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Screening Candidates: A Different Way to Use Simulations

September 16, 2016


Verbal, interpersonal, judgment, and leadership qualities are essential to success in graduate education.  Those same characteristics are also predictors of performance in subsequent work experiences related to the graduate program.  This has been found particularly true in the field of education and the preparation of educators (Byrnes, Kiger, & Shechtman, 2003; Casey & Childs, 2007). We utilized an online branching simulation as a dynamic, immersive group interview as part of the admissions process for an educational doctoral program as a way of observing the verbal, interpersonal, judgment, and leadership characteristics of perspective students.


Motowidlo, et al. (1992), described effective methods for gaining authentic evidence for predicting future behaviors of candidates for employment.  In behavioral job interviewing, candidates are asked to described their actions they took in previous experiences.  This is compared with explaining what a candidate “would do” in a future situation.  The strength of the descriptions of past behaviors is in the ability to verify and validate the actual behaviors described through reference checks.


We structured these group interviews in such a way that actual behaviors in leadership and team situations were observable.  Immersive simulations place participants into authentic situations and require them to make decisions and respond to stimuli in a fluid way.  In these group interviews, the small sets of candidates worked together to make decisions in the role of the school leader in the online simulation.  They discussed the choices at each decision point and worked together to respond to the resulting effects and consequences.


Teams of observers sat in on the group interviews to capture behavioral data.  The interpersonal dynamics were noted and specific evidence around leadership decision-making was captured.  These behaviors, both the interpersonal and communication skills and the leadership decision-making dispositions of the candidates, then became part of the overall candidate portfolio for admissions decisions.


The data collected from the observed team approach to leadership-decision making, mediated by a multi-media simulation, provided unique and specific insights for the selection process that had not been available in previous cycles.  This technique, whether employed with groups or individuals, have the potential to play an integral role in selection processes for higher education admissions and in pre-employment screening.  There is a unique place for simulation-based interviews where the candidates’ decision-making and judgment, along with interpersonal skills with respect to group simulations, are important considerations in the ultimate selection.





Byrnes, D. A., Kiger, G., & Shechtman, Z. (2003). Evaluating the use of group interviews to select students into teacher-education programs. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(2), 163-172.


Casey, C. E., & Childs, R. A. (2007). Teacher Education Program Admission Criteria and What Beginning Teachers Need to Know to Be Successful Teachers. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 67, 1-24.


Motowidlo, S. J., Carter, G. W., Dunnette, M. D., Tippins, N., Werner, S., Burnett, J. R., & Vaughan, M. J. (1992). Studies of the structured behavioral interview. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77(5), 571.

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