is there any advantage to interviewing first or last?

A reader writes:

When given a few options for interview times, is there any value in going first, last or in the middle? I know that the most important part is being prepared for the interview, but do you think that there is some advantage to going first and “setting the bar” or going last and “being the easiest to remember” so to speak?

Not enough to care about, no.

There is indeed research that shows that people tend to remember the first and last in a series better than those in the middle — but a good interviewer evaluates each candidate individually and doesn’t forget an excellent candidate just because they were interviewed second or third.

And really, there’s just no point in trying to game this kind of thing. For every interviewer who sees a good first interview as “setting the bar,” there will be another who thinks, “Well, we’re just getting warmed up here.”

Moreover, you can’t control this anyway. If you’re offered a range of days and times to interview, that doesn’t mean that someone else hasn’t already been scheduled for a time before or after those. What you’re hearing about may be the remaining slots. Plus, things change — interview slots are all set and then a great candidate shows up at the last minute and is interviewed after everyone else, or whatever. There’s just really no way to try to game this, even if it was worthwhile to try, which I don’t think it is.

Stand out by being an awesome candidate and giving a great interview. That’s way more reliable than thinking about where you fall in the interview schedule.

{ 39 comments… read them below }

  1. Adam*

    This is a totally a question I would have asked when I was starting out and desperate for a job. Hell, I would have consulted tea leaves if I thought it would have helped.

  2. Stephanie*

    I used to wonder if that mattered as well. I also wondered if it looked bad to take a later slot in interviews (like if I said next Tuesday instead of tomorrow would it look like I wasn’t as interested).

    1. some1*

      Nope, especially if you are employed they should get that not everyone can interview on less than 24 hours notice.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Heck, some interviewers may draw conclusions about why it’s possible to come in with so little notice. As in, doesn’t this person work? Is this person leaving their current employer in the lurch by taking time off with so little notice? Or is their job/contributions so unimportant that they can take off whenever they want?

      2. JAL*

        I was applying for jobs the month or two before I graduated college and someone called me for an interview during finals week then got annoyed with me because I couldn’t go there at the drop of a hat. Needless to say, I didn’t really want a job there. I had my graduation date on my resume and indicated when I could start on the online application. I have no patience for imterviewers who don’t read the applicant information.

  3. Ann O'Nemity*

    I think I give the last interviewee more opportunities to impress me and more opportunities to screw it up. I’m judging them against everyone who came before, which means that all those previous interviews have inspired new questions for the latter interviewees to answer. This gives them extra opportunities, but that can be a good thing or a bad thing. So is it an advantage? Not necessarily.

    If the latter interviews diverge from the earlier ones too much, I’ll sometimes reach out to the early interviewees with follow-up questions. But this doesn’t always happen.

    1. Sadsack*

      I can’t see how it is a bad thing for either party to have more opportunities to see if it is a good fit for both sides. To me, it seems like it may be better to be last in the interview process, since the interviewer has had time to better develop their thoughts on what type of employee they need for the position based on responses and questions from previous interviewees.

  4. Cherie*

    In our industry (Healthcare Technology) I’ve often seen the client interview the first candidate, fall in love and cancel the rest of the scheduled interviews, making an offer immediately to the first person. We don’t recommend this and it certainly isn’t the best way to determine the best fit for the opening, but its happened more times than I can count.

  5. Unemployed Event Planner*

    Well my title should now be Employed Event Planner because I just landed the job I want. I’m the OP (what does OP stand for???). I chose to go first for all 3 interviews (or at least what was first out of the slots offered), and I landed the job. I don’t think the 2 are necessarily tied together, but I still think first and last have an advantage, especially at a place interviewing a lot of people. When I applied, they actually interviewed me for 2 positions and were doing interviews for both simultaneously. I think it could be easier to get lost in the crowd if in the middle of all that.

    1. Andrea*

      In my experience interviewing people the ones who are a great fit for the position don’t get lost in the crowd. I think it’s partly because we take notes at each interview and review them when discussing who to hire. At my organization though we usually interview a max of 6-7 people in person so maybe it’s different other places?

  6. HeyNonnyNonny*

    Another way to think of it is that the rules of primacy and recency really only apply to how well a person remembers items in a series. It wouldn’t have any effect on if they remember you positively or not…that’s all up to you!

  7. BRR*

    I think it matters more for the candidate. For example, I was given two choices for an interview slot about 9 days apart. I had more than enough time to prepare before the first slot. The extra 9 days would have given me bad anxiety waiting.

    1. Lizzy*


      I tend to do better when I am one of the first candidates. Since I had one of those bad experiences where I was scheduled to interview last, only to have the employer tell me they filled the position, it has made me uncomfortable with being the last candidate. But that’s my problem and doesn’t mean every employer pulls those types of stunts. Other people might thrive on being the last candidate, and some might even prefer being in the middle.

