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Job Interview Secret: Your Timing Could Mean Everything

job search Credit: Job Interview Image via Shutterstock

Want to ace your next interview? Then you might want to schedule your interview on a day when no one else is being interviewed. Applicant scores may have more to do with who else was interviewed that day than with the applicants themselves, a new study finds.

This phenomenon is known as "narrow bracketing," according to Uri Simonsohn of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School. This means that interviewers tend to compare applicants to other people they have interviewed throughout the day, instead of assessing them within the wider framework of the entire applicant pool.

The effects of this constriction in judgment can be serious for those looking for work in today’s competitive job market.

Interviews held earlier in the day had a negative impact on interviews held later in the day, Simonsohn and Gino found after analyzing 10 years of data from more than 9,000 MBA interviews. If the interviewers had already given several high scores to applicants early on, they were likely to give later applicants lower scores.

The study showed that as the average score for applicants interviewed early in the day increased by .75 percent, the score for the next applicant dropped by about .075 percent. And while this drop may seem small, the effect it has is significant. An applicant would have to score about 30 points higher on the GMAT, or have about 23 more months experience, to make up for this difference. And the impact that previous scores have on the judgment of interviewers only increases as they progress through the day.

Researchers believe that interviewers are hesitant to give too many high scores or too many low scores in a single day, and this creates a bias against applicants who are interviewed on a day in which there are particularly strong candidates.

Simonsohn and Gino said that they were able to document this “narrow bracketing” effect even among highly experienced interviewers.

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Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth writes about innovative technologies and business trends. She has traveled throughout the Americas in her roles as student, English teacher, Spanish language interpreter and freelance writer. She graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. You can follow her on Twitter @techEpalermo or .