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Exploit Hiring Bias: Be The First Job Interview Of The Day

If you're the fourth great candidate in a day full of awesome candidates, you'll be marked down. Why?

If hiring were a mythical place (a meritocracy!) the best candidates would get the best jobs, free of the foibles frequently found in the first-date fussiness of the job interview. But it's not.

New research suggests that you need to be first in line.

Uri Simonsohn and Francesca Gino, respectively of Wharton and HBS, recently released a paper examining 10 years of MBA admissions. They hypothesized that admissions folk—and other expert interviewers—engage in what's called narrow bracketing, where you assess each individual in isolation and avoid deviating from the averages you expected to find in the first place.

How does that play out? If an admissions officer saw three "excellent" candidates in a day, the fourth wouldn't get as good of a score.

Writing at Psychology Today, cognitive scientist Art Markman helps us see why:

"It seems that interviewers like to have each day’s ratings balance out. When an interviewer sees 3 or 4 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, they get a lower rating just so that the ratings for the day are not uniformly high."

From our perspective, it seems that admissions officers, like hiring managers and other humans, are suffering from an unexamined bit of confirmation bias: Even though statistically some days can have a randomly excellent amount of candidates, the admissions officer, expecting an average selection, unconsciously penalizes later interviewees so that the overall set seems normal.

(It also reminds us of the way judges give harsher rulings later in the day: Decision fatigue comes for us all.)

Bottom Line: Cooperate with human nature. Make your interview happen first thing.

Schedule that Interview Early in the Day

[Image: Flickr user Richard Taylor]

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  • MBA Rankings

    This article is great. Many parts of the interview process can not be controlled. A lot of other studies have indicated a type of admissions committee burn out as many candidates appear to have similar base criteria once invited for interviews. Differentiating the candidates is not an easy task because they made it to the interview in the first place on a solid application. More things to consider when considering an MBA.

  • Joe

    Interesting note that makes perfect sense.

    Hiring managers would do well to keep unbiased quantitative measures such as skill assessments in mind.

  • Todd Lempicke

    As recruiters, we've observed order bias in the past and found that the last one in seemed to have a slight advantage in terms of memorability. This tendency was eliminated when second and third interviews were conducted. The first candidate frequently is the one others are compared to, which can be a good thing or bad depending on the candidates. The early-bird bias has more to do with the most juicy candidate being called in and scheduled first, and not some random order perception.

  • donnasvei

    I agree with Steve. However, I will add that skilled interviewing of employment candidates takes a lot of energy. Thus, I think there is a slight advantage to being interviewed earlier in the week and earlier in the day. Nonetheless, talent and fit manifest themselves regardless of timing. The secret sauce to getting the job is being willing, able, a fit, and affordable. 

  • sobercool

    "confirmation bias" and "decision fatigue". I knew there were names for those behavioural phenomenons.

  • Cardpuzzle21

    There's a lot of psychology to be used in the job interview.  The book The Peak Interview has some interesting techniques.

  • Mark Babbitt

    External validity: Is the research from a contrived academic setting generalizable to ALL settings?

    In this case, I'd be very wary of extrapolating Simonsohn's and Gino's research to my world where 3 tremendous performance oriented candidates in a row constitutes not only a talent pipeline but potentially a large talent community that serves as a hedge against future "wars on talent."