very little to do with IQ and everything to do with how able one is to “learn on the fly.” Can you evaluate a situation, process the important details and make a logical decision about how to proceed?

2. Leadership skills. Stop searching for standard CV fillers like “president of the pre-med society.” Half of being a good leader is knowing when someone else may be better equipped to take the wheel. Seek out those who can identify situations and formulate ways to lead, but who also recognize when it may be more appropriate to hand over the reins.

3. Humility and ownership. Does your applicant have a backbone and an open mind? Own your positions and ideas to the point that you can fiercely defend them, but at the same time, have the humility to truly hear and accept others’ points. Most importantly, have the open mind and humility needed to accept a better idea and alter your own.

4. Intellectual humility. Does this person own their failures? Intellectual humility is recognizing your own mistakes and failures and learning from them. This is the opposite of blaming others or the universe at large when something goes wrong. You need a big ego and a small ego in the same person, at the same time.

5. Expertise. Scores and grades can still count, just not as much. The argument is that someone who possesses the four other characteristics can have little or no expertise, but will be equipped to get there. Once you have those other characteristics, you are teachable; and we are nothing if not teachable.

One push in the recent past has been to incorporate more behavioral interviews into the medical school admissions process, which they discuss in this article as being a big part of the Google hiring process. It’s logistically difficult, sure, but the benefits to patients and medicine in general, is undeniable.

Danielle Jones is an obstetrics-gynecology resident. This article originally appeared in The American Resident Project.

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