“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?
1960 World Series Game 7: Bill Mazerowski’s Walk-Off Home Run Beats Yankees.
1983 NCAA Basketball Championship: Lorenzo Charles dunk beats University of Houston
1981 NFC Championship Game: “The Catch” launches Joe Montana’s career
The Pittsburgh Pirates hit two other home runs in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series (including a 3 run shot in the eighth inning that set up Bill Mazerowski’s shot to win the game in the bottom of the ninth) – do people reference those home runs? Lorenzo Charles scored one other basket all game in addition to the winning dunk…do you remember the 15 points poured in by Thurl Bailey to keep NC State in the game so Lorenzo could make the winning shot? Thurl who? Was Dwight Clark’s first touchdown reception in the 1981 NFC Championship game as athletic as his winning catch? His first TD catch came in the 2nd quarter for those who are wondering.
We remember these stories because they were impressive events that happened at the end of a game. The images are lasting ones because they were the parting shot, the final word, a dramatic ending. If these events had happened earlier in their respective games, they would have been relegated to a line in a box score along with the other home runs, baskets, and catches. Forgotten. That is the advantage of going last when interviewing for a role. You have the ability to finish the hiring process on a high note and blow away the competition by leaving the memorable last impression.
There are other advantages to being last to interview for a role. By the last candidate, the interview committee will have ranked (even if only in their heads) who are the top candidates. They know the competition and often will dispense with basic questions, instead focusing on inquiries that will differentiate candidates. For example, the first candidate may need to answer 5 questions about his experience using Excel – each question demonstrating a greater level of proficiency with the spreadsheet software. The next candidate will skip the elementary Excel questions and will only need to demonstrate the higher level understanding of Excel (i.e. she will be compared to the first candidate’s Excel proficiency level). Having these high level conversations with the interview team allows you to paint an image of you as a high talent candidate.
The great drawback of this strategy is that one must start the interview strongly. There are few easy questions to use as a warm up. Since you will be compared to earlier candidates and the interview committee will have a good understanding of the talent level of the previous candidates, interviewers tend to make faster decisions about later candidates.
Go First or Go Last? Both have advantages and disadvantages…which do you prefer?