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.)