First Interviewee/Last Interviewee – Who Has the Advantage?


An interesting discussion has been underway among members of the Career Management Alliance’s e-list/forum this week. The question surrounds whether, given the chance to choose, one is better off scheduling a job interview at the beginning, middle, or end of the screening process.

One member who is a former recruiter observes that the first and sometimes the second candidate interviewed rarely receives an offer. He suggests to his clients that they want to be at least third or fourth in the interview order to maximize their chances.

It is also a consideration that many times hiring managers will modify the position specifications as the interviewing process progresses. This is because they are better able to crystallize the company’s needs based on what is learned through conducting several interviews. This, of course, places the early interviewee at a competitive disadvantage.

Another factor is that the competition is so high in today’s job market that it is extremely difficult to get hiring managers to make a decision. The prevailing attitude seems to be that they have the luxury of reviewing numerous candidates until they find the “perfect” match. So eliciting an offer if you interview early in a slate of potential candidates can be tough.

Then again, there is some logic to what another member recalls a professor/mentor telling her: If yours is the best candidacy and fit, and you eclipse everyone else in your interview, the order will not matter.

The overwhelming consensus seems to be that your odds improve if you interview last or near last among your competitors. This dovetails with what I have advised my clients who were wondering if it was worthwhile to submit their executive resume for a position well into the candidate screening process. The company may well have worked its way through a collection of disappointing or “not quite right” candidates, and maybe even re-thought their position requirements based on interviews to date. Then along comes the answer to their prayers–YOU!