There is nothing like an elegant psychological study to make you stop and wonder. A new one published by the Wharton School of Business shows that people are likely to rate the last applicant of the day better or worse depending on whether the previous applicants were strong or weak. So, a job interviewee would get a lower rating if he followed some strong candidates, even if he was just as qualified and interviewed as well. The authors likened the effect to the mistaken belief by gamblers that over a short period of time red and black should hit on a roulette wheel equally. A gambler may be more confident that having seen a bunch of black spins, red was “due.” Similarly, people may fear that they are overrating or underrating candidates, and either consciously or subconsciously seek to have the day’s crop show a distribution of scores.
The authors also point out this can affect a busy judge’s decisions, loan officers, and everyone who expects that there will be some yeses and nos in their day’s judgments.
Unless you as a job candidate can be sure that you are following weak candidates, it appears that the smart move is to try to get an interview in the middle.