Interview first or last: debunking the order bias

Updated on August 19, 2023
Is it better to interview first or last

One-on-one interviews are one of the most important stages in the recruitment process, for both the candidates and the hiring managers. Therefore, scheduling your interview should be strategically thought out.

It is better to be interviewed first or early in the day before 12:00 PM when you and your interviewers are energetic and alert. This way your job interview should go smoothly and you stand a better chance of getting hired. Being interviewed last when everyone is tired could sabotage you.

It is recommended to schedule your job interviews for the time of the day when you are the most alert and energetic in order to make lasting impressions on hiring managers.

However, there are various opinions and observations regarding candidate order and whether one could gain an advantage by exploiting an interview order bias.

If you are wondering whether it’s better to interview first or last, then you will find some helpful details that will help you to make a decision.

The interview order bias – is it real or not?

There's this strange phenomenon that people on the internet refer to as "interview order bias", but does it really exist?

Well, there are some observations that suggest that it might but the results and opinions are actually mixed. Here are some curious findings.

Interview length matters

Very often hiring managers are faced with the task of evaluating a handful of applicants a day.

Even though every candidate should be given the same opportunity, in practice interviewers get tired just like anyone else when faced with a heavy workload.

Depending on the way interviewers develop the judgment of candidates, their evaluation can be biased.

In one study, interviewers were offered to deliver their judgment on candidates in two ways – at the end of each interview or evaluate everyone at once.

The results showed that when interviewers are faced with a large amount of information, they tend to work with less precision and withhold their opinions of the candidates until the end.

In this case, being interviewed last can bring certain advantages to the candidates.

However, if the process of evaluation is too long, interviewers get mentally worn out, therefore they rely on the information that they received first and tend to choose the candidates they saw first.

The interview order bias was also common in quick and simple interviews. The interviewees who were judged first seem to benefit from primacy bias.

The candidate pool is another important factor

Have you ever asked yourself when going on an interview: “What if I’m not as good as the other candidates?”

Well, according to another interview bias research, when hiring managers have conducted several successful interviews in a row, they tend to judge those who come next negatively.

However, the same applies to the situation when interviewers are faced with a string of weak candidates. In this case, the last candidate is more likely to receive positive feedback.

So, being interviewed last can give you an opportunity to stick in the minds of the interviewers if previous candidates weren’t considered the best fit for the position.

On the other hand, if the interviewers already made up their minds and had positive impressions of previous candidates, going last can be considered the worst option.

Do employers interview the best candidate first or last?

do employers interview best candidate first or last

Often candidates wonder if it’s better to get an interview early or late in the day. Does the time of the interview during the day indicate whether you are a strong candidate or not?

The truth is, some companies might try to follow a scheduling plan for interviews, however, it’s not based on the qualifications of the candidates.

There are many factors that can influence interview scheduling. The number of people needed to interview all the prospective employees, the personal schedules of the candidates, and the interviewers' workload are just some of them.

What does it mean if you are the first candidate to be interviewed?

If you ended up being the first candidate to be interviewed, there is nothing to be worried about. In most cases, it simply means you were available for the time slot that recruiters requested.

You see, before scheduling any interviews with candidates, hiring managers often create their own schedules beforehand.

These schedules help them manage the workload that they experience during the recruitment process and navigate between the interviews and other daily tasks.

When an HR representative calls to book an appointment with a candidate, they follow the preprepared schedule and fill up the slots along the way.

Should you schedule your interview first or last?

Should you schedule my interview first or last

Depending on your situation, interviewing last can actually bring benefits to candidates in some situations, for example when the competition is weak. On the other hand, being the first in the short list of candidates can grant you a primacy advantage.

Each interview scenario is unique and what matters the most is how prepared you are. But you might find it helpful to know some good and bad points of the interview order.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of being interviewed first and last.

Pros of being interviewed first

Job interviews can be nerve-racking. Knowing the advantages of going first can help you prepare for the upcoming interview and save yourself the stress. Let’s take a closer look at the pros of being interviewed first.

1. Primacy effect

There is a higher chance to be remembered better when you are interviewed first from a long list of potential employees.

This happens because of the phenomenon called the primacy effect or bias. People tend to remember the information they encounter first rather than the information in the middle or the end.

2. Setting out standards for following candidates

Prospective employees who go first and do well usually set standards for upcoming interviews. This means that other candidates that come after you will most likely be evaluated based on your performance, making you a more memorable candidate.

