FAQ: Is It Better to Interview First or Last for a Job?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Organisations use different procedures when they begin a hiring process, which often depends on the nature of the job position, industry and company culture. A candidate applying for a job may wonder if there's an optimum period for attending an interview and ask, 'Is it better to interview first or last?' Learning more about the optimum arrangement for an interview can help you prepare for and excel during one. In this article, we explain whether it's better to interview first or last for a job and provide answers to other questions that can help you prepare for an interview.

Is it better to interview first or last?

When going for an interview, many candidates may wonder whether it might be better to interview first or last. Both possibilities have benefits compared to having an interview slot in the middle of a list of candidates. Here are some of the benefits of the respective slots:

First interview

Candidates with the first interview slot benefit by having an interviewer who's energetic and likely to be enthusiastic about speaking to them. The first candidate a hiring manager or recruiter interviews may also benefit from the primacy bias, which refers to an individual's tendency to remember the first part of a sequence. As such, the interviewer may form a great impression of the first candidate they interview in comparison with other candidates.

Related: 10 Tips for What to Do Before an Interview (With Importance)

Last interview

If a candidate is the last interview for the day or the hiring process, they may gain from the recency bias. This bias causes an individual to emphasise the last part of a sequence. As such, interviewers may remember the last candidate they speak to as more suitable for the role than the other candidates they've spoken to.

Related: Stepped Guide on How to Ace an Interview: Tips and Examples

What are other factors that impact successful hiring?

Here are some other elements of an interview that may add to the benefits, increasing your chances of having a great session:

Duration of the hiring process

If an organisation intends to interview for an open position over a lengthy period, such as several months, you may benefit from being the last candidate. This is because the recency bias might have a stronger effect in such a circumstance. Thus, interviewers may remember important details of your conversation, such as relevant qualifications, skills and professional experience.

Related: How to Tell if a Job Interview Went Well (12 Positive Signs)

Quality of other interviewees

The quality of the candidates competing with you for the role can affect your appeal as a potential hire. For example, if any other candidates have excellent qualifications on the day you meet your potential employer, you may benefit from having the first interview slot. Alternatively, you may gain from being the last interviewee if the prior candidates are average in quality.

Size of the applicant pool

An applicant pool is the total number of candidates you compete with for a role. If there's a large applicant pool for the job you're applying for, you may benefit from having the last interview slot due to the recency bias. Conversely, in a smaller applicant pool, you may have a better chance of securing the role by being the first interview of the day or hiring process.

How can I attain the interview slot of my preference?

After applying for an open position, you may learn about some of the above variables, such as the length of the hiring process and the pool of applicants. From this, you may conclude that going either first or last for an interview may be more beneficial than the other slots. You may try to secure your preferred slot by contacting the recruiter or hiring manager and requesting it.

There's no guarantee that you might get your desired slot, but they may allocate you one close to it, which can still be advantageous.

How long is a typical hiring and interview process?

Generally, the hiring process consists of reviewing applications, scheduling and conducting interviews and follow-ups and making job offers to chosen candidates. Some organisations may have an extended hiring process over several months, while other businesses may have a shorter hiring process if they're only looking to fill a few roles. The interview process is usually much shorter, taking a week or two to complete, depending on how many rounds the company wants to conduct and how big the applicant pool is.

Related: How Long for HR to Approve a Job Offer? (With Tips)

How early do interviews begin and how late might they end?

This depends on the organisation you're applying to, but many organisations align their interview schedules with their office hours. Thus, the first interview slot of the day may begin as early as 8 a.m., while the last interview may end around 5 p.m. or the time that the company closes for the day. Some companies may schedule interviews during lunch hours, while others might not have this practice.

What are the most beneficial days to attend an interview?

If possible, try to arrange to have your interview on either a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Mondays may not be the most optimum day to attend an interview, as the recruiter or hiring manager may be more concerned with organising their schedule and prioritising their tasks for the work week. If you find out that your interview is to occur on a Friday, consider arranging to have it before or during lunch. This can enable your interviewer to begin their weekend promptly, which they might appreciate.

When is the most optimum time to attend an interview?

An ideal time frame to have an interview for both candidates and interviewers is in the early afternoon, between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. This time allows both parties ample time to have their lunch before speaking. Additionally, having an afternoon slot allows you to prepare for the interview in the morning and ensures you have plenty of time to make your way to the interview venue.

How long does an interview typically last?

The duration of an interview may depend on the depth of questions the interviewer asks and the medium. Here are some examples of approximate lengths of various interview formats:

  • Phone or screening interviews: Typically, phone or screening interviews are the first stage of the hiring process, and potential employers use this interview format to determine which candidates go to the next stage. These interviews tend to be short, lasting between 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Video interviews: This interview may be shorter in length if it's a substitute for a phone or screening interview. Some interviews, such as a video discussion for a remote position, may require a longer duration.

  • First in-person interview: If the job you're applying for has multiple rounds of interviews, the first session may be longer. Typically, a first physical interview can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

  • Second and third interviews: The interviews following an initial one may last longer, as they usually involve the recruiter asking more in-depth questions. Sometimes, these interviews can last up to a whole day and may feature multiple segments.

  • Special interviews: This type of interview includes dining or competency-based interviews and varies depending on the nature of the meeting. For example, a lunch interview may only last as long as the meal, while a competency-based interview may require a longer time frame.

Related: How Long Should Interview Answers Be? (Examples Plus Tips)

Can I ask a hiring manager questions before an interview?

Asking potential employers certain questions can help you determine the optimum period to schedule an interview. Here are some questions you might ask to attain more information:

  • How long has this position been available?

  • When is the company's deadline for filling this position?

  • What's this company's hiring process like?

  • What are the days and time slots available to schedule an interview?

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