Methods of selection of candidates for training in surgery has long been regarded as lacking explicit criteria and objectivity. Our purpose was to discover the aptitudes and personality types of applicants for surgical posts at the outset, in order to discover which were most likely to result in a satisfactory progression through training and which were associated with career difficulties. This longitudinal predictive validation study has been undertaken in a London Teaching Hospital since 1994. After short-listing, but immediately before interview, all candidates for senior house officer posts in basic surgical training and in geriatric medicine were asked to undertake psychometric tests of numerical (GMA) and spatial (SIT7) reasoning, personality type (MBTI), and self-rating of competency. There were no differences in ability scores between surgeons or geriatricians. Personality differences were revealed between the surgeons and the geriatricians, and between male and female surgeons. This study suggests that while there are no differences in ability between surgeons and geriatricians at the start of training, there are differences in personality. Long-term follow-up of the career development of this cohort of surgical SHOs is required to determine whether the psychometric measures described correlate with achievements of milestones in their surgical careers.