Have you ever walked into a late afternoon interview and wondered why you were there? Not because you didn’t think you were qualified or you weren’t an excellent candidate, but because the person interviewing you seemed rather disengaged and maybe even appeared to be dozing off?

You are not the problem. The trouble is that it’s the afternoon, and the people before you were also good candidates. According to a study, candidates who have the misfortune of having an interview scheduled later in the day, and potentially after a hiring manager has already spoken with other highly-qualified candidates, are less likely to receive top marks.

Sound unfair? It does to me, but it’s also important to note that the seeming discrimination is in no way intentional or reflects your interviewing abilities and qualifications.

What the science says

The study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Business and The Wharton School focused on MBA admission interviews. The findings showed that people conducting admission interviews tended to compare and rate candidates who interviewed later in the day to the candidates they’d spoken with earlier, rather than scoring an interview based on the entire pool of applicants.

If the person conducting the interview had interviewed particularly good candidates in the morning and had already given out top scores, by the time the last candidate interviewed they were less likely to receive the same high score.

The findings can be related to a varied of situations, but are especially interesting to job seekers. The study results may reflect how people generally make decisions–if a hiring manager has already given out a number of high marks they could feel obligated to give out a lower grade to the next candidate regardless of qualifications.

This could explain those interviews I’ve had were the hiring manager is literally fighting to keep his or her eyes open. Perhaps, proof that I wasn’t boring them to sleep, but they’d already heard from a bunch of good candidates. What’s one more? Regardless, those morning interviewees are stacking the cards against other qualified candidates.

Be the early bird

The moral of the story (or study) for job seekers is to try your best to schedule interviews at the beginning of the day. This gives you the best shot at standing out in employers’ eyes, and beating the potential afternoon candidate-fatigue syndrome.


See also:

How to shine during a telephone interview

Interview tips from the Toronto Academy of Acting

The 5 most common interview questions (and how to answer them like a boss)


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