      Ultimately, it comes down to what works for you. And if you gave it your best and you got stuck with a hiring manager who is easily tainted by the interview order (i.e. he/she tends to fall in love with the first candidate too easily), why would you want to work for this person anyway?

  8. HR Manager*

    It’s one of my pet peeves that many hiring managers seem to have this magic number in their head of how many people they should interview before making a decision. I’m a big believer that hiring managers should compare the candidate to the hiring profile, not to each other. Only compare them to each other if you have more than one candidate who brings the exact same skills and experiences to the table and meet the profile in the same way. I’ve had way too many managers who hang on to candidates who are so-so fits and keep stringing them along for weeks, even if the manager is lukewarm on them, and also managers who meet fantastic candidates but are afraid to pull the trigger because they have not met enough candidates yet.

  9. Ed*

    I think sometimes it matters but which interview slot is better is beyond anyone’s control. For example, I once interviewed for a job at the end of the day. I later found out the candidates before me were all really weak so when I knew my stuff, they all agreed on me and canceled the following day’s interviews to spare themselves another day of bad candidates. I probably still would have gotten the job but I think going last greatly lowered their expectations to the point they were sure they couldn’t do better.

    It can also be good to go first because interviewers often adjust their interview questions during the day when they see a pattern of weaknesses in candidates. You may have the same weakness but it wasn’t exposed by their original questions. Or one candidate might have a particular talent the interviewer hadn’t considered until it was mentioned and they then inquire about it to all of the remaining candidates. Of course, the opposite could be true and you actually have this talent but it wasn’t exposed in your early interview so you don’t get the job.

    In the end, I say pick the time slot that works best for you.

  10. Ed*

    One exception I thought of is when you’re interviewing for a contract or contract-to-hire job, it can be benefit to interview early. I have found the bar to be considerably lower in this scenario because they can dump you at any time. I have had several interviews for contract jobs canceled because they hired one of the first candidates. It can often be more about finding the first person who meets the minimum requirements, especially if it is just a 6-month-to-one-year contract. They can usually put up with a jerk for a year if you can do the job.

  11. sam*

    The only thing to think about is yourself – if you’re not a morning person, maybe the afternoon slot would be a better option for you (or vice versa). I’m generally not a morning person, but I actually prefer morning interviews if they’re not super early in the morning. I’d rather get them out of the way than spend half the day psyching myself out (and worrying that I’m going to spill something on my good interview clothes). But that’s all about me and how I perform and nothing to do with the interviewer.

    Or, if you have to travel to or from the interview, think about how scheduling may be affected – when I was in law school in Philly and interviewing for jobs in NYC, the typical deal was to take the train up for the day for callback interviews. I once had an interview that ran super-long at the end of the day and ended up almost missing my train back – even though I knew I could get on a later train if need be (Amtrak was actually really good that way back then), it still made me more anxious an jumpy in the interview itself. This was back in the days before anyone carried cellphones (much less smartphones), and we still had paper tickets, so rescheduling on the fly wasn’t really a thing either.

    1. Lizzie*

      +1000 to not psyching oneself out. I always prefer morning interview slots for precisely this reason.

  12. kozinskey*

    I generally agree with this advice, but I think the answer might be a little different depending on the type of interview/position in question. For jobs where the interviews are spread over a couple weeks, I think this advice is solid. But for, say, the law school on campus interview process, where the interviewers go through 20 eager law students in 8 hours, I absolutely think being early in the process is an advantage. After seeing so many people in a row your brain just gets tired.

    1. Joy*

      I was going to post the same thing! OCI interviews are exhausting for the interviewers, who might see 12+ applicants a day.

      You definitely don’t want one of the slots right before lunch, the end of the day, or a break either, because your interviewers will be tired and hungry and thinking of your interview as the last thing standing between them and some rest/food/more stimulating conversation!

  13. A*

    I like to go last because I’m really good at reading people and when you’re last and they are enthusiastic about you, there is a pretty good chance you will get the job. Last time I interviewed, I went first and while the interviewing team was enthusiastic about me, I knew it didn’t mean anything because they still had at least another 2 people under consideration that they hadn’t even met yet. I did wind up getting the job though and have been there 2 years now.

  14. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I don’t think this really answers “is there a best time for a job interview?” but I found this study fascinating:

    The authors looked at Israeli judges who were hearing parole applications:

    “…at the start of the day, the judges granted around two-thirds of the applications before them. As the hours passed, that number fell sharply, eventually reaching zero. But clemency returned after each of two daily breaks, during which the judges retired for food. The approval rate shot back up to near its original value, before falling again as the day wore on.”

    1. NutellaNutterson*

      I was about to cite the same research! And because someone is probably thinking it: it’s much better to schedule after a meal than try to game the system by bringing baked goods.

    2. Joe*

      That’s exactly what I thought of as I read this question. Then I wondered how similar parole boards and interview panels are, and then my mind went all sorts of strange places…

  15. Jen S. 2.0*

    I tend to agree with Alison about it ultimately not mattering much because, as so many of these responses have borne out, it depends on what you’re dealing with in the other candidates. If they’re all weak, you look great going last. If there are a lot of them, you look great going first.

