does the order of interviews reveal the manager’s thinking?

A reader writes:

I have recently had a few interviews and I wonder if the order in which interviewees are meeting with the potential manager might have any meaning to it.

I learned that I’m the first one to interview and that there are more people coming later on in the same day or on a different day. Does it signal anything in terms of preferences, who they want to see and consider first, do people being invited for later have less chance, or perhaps the interviewing team felt they were not happy with the first short-listed group and therefore the second group was called for?

In my experience, you shouldn’t read anything into it.

When I’m scheduling interviews, I usually have a set number of candidates who I’ve decided to advance to interviews. And I have a window of time in which to conduct those interviews. Within that window, there’s no meaning to who is scheduled when.

The only meaning I can think of in this regard is that occasionally I’ll add a candidate into the interview schedule at the very last minute — that usually means that the candidate emerged late in the process and is so promising that I’m willing to increase my planned number of interviews in order to include her.

Now, aside from the questions of what the interviewers reveal by the order they schedule people in, some people believe that being the first, middle, or last person interviewed can provide you with advantages or disadvantages. For instance, some people think that being last will keep you the freshest in their minds. Other people think that by going first, you set the bar that other candidates have to top. I suppose if you have an interviewer who is incredibly easily influenced by things like that, there could be something to that — but in general, with a competent interviewer, it shouldn’t matter.

Anyone disagree?

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. Seattle Interview Coach*

    I agree. Don't read anything into it. Interviewers are typically scheduled based on availability and convenience. Good luck on your interviews!

  2. Charles*

    I agree that one shouldn't read too much into the interview order.

    However, I will add that a few times I know that I have been the first candidate to be interviewed by very inexperienced hiring managers.

    I seemed to have "set the bar," not so much on them seeing if the other candidates measure up to me; but on how they should or should not conduct interviews.

    After finishing these interviews I left with the feeling that I was their "mock" interviewee as they clearly were NOT prepared, didn't know what questions to ask, couldn't even answer some very basic questions, and really seemed to have no clue how to go about hiring a trainer.

    Granted, hiring a trainer is not as common an occurence as, say, hiring an administrative assistant; but some prep-work or at least an inkling of what they are looking for in any position would be decent. Didn't they do their homework in researching what they want/need for a trainer? How do they know what the going salary rate should be? How will they know who really is the best qualified candidate? Or are they just going to go with who they like best, perhaps their "gut" feeling? Maybe, the one who will best "fit in".

    Feeling like one just interviewed with tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee is not a good feeling to come away from an interview with. So, I would suggest that, if possible, avoid being the first interviewee. You don't need to be their "practice interview."

  3. Danny Iny*

    I'm inclined to agree that the order doesn't matter so much, certainly not as an indicator of the preferences of the hiring manager.

    The only departure from that is that there is a body of psychological research that shows we tend to remember better the first and last few items of a set, which means that if you're in the first few, or last few, to get interviewed, your odds are a tiny bit higher.

    Since the difference is fairly marginal, and it is completely beyond your control, I wouldn't worry about it. What I would do, however, is follow-up by phone a week later, so as to "jump you" to the end of the line.

  4. Just Another HR Lady*

    I bring people in depending on my/and the candidate's schedule, I've never really given any thought to order at all. I suppose #1 is whoever calls me back first to arrange? :-)

  5. Anonymous*

    The order of the interviewee's means nothing. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for the time or order except compliance with my calendar.

  6. Surya*

    Whenever I interview, I scribble scribble scribble on the resume of the candidate – of course, I tell them that I am taking extensive notes and assure them that even if I am not always looking at them, I am listening to them.

    this way, it helps me to mark doen my impressions on each candidates, and capture the things that impressed me about the interview.

    And trust me, if you are an inpressive candidate for the role, first or last, you are going to stand out in my mind in general terms when I think back on the interview after a few days, but I always refer my notes for strengths n weaknesses. Always.

  7. hbarry1*

    I know I’m (incredibly) late to the conversation, but just wanted to throw my two cents in here, for people reading archived answers. I recently was the 6th candidate to interview for a position at a University (second round of 3 candidates, 1st three didn’t work out or turned down the position). I interviewed in the last time slot, on a Thursday. The interview was all-day and I met with at least 5 different groups of people and had to give a 30-minute presentation at the end of the day. People were visibly bored with the interview process. I noticed people doodling, yawning, and playing on their phones during my interview and presentation. I got the impression that they were simply over the whole interview process. The position ultimately went to someone else (who had considerably more experience in the field than I did), but I still I can’t help but think they didn’t give me a full chance since they were so burned out by the end of the week. I wouldn’t choose to interview at the end of a long process like this again!

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