Wharton research shows that interviewees need not only compete against the crowded field of candidates in general, but against those specific candidates who are interviewing on the same day as they are.
The study measures the success of applicants who interviewed at the end of the day, rather than early on in the interviewer’s schedule. The results show that a qualified candidate who would have scored high earlier in the day, ended up scoring lower if interviewed at the end of the day. This low scoring, however, resulted only if our highly qualified candidate followed other highly qualified candidates. If our end-of-the-day highly qualified candidate interviewed late in the day following a series of WEAK candidates, then his end-of-the-day timing would work with him to increase his interview score.
The theory behind the data here is that if an interviewer goes into the day knowing that he will probably accept or score highly 50% of his interviewees (for example), and if by the end of the day he’s already reached his quota of “good interviews, then even if our highly qualified candidate does extremely well, the interviewer will be less likely to accept him.
According to Uri Simonsohn, Wharton operations and information management professor, “The effect very well could be an unconscious one,” or “it could be very conscious. It could be an agency thing. It could be you don’t want your supervisors to think you’re doing a bad job when they see a bunch of [candidates rated as] fives in a row.”
The flipside of all of this is that a weak candidate who interviews later in the day, really lowers his chances of scoring high during the interview.
See “Why Being the Last Interview of the Day Could Crush Your Chances” for more information.
Obviously, you don’t know the strength of the candidates scheduled to interview on any given day. Therefore, you don’t know whether you are better off scheduling in the morning or late afternoon.
I asked a few of Accepted’s former admissions directors about the study, and they were skeptical of this data, and they disagreed with any conclusion that interviewing in the morning is an advantage.
I have always wondered or perhaps assumed that there are certain random factors no one can control in this highly subjective application evaluation process. What if the reader has a fight with his or her significant other that morning? Or conversely if something wonderful happens just before the reader opens your file?
The irrational, random aspects of the evaluation process can contribute to what outsiders see as anomalous results: applicants rejected at less selective programs and admitted to more selective programs; or less “qualified” competition accepted at your favorite program when you are “more qualified” and your answer is a sympathetic but definitive denial.
Perhaps the real takeaway from this study is not when you should interview, but a reminder that the MBA application process is a subjective process imperfectly evaluating your application, not you. It is not an authoritative analysis of your worth as a human being; it isn’t even an omen of professional triumph or a sign of success in the business world.
The study also serves as a reminder, given the subjective and even capricious elements in the application process, that applying to one highly selective school runs a high risk of rejection. Unless you really can’t leave the city where this school is located, apply to several schools that meet your needs.