Pole position for job interview?
August 6, 2014 5:44 PM   Subscribe

Is there is an optimal (or simply better) time slot/position for being interviewed for a job?

Is there is an optimal (or simply better) time slot/position for being interviewed for a job? That is, if a company is interviewing 10 people over 2 days, it is more advantageous to be in the first group? The first person interviewed in the first group? The last person interviewed? Something else entirely?
If you have an opinion one way or the other, I'd love to hear why; particularly if you've seen your theory play out in real life.
posted by youdontmakefriendswithsalad to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My vote is for early rather than later. This spring one of my bosses was interviewing candidates for an internship. He liked the second candidate so much he offered her the position during the interview. The third/last candidate got a courtesy interview, but the decision was already made. (FWIW, I think my boss shouldn't have done this, but if he did I imagine others have and do.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:49 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would go with either near the start, or near the finish. I'm basing this on theories of memory and recall which state that we remember the earliest and the latest items in a series the best. Wikipedia gives a reasonable overview, and there's a fair bit of academic material out there if you Google using terms like recency primacy effect job interviews.
posted by Pink Frost at 5:56 PM on August 6, 2014

I conduct interviews and make hiring decisions at my firm. Earlier is without a doubt better. If they are interviewing over 2 days the process breaks down after awhile, when the same questions are asked over and over. It's better to have a fresh audience who are more attentive and will hear everything you will contribute.

Good luck!
posted by Benway at 6:03 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've been part of the hiring process at my job and I vote for early or late--they were the easiest to remember. Hardest were the interviews around lunchtime, because were just hungry and cranky by then.
posted by TwoStride at 6:07 PM on August 6, 2014

I'd rather be near the start, but the second person rather than the first. The interviewers will probably not know exactly what they're doing with the first one, but will soon realize how to smooth things out.
posted by grouse at 6:08 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, the early interviews made a bigger impression in my mind. The later interviews had a steeper hill to climb, and often did not show the same voracity as the morning candidates. (meaning...yes, I want this, and I'm willing to get up early and present myself to get this).
posted by Benway at 6:17 PM on August 6, 2014

From what I have read, first thing in the morning is best. If you can't get that slot, then right after they return from lunch is second best.
posted by Michele in California at 6:19 PM on August 6, 2014

The Secretary Problem, or, soon after the first 37%.
posted by rhizome at 6:30 PM on August 6, 2014

The secretary problem gives the optimal time the interviewer should stop interviewing, not necessarily the best spot for the interviewee.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:04 PM on August 6, 2014

Another vote for scheduling your interview as soon as possible. First, it makes you look like a go-getter who is excited to interview. Second, the process is still fresh for the interviewing team (as others mention, it gets old after a few interviews). Third, you will always be a point of comparison for later interviews... if you made a good impression, there's a good chance that the people who follow you will always start at a disadvantage.

All signs point to shooting for an interview that is early in the process, in my opinion.

(And my take is to avoid schedule interviews late in the day for the same reasons. 9-10 AM is a golden time to shoot for... not too early, interviewers have time to handle their morning business before sitting down with you, not too close to lunch, not too soon after lunch.)
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:15 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


What applicants forget is that employers WANT to hire you, just to be able to stop having interviews so we can all get back to our jobs. It is honestly zero trouble for us to cancel interviews for applicants in later spots.

Source: I have been part of the hiring committee for dozens of web developers and account and support folks.
posted by mochapickle at 7:21 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was just on a hiring committee, and I would say later was better, at least if it is a scenario where the committee is going to go through the entire batch no matter what, and not cancel any. The later candidates were freshest in the committee's mind when the decision was made.
posted by umbĂș at 7:48 PM on August 6, 2014

I have heard that you don't want to be first (you'll be scored low because there's no point of comparison), and you don't want to be last (cos everyone's tired), and you don't want to be straight after lunch (because they'll be sleepy).

I have had all three of those slots on my time and been the preferred candidate every time.

So it may make a tiny difference at the margin, all other things being equal. But if everything else is equal, the best way to pick a person woudl be to dispense with the interview and just pull a name out of a hat.
posted by girlgenius at 8:01 PM on August 6, 2014

I was the last interviewee once in a two day mammoth series of interviews, and two people on the committee actually fell asleep during my interview. I didn't get the job.

I vote that it's best to be first.
posted by lollusc at 11:37 PM on August 6, 2014

I vote for either first or last. Whenever I'm either, I get the job.

If you're first, you stick in their mind. If you have your interview technique down pat and if you amaze them with your suitability for the position, everyone interviewed after you will fade into the background because they won't compare to you being perfect for the job.

If you're last, you stick in their mind. If you have your interview technique down pat - stop me if you've heard this before - if you amaze them with your suitability for the position, the memories of everyone directly before you will fade into the background.

I got my current (and best ever) job by being last. I desperately wanted the position, made myself physically ill by stressing about it, so spent the day of the interview looking in the mirror and telling myself that I would be perfect for this job, all I have to do is explain why.

Another applicant walked out while I was waiting. She was dressed inappropriately and displayed a marked lack of enthusiasm through her body language. That was the cue I needed. I rocked in there, oozing faked confidence, knowing that I was the last to be interviewed and I needed to knock their socks off. I talked myself up as high as I could go to out-do previous applicants, and they rang me first thing the next day to tell me I had the job. (I then got off the phone and burst into tears with relief, but that's another story...)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:57 AM on August 7, 2014

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