From the interviewer’s point of view, it’s about the selection process Availability, choices and risk. This principle applies to many things that the rest of us do throughout the day. For example, isn’t it interesting that when a group of people dine together in a restaurant, some of them make their menu decisions within seconds, while for others it takes an embarrassingly long time – and they are still not entirely happy with their decisions. The same principle applies to interviewers: I remember being interviewed for 20 minutes years ago and receiving the job offer on site; that was unusual at the corporate director level. At the other extreme, I heard from a person interviewed for a secretarial position of seven people over a period of two months – after the candidate had already worked as a temporary worker in this department for three months.
In summary, it is impossible to predict the outcome of an interview because we simply do not know how the interviewer’s decision-making process works. How many times has an applicant run away from an interview with the feeling of having made it, and yet the job offer never came.
Sometimes candidates speculate about the best time of day to schedule an interview – given the choice. The early morning – before the pressure of the day builds up – may be fine, but the interviewer may not be fully awake yet. Maybe just before lunch. But maybe it would be better after lunch. How about towards the end of the day? There are no clear answers as each case is individual and unique.
A recently released program on National Public Radio interviewed professors from Wharton and Harvard Business Schools as they discussed the results of a large 10-year interview study of 9,000 subjects. Investigators concluded that it depends on the applicant’s performance relative to those previously interviewed. In their analysis, they also talked about a phenomenon known as the gambler’s error – a theory that says that there is a misconception that the probability of something has a fixed probability depending on recent events increases or decreases. In other words, if you’re interviewing after two or three low-quality candidates, your chances are better. This also works the other way around.
From my perspective as an interview coach, I know that the only way to beat the odds is to prepare well and practice mock interviews. Practice creates masters.