Afternoon interviews not a winning idea

by Caitlin Nobes21 Feb 2013

It may seem efficient to interview everyone on your shortlist on the same day, but new research shows those with morning interviews are more likely to be accepted, while afternoon appointments often miss out.

The study from the Harvard School of Business and The Wharton School looked at the results of MBA admission interviews, and found those conducting the interviews were more likely to rate the applicants they saw in the morning highly, compared to those they saw in the afternoon.

The study has ramifications for HR managers, who may not be getting the best information from those they interview in the afternoon because they’re burned out from the earlier assessments. It’s difficult to compare potential hires when you’re seeing five or more in one day because salient information can get lost. If an hiring manager gave high marks to early candidates, they may be reluctant to rate later applicants as highly.

So what can you do to even out the odds? It may be best to schedule fewer interviews a day, and spread the process over a few days. An older study from Israel found people suffer “decision fatigue” and tend to make more conservative decisions based on less insight or information later in the day. That study found that eating before a decision could help improve focus, so eating lunch or a snack before afternoon interviews could help.

It’s also said that awareness is the first step: by knowing that it’s harder to assess afternoon interviewees managers have the opportunity to take steps to correct it through objective assessments like tasks or testing, and by involving others people in the process, such as having potential candidates meet coworkers or their future manager for outside input.


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