By: Maira Zamir, Peer Career Coach

Does it matter if you go first or last in an interview order? Here is what you should know:

Primacy Bias

This is a concept that interviewers tend to remember the first candidate easily and unconsciously make them  a threshold for the following candidates to interview. There’s something about the first spot of the interview that offers a definite boost to applicants. Even if hiring managers continue to interview many other outstanding applicants, the first candidate’s positive qualities continue to climb to the top. There’s nothing like a raw first impression, no matter how many notes they take during interviews.

Other than that, hiring managers may recall the first interviewee precisely because they are fresher and more alert at the start of the hiring process. Perhaps most notably, at this stage, they don’t have someone else to compare applicants to — which means that the first candidate interviewed doesn’t have to try as hard as someone else to make a successful first impression.

Recency Bias

Recency bias — a social tendency in which people are more likely to recall things that happened recently than things that have happened less recently. On one end, recruiting managers could at this stage be absolutely sick of the interview process. But, on the other hand, the last interviewed candidate would be at the forefront of their mind when they make their final decisions. Plus, most interviewers are in “decision mode” by the time they’re having the last interview. They may be more likely to note the good characteristics of the last person they’re hiring and find it easier to see the person fitting into the business.

What about middle candidates?

As much as recruiting managers strive to consider each candidate for his or her particular qualities, it’s very hard to keep track. If the recruiting manager interviews 25 people, the first and last few have an edge, but the middle 20 or so? Not too many. However, don’t be too discouraged but this. There are plenty of other factors that play into being remembered after an interview. It could be anything unique or different to remember you by, you just have to prepare/think what that attribute is. 

What can you do when offered an interview

As work seekers make an interview, they may want to ask where they are in the order of the interview. When they know they’re the first or the last, it will make them feel more secure. But what if they’re going to be in the middle? It’s not the end of the World . Candidates can note that they were skilled enough to receive an interview — which is important. Yet they need to keep their options open.

And let’s not forget that timing often just works out so that the best candidate can be in the middle. It doesn’t actually mean everything; it also means that you’re operating toward a normal prejudice.


Thought Piece: Does order matter when it comes to interviewing?