Is it smart to volunteer to go first? In sports and negotiating, it’s often thought of as a disadvantage. When it comes to job interviews, however, a recent study finds that interviewers are significantly influenced by interviews they conducted earlier in the day. So what time should you schedule your interview for if given a choice?
Researchers Uri Simonsohn and Francesca Gino, who published their work in the journal Psychological Science, looked at the ratings given to candidates who interviewed for an MBA program. They had access to information including the candidates’ GMAT scores, along with interviewers’ assessed them overall and on components like how they were willing to work on a team. They also had access to stats on the interviews, including how many interviews they had already conducted that day, and the average score they gave interviewees.
The researchers looked at this information in order to come up with factors that could predict any given interviewees overall score. Even after controlling for things like GMAT score and the toughness of the particular interviewer, as Texas Enterprise sums it up, “ there was also a negative correlation between the previous scores given to candidates that day and the score given to the current interviewee.” If earlier interviewees that day had gotten high scores, the later interviewee was likelier to receive a lower score.
Why? Apparently, interviewers feel they’re being too generous when they give many high scores in a row — even if all those candidates had equal qualifications, and were all genuinely worthy. Here’s how Psychology Today sums it up:
It seems that interviewers like to have each day’s ratings balance out. When an interviewer sees three or four good candidates in a row, they become concerned that they are giving too many high ratings. So, if another good candidate comes walking through the door, he gets a lower rating just so that the ratings for the day are not uniformly high. By chance, of course, there should be lots of days in which there are several good candidates in a row. So, interviewers probably should not take the other people interviewed that day into account, but they do.
In other words: It’s better to be interviewed earlier in the day.