3. More objective evaluation

Hiring managers are humans too and when they are faced with a lot of tasks, just like anyone else, they can get overwhelmed.

This especially can happen when several interviews happen in one day. Because of that, the step-by-step evaluation can become less objective by the end of the interview day.

Going first can actually provide you with a unique opportunity to show your best sides and get an objective evaluation during the interview.

Cons of being interviewed first

However, you shouldn’t forget that being the first interviewee isn’t always good. In fact, it can be quite risky, and here is why.

1. No established reference point

When you go first, you have to keep in mind that at this point no other candidates have been interviewed for the open position.

This might make it harder for the hiring manager to make a decision in your favor. In these circumstances, they have no reference points, hence making an objective evaluation not possible.

2. Interviewers aren’t keen on making the decision yet

Going first might not be the best-case scenario for high-competition positions. Even if you do great, the interviewer is still determined to meet other candidates. This ensures finding the best fit for the position.

3. Can be hard to get feedback yet

It is only natural for a candidate to want to know the outcome of their interview. After all, if you know that the hiring decision won’t be in your favor, you might want to continue searching for other job opportunities.

Getting feedback after rejection can be beneficial for personal improvement. It can also give you some idea of how you compare to other applicants.

However, most companies provide feedback only at the end of the recruitment process. The results might not be available immediately if you interview first.

Pros of being interviewed last

Some candidates may prefer to be interviewed last to avoid the pressure of the first interviewee. However, this isn’t the only benefit of being interviewed last. Let’s take a closer look below.

1. More chances to show yourself in a better light

When a hiring process nears its end, recruiters have already seen the performance of other candidates.

In a situation when the competition isn’t strong, you might actually benefit from the last interview slot even if your interview goes just a bit better than the rest. This phenomenon is called positive contrast bias.

2. Recency bias

The candidates that get interviewed last tend to stay in minds of the recruiters. This is especially noticeable in longer recruitment processes – it’s easier to remember the candidate you saw yesterday than the one a week ago.

Depending on your performance, you can get remembered either better or worse than the interview actually went.

3. Recruiters are ready to make a decision

By the time of the final interview, recruiters already have a general idea of the perfect fit for the position.

Their evaluation of the last candidate will be based on the positive qualities that previous candidates demonstrated as well as the company's requirements.

The recruiter may see you as the best candidate if your qualities surpass other good candidates.

Cons of being interviewed last

It is still important to know the negatives to be better prepared for an interview, even though some candidates might find it less stressful to be the last one interviewed.

1. Other candidates might have performed better

As the final job candidate, you are faced with the challenge of proving that you are the best fit for the position in comparison to other candidates. A strong candidate pool can make this task even more difficult.

2. Hiring manager’s fatigue

Hiring processes can be exhausting. As a manager interviews more and more candidates, he or she may find it harder to objectively evaluate candidates, especially if the meetings take place on the same day.

My advice on being interviewed first or last

As you can see, there are just too many factors that are outside of the control of job candidates when it comes to interviewing order.

And we can’t say with absolute certainty that being interviewed first is better than being last or the other way around.

But here is what we know for a fact.

  • Hiring managers don't make hasty decisions when it comes to hiring.
  • They often discuss with other managers which candidates should be hired.
  • Promising candidates make a lasting impression regardless of the interview order.

In other words, if you have a saying in it, schedule your job interview for the part of the day when you will be the most energetic and charismatic.

This way you will present yourself in the best possible light no matter what.

Frequently asked questions about interview order

Does the day of the week I am interviewed have an impact similar to the order of interviewees?

Generally, the day of the week you are interviewed doesn't have a significant impact on your chances, but Mondays and Fridays are often less ideal due to people's workweek rhythm. Midweek days, like Tuesday through Thursday, are often considered optimal.

How can I tactfully request a specific interview time without seeming demanding?

Politely express your availability when asked, or say something like, “Would it be possible to schedule the interview on [day] at [time]? That time works best for me, but I am flexible if needed.”

What should I do if I feel my interview was affected by the interviewer’s fatigue?

Send a thoughtful follow-up email after the interview, reiterating your interest in the position and summarizing the key points that make you a strong candidate. This can help refresh the interviewer's memory and reinforce your application.

Is it appropriate to ask where I stand in the order of interviewees?

It is generally not necessary to ask this, as it might come across as overly strategic or anxious. Focus instead on preparing for the interview and showcasing your qualifications.

Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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