‘Holistic’ decisions are unreliable

“Holistic” assessment is unreliable, said Scott Highhouse at Wake Forest University’s “Rethinking Admissions” conference. Highhouse, a professor of industrial-organizational psychology at Bowling Green State University, warned that research shows personal interviews don’t predict who’ll succeed on the job and who’ll flop. The audience was not happy to hear that, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

One social psychologist in the audience asked Mr. Highhouse about the importance of personality traits, such as conscientiousness, that seem to correlate highly with student success.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Mr. Highhouse said. “How to measure conscientiousness in a way that is standardized.”

He’d titled his talk, “Don’t Shoot the Messenger.”

I worry that an emphasis on interviews, essays and “community service” claims will reward bullshit artists rather than performers. Take Susan Boyle.  She doesn’t know how to package or present herself.  But she can perform.

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  1. Interviews may not be perfect, but the long-term (thankfully defunct) NYC policy of interviewing no one did not really pay off either. While there may indeed be good teachers who don’t know how to package or present themselves (I don’t know any), packaging and presenting one’s self in one way or another can be a good part of what keeps kids motivated and focused.

    Essays, unless produced on the spot, are really a bad indicator since Lord only knows who wrote them. I recently saw a few applications for educational jobs, though, with pre-written essays that contained outrageous grammatical errors and an unfamiliarity with the concept of paragraphs. Were I in a position to hire or fire these people, I’d have tossed them right into the trash.

    I think interviews and essays ought to be preliminary, and I’d want to watch candidates who get through them teach as well, whatever their resumes may indicate.