Later interviews give candidates the X Factor

Job candidates may be hired depending on the order in which they are interviewed, in the same way X Factor contestants who sing later in the show are less likely to be voted off, research indicates.

Researchers at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School have been investigating what gives winning game-show contestants the edge, and found that the order in which contestants perform plays an important role in their success.

Using data from more than 150 shows worldwide in the X-Factor and Idol series, boffins revealed that when contestants perform in the later positions they are less likely to be eliminated in the following rounds.

The study suggests that this effect is most likely to be due to memory; people remember better the later contestants and to a lesser magnitude the first contestant.

The ‘Last shall be first’ study, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, argues that such biases are most likely to occur in other situations where performances are judged sequentially. For example, job candidates may be unjustly advantaged or disadvantaged in the process depending on the interview order.

“In a job interview process a very good applicant who is the second or third interviewee seen, may be less likely to get the job because he/she is less likely to be remembered than the later candidates,” said report author Lionel Page. “This is both unfair for the candidate and inefficient for the organisation which may not select the best candidate for the post.”

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