Decision fatigue and job interviewing

I was reading about decision fatigue and wondering if it accounts for more major events than we give it credit for. The idea is at least spreading a little bit in certain circles, but doesn’t get the wider attention it should.

“One research study found that the decisions judges make are strongly influenced by how long it has been since their last break. “We find that the percentage of favorable rulings drops gradually from ≈65% to nearly zero within each decision session and returns abruptly to ≈65% after a break.””

quote via Wikipedia

Another example is job interviewing. Companies, schools and other organisations run recruitment events such as campus recruitment, job fairs and speed recruitment where interviewers see and potentially make decisions on multiple candidates within a session. This seems pretty disastrous considering the importance of those decisions for both the candidate and the hiring organisation.

Based on my personal experience of interviewing what I’d estimate is 100 to 150 job candidates so far in my career, I don’t think it’s possible to run quality interviews or make strong decisions on more than three candidates in a day. Three in a day was mentally exhausting on the rare occasions I have done it, even with breaks.

When organisations run events where a single decision maker tries to make decisions on more than three candidates in a day, let alone in a single session without breaks, I’m confident that the quality of decision making quickly becomes atrocious. This also applies when a decision maker is receiving applications or reviewing CVs one after another – I don’t believe it’s possible to keep up a high standard of decision making for such complex and important decisions when trying to process so many.

Whether or not you get hired or even get a call back could be down to the time of day someone happened to look at your application.

I doubt that most organisations even collect statistics on the time of day or sequence number of each decision and the result of the decision, but I’d be willing to bet some money that there would be a pretty clear trend in such data, similar to the study that Wikipedia quotes on the decisions of judges.

The next conclusion to draw from that is that a lot of major decisions are more random than we tend to believe. It’s an increasingly common observation but is always interesting to think about with its wide-reaching implications.