#Human Resources #Recruitment & Hiring

Are Interviewers Biased Towards Candidates Who Come In Last?

Mohamad Danial bin Ab. Khalil
by Mohamad Danial bin Ab. Khalil
Sep 02, 2020 at 9:57 AM

Let's say you're inviting a candidate for a job interview. You asked them, "When can you come in?" and they said they can come in as soon as possible, making them the first candidate in the interview order. 

But did you know that many job seekers think that there's an advantage for candidates who were interviewed either first or last? They think that the first candidate to be interviewed benefits from primacy bias, while the last candidate to be interviewed benefits from recency bias. 

Primacy bias = Interviewers prefer candidates that were interviewed first and ignore the candidates in the middle.
Recency bias = Interviewers prefer candidates that were interviewed last and ignore the candidates in the middle.

businesspeople interview
If these studies are true, then press F to all the middle candidates.


Is this true?

The results are... conflicting. According to one study, the researchers say that candidates interviewed earlier in the process received a more objective evaluation. This study says that interviewers don't like to give a high score to a candidate who came after consecutive candidates who also received high scores.

According to the researcher, if the interview session had many good candidates, then it's a bad idea to be the final candidate. But, if the interview session had many bad candidates, then it's best to be the last candidate to be interviewed.

On the other hand, some career experts say there's a recency bias because candidates who are interviewed later are fresh in the minds of the interviewer and there's no reference point for the first evaluation. But most research hints that the first AND last candidates have an advantage because of the serial position effect.

Serial position effect: the tendency to remember the first and last candidates best, and the middle candidates worst​.


Actually, it depends on the interview process itself.

It appears that recency and primacy biases depend on the length and complexity of the interview process. Based on a study called the "Order Effects in Making Personnel Decision Making," there are two response models, or ways decisions are made in the interview process: step-by-step and end-of-sequence.

Step-by-step: Evaluation takes place incrementally as interviewers develop a view of the candidate.
End-of-sequence: Judgment is withheld until the end.

If interviewers must judge a large amount of information fast, they don't have time to make step-by-step evaluations and they save their decision to the end. In this case, the latest information seems to be the best, so, there's a bias towards candidates who were interviewed last.  

But when the interview process covers a long period of time, interviewers become mentally tired and rely on their first impression of a candidate and tend to choose the candidates interviewed earlier in the process.

In the case of a simple and quick interview process, the researcher concludes that interviewers simply judge quickly, and primacy dominates

asian businesswoman
If you're lucky, you'd be the first candidate to be interviewed. If you did well, there's a high chance they will hire you, according to these studies.

So who won?

No matter the way decisions are made, step-by-step or end-of-sequence, that tends to favour the first candidate interview. Some candidates might gain a slight advantage by being first, but more often than not the distinctiveness of candidates will overcome any order biases.

Although it's interesting to think about what effect order bias might have on job seekers, it's important for interviewers to think about their biases.

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Source: Higher Ed Jobs

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