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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 April 2019

Yi-Shen Lin
Institute of Statistical Science, Academia Sinica, Taipei 115 Taiwan, R.O.C E-mail:
Shoou-Ren Hsiau
Department of Mathematics, National Changhua University of Education, No. 1, Jin-De Rd., Changhua 500 Taiwan, R.O.C. E-mail:
Yi-Ching Yao
Institute of Statistical Science, Academia Sinica, Taipei 115 Taiwan, R.O.C. E-mail:


In the subject of optimal stopping, the classical secretary problem is concerned with optimally selecting the best of n candidates when their relative ranks are observed sequentially. This problem has been extended to optimally selecting the kth best candidate for k ≥ 2. While the optimal stopping rule for k=1,2 (and all n ≥ 2) is known to be of threshold type (involving one threshold), we solve the case k=3 (and all n ≥ 3) by deriving an explicit optimal stopping rule that involves two thresholds. We also prove several inequalities for p(k, n), the maximum probability of selecting the k-th best of n candidates. It is shown that (i) p(1, n) = p(n, n) > p(k, n) for 1<k<n, (ii) p(k, n) ≥ p(k, n + 1), (iii) p(k, n) ≥ p(k + 1, n + 1) and (iv) p(k, ∞): = lim n→∞p(k, n) is decreasing in k.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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