How Lunch Affects Your Hiring Judgment

We've warned candidates about the challenges of interviewing with tired or hungry recruiters, but ultimately we'd like to remove all bias from hiring decisions.  This will require the leadership of talent acquisition teams to change recruitment processes that are vulnerable to bias.  Here are a few interviewing pitfalls to be aware of and our recommendations for removing bias:

Your first interview, every day

The very first interview of the day is bound to be the one in which you are just getting into your groove (or maybe haven't had enough coffee). You don't want some poor candidate walking into a situation they are bound to mess up because of your bad mood or unpreparedness.

Even if you're a morning person or one of those great recruiters who sets everything up perfectly for the following day before leaving the office, unpredictable commuter traffic can trip up candidates who are on their way to early-morning interviews.

Interviewing through food coma

According to a study by the Harvard School of Business and The Wharton School, research shows those with afternoon interviews are less likely to be admitted to these MBA programs. Two causes may be to blame: you may be reluctant to give out high ratings in the afternoon if you already rated other applicants highly in the morning, and you may also simply just befatigued after meeting multiple candidates (or having a heavy lunch... so they are less interested in discovering all the pertinent information about the later candidates.

The retail interview golden hour

If you work in retail or hospitality, 4-5 pm is a great time to interview since most customers are commuting. This may be the slowest part of the day for many in-store positions, so keep that in mind as a recruiter.

Minimizing bias during job interviews

It may seem like the whole day is fraught with ups and downs that prevent you from making a sound decision about the candidate in front of you. Plus, it's unrealistic to schedule all your interviews during your best hours and days, about 9:30-11am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Here are three ways you can arrive at more fair hiring decisions regardless of the number of candidates you need to interview:

Involve teammates in hiring decisions

This is a definite case where two heads are better than one. While you may be experiencing a low point in your day, your colleague might be energized and see something you missed about a candidate.  Different perspectives from different evaluators help keep the focus on the candidate's competencies and filter out the more subjective judgments.

Use recorded video interviews

It is probably unrealistic to find a second reviewer to sit in on all your interviews, so a great way to involve teammates or hiring managers in reviewing prospective emplo... is to record the candidates' responses and invite them to evaluate the recordings.

Recorded video interviews are great for the candidate, too. Since the candidate can take the interview anytime, and nearly anywhere, you both get to show your best side.  Especially when recruiting passive candidates, you'll be able to let them interview outside of their current working hours without having to conduct an interview at your dinner table.

Take frequent breaks

If you can't avoid holding live interviews (whether in person or as a live video interview), make sure you give yourself time to refresh in between. Your open-mindedness for considering prospective hires is much like the study that revealed judges were 2-6x more likely to grant parole if considering a case at the top of the day or right after a break. Similarly, venture capitalists were more accepting of entrepreneurs' pitches i... instead of hungrily waiting to get to lunch.  So, the better you are to yourself the better it is for the candidate!

photo credit: YiowMade via photopin cc

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Comment by Jen Dewar on May 7, 2013 at 6:04pm

So true! Bright wrote a similar article about what candidates and prisoners have in common.

The basics: An inmate is most likely to be released from prison if they were one of the first to meet with the judge in the morning, or after lunch. In between those times, however, the probability steadily decreased to a nearly 0% chance of being released.

Recruiters have a similar bias - a long day can affect their mood and the outcome of the interview, as can hunger, other interviews, etc. You've presented some great tips for overcoming those biases, though!

Comment by Angela Yu on May 8, 2013 at 2:28pm

Great minds think alike, Jen! If only we could schedule everything in our lives to let us handle them when we are at our best... I could really go for an office schedule that is optimized for night owls!


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