“The First Shall Be Last, and the Last Shall Be First” – Matthew 20:16
So, would you rather be the first or the last person who is interviewed for a job opening? Experts have their opinions, the opinions are varied, and no one answer is a perfect fit for every situation. So, what are the advantages of going first or going last?
Set the bar high and everyone who comes after will be compared to you. That is one advantage of being early in the process. As successive interviews occur, interviewers will be quicker to form opinions on candidates as they will compare each person to you and the standard you set.
Since you are first, and the interviewers have no one to compare you to, they tend to take longer to formulate an opinion. This can be an advantage if you happen to start your interviews slowly – being first will afford you time to recover from a slow start before the committee’s opinions are formed.
Certain industries move quickly in their hiring decisions – particularly with entry-level needs. When the recruiter find talented candidates, they have to act in order to staff positions. In these cases, interviewing early increases your chances of being hired.
Being the first person interviewed for a role does have its drawbacks. Namely, the further removed from the interview, the less the committee will remember about you. The last person tends to leave the strongest impression (good or bad) as the interaction is still fresh in the minds of the interviewer.
A second drawback is the evolving nature of a search. Interview committees may be wowed by a later candidate’s abilities that may not have been a primary piece to the role but now is being considered for the role. For example, I may be hiring for an administrative assistant who needs to run the reception area. Let’s say the third person I interview mentions her experience with web page maintenance. Now I may begin to envision this person/role taking on web page maintenance responsibility as well – the difficulty is the first candidate I interviewed may also be able to handle office supplies, but I did not ask him about this in our interview. The position has evolved.
If you are one of the first interviews for a position, it is a good practice to follow-up before the decision date to inquire if the hiring manager had any additional topics that need covering, if you could address any new questions, follow-up inquiries. You want to ensure the committee remembers you and that you address any new developments that may have arisen since your interview.
Next installment: Go Last