    So, that means that if you could arrange the other candidates to your liking, you’d be able to figure out the best time to interview.

    However, over here on Planet Earth, we don’t get to do that. You don’t have control over the other candidates; you only have control over yourself. Pick the time at which you’re likely to be at your best, and keep it moving.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      If you could hand-pick the other candidates to be unsuitable for the job, then it wouldn’t matter if you went first or last! :-)

  16. themmases*

    This is so interesting to me– I totally believe in being one of the first to apply (if you’re applying by contacting an influential person directly), but never really applied that belief to interview order. I just ask to interview as soon as I think I can be prepared without interfering too much with school and work. And I prefer being inconvenienced slightly on the time to endlessly going back and forth over times and dates that work for each of us. My goal is to just pick my favorite time of the first set offered.

    I’m a grad student, so I’m part of a listserv that hiring managers sometimes email directly. Sometimes they direct people to a job board, but maybe 30-50% of the time they just ask to be emailed resumes and materials. I try to respond to those within an hour or two because the person making the decision knows exactly when they sent out the announcement and I’ve basically just been told that my CV will land in their individual inbox. If I can have that happen while looking like someone who can put together an awesome response in an hour, I want to do it. Last time I did this, it did lead to me being interviewed pretty quickly as well (I got the job).

    I think if you have little superstitions that give you confidence or lead you to do better (e.g. I always have application materials ready to go in case I want to apply to something <1 hour after it goes out), just go ahead and do it. As long as you realize they're superstitions and aren't pushing yourself to apply or interview before you're ready, or freaking out when you can't do things your favorite way.

  17. EvilQueenRegina*

    I used to have a manager who would rate the applications, then interview the weaker candidates first reasoning that they’d have to work harder to impress her and it would be easier when she was fresher, then interview the stronger candidates later in the day when she was flagging.

    It turned out in the end that she very often ended up hiring the people she’d interviewed first anyway. Not sure she needed to announce her tactic in the middle of the office meaning everyone knew they were the weakest on paper though.

    Sometimes it can be random. When my mum hires she tries to use alphabetical order. Sometimes even things like travel time come into it. It doesn’t always mean anything.

  18. DavidYYZ*

    I’d also point out that just because an interviewer gives you the options of various time slots doesn’t mean you’ll know whether you’ll be first or last. Often the slots are just times the interviewer is actually available and not all slots will be filled and you have no idea of know if there were slots before or after you that have already been filled.

  19. Lisbonslady*

    Ok while you usually don’t have much choice in the matter, I always felt that being last is good. Superstition or just feeling that the hiring manager has a better sense of what they are looking for or that you have a better chance of being fresh in their minds… I’ve always worried that going first there is more chance you’d be forgotten, especially if the process goes on for awhile.

    Now I just applied to a position. Granted as one of the commenters mentioned above this is a long term contract role so perhaps the rules differ. I applied early, was asked to phone screen and also did so quickly. While they are still phone screening the client asked me to come in and interview and I was offered the job the next day. So, glad I don’t have any hard rules about this stuff and I suggest no one else does either! I start next week!

  20. Sunny*

    Well, one thing does matter; are you a morning person, or an afternoon person?

    I was given an interview in the afternoon and although I knew it would be a perfect fit with the organization and my skillset, that’s when I crash and am usually DYING for a cup of coffee.

    If you aren’t a morning person, and you go in at 8am, you may be tired, or not fully awake yet.

  21. Preston*

    I love reading the comments. I think all the points are true, but the key is which are true for your interviewer. I have interviewed first and last…morning and afternoon. One must be at the top of their game and hopefully you don’t catch the interviewer at the worst part of their day.

  22. Not telling*

    Well generally I tend to agree on the first/last thing, I’d like to bring up my last interview process. The thank you notes. Not all companies conduct interviews on the same day–they may be spread out over a week or more. If you are the first or second interviewee, you have time to solidify your good impressions before the selection committee has a chance to make their final decision. Beyond that, I agree with AAM–a standout will standout no matter what number they are on the interview list.

    Personally I think beginning/end of day or week is a far bigger issue. That is, Monday @ 8:30 is generally a terrible time to get the interviewer’s attention, as is 4:30 on Friday. They are either just rushing in from the weekend and haven’t had a chance to collect their thoughts or get the staff started off properly, or have their eye on the clock and their mind on their weekend plans. Middle of the week, you still have a chance that you catch the interviewer at a bad moment, but my experience is that the chances are slimmer.

  23. Tiana*

    I’ve just set up an interview after reading all of your suggestions. The times I was offered are on Thursday and Friday afternoon. I decided to go with the first slot on Thursday, thinking that might be more appreciated by the committee than choosing the last slot on a Friday. I’m also hoping it will set the bar high and that they’ll compare all of the other candidates to me! Wish me luck!!

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