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Reflections of an Executive Resume Writer
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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!


One comment on “First Interviewee/Last Interviewee – Who Has the Advantage?
  1. As an executive in a Fortune 500 Technology company, I have never stepped back to analyze whether I tend to hire the first, last, or middle candidate.

    However, for 2 recent positions I hired [senior level analyst positions], one was the last candidate we interviewed, and the other was the first.

    Often if you are the best candidate and interview really well
    going first can be your advantage, because you will be the bar everyone else is measured against, and I've found that if you have 2-3 people after you that interview poorly, the perception of your interview in our mind actually INCREASES…

    So how could this be bad if you are the last candidate? If I interview you [good], 2 bad candidates, and one that is good as the last one, I have built the perception of your interview much higher than maybe you actually performed, and the last candidate is no longer being judged on a level playing field.

    Make sense?

    I like the focus of this blog, and encourage readers to leverage both this one and my Interview Tips and Tricks blog to gain additional insight into the interview experience from an executive that has been interviewing, hiring, and managing employees for over 20 years.

    Russell Tuckerton