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Why Being Interviewed First Can Mean Coming in “Last”

One of the often overlooked elements of successful interviewing is timing. Bad timing can occur when your interview is scheduled too early in the interview process of the company. Many candidates want to rush in and interview as soon as possible, and this can be a big mistake. There is a noticeable disadvantage of being first in the interview sequence and in most cases, I would not recommend it if at all possible. Why?

1. For the first candidate interviewed for a job, there is no reference point where a fair comparison of candidates can be rated. It is hard to set a standard that holds up throughout the process.

2. The job description is often still not firm or refined because changes occur as they talk to candidates during any job interview cycle.

3. The hiring manager is just getting started and is not in a smooth pattern for his questions and his evaluation criteria. Therefore the questioning is incomplete or off target as the criteria changes and as he meets additional candidates. Since those candidates also make an impact, they rank higher in the changed criteria which may not have been discussed with the early candidates.

4. At this point in time, there is no urgency to finishthe process and hire, but rather to see 5 to 7 or more candidates for an assessment of available talent and alternatives.

5. The latest candidates are always freshest and appear to be stronger in the minds of the interviewing managers. Their improved questioning also results in better answers from the candidates.

6. It is difficult to schedule the second interview immediately because they haven't seen enough candidates yet. It is also difficult get feedback since it can be easily deflected by “you’re the first one we’ve seen”.

So how do we keep from being the first one interviewed?


The key is to assess the timing and urgency of both the preferred hiring date and the interview process. The best opportunity to do this is in the initial contact call. During that conversation, it is important to contain your excitement and ask several questions such as:

1. May I ask how long has the position been open?

2. When were you hoping to fill it?

3. May I ask how long have you been looking?

4. And where are you in your interview process?

These questions will give an initial feeling (assessment) for the sense of urgency and preference for the hire date and the job interview process status. Most candidates fail to assess and schedule the timing that gives them an advantage. Instead they rush into an interview. This can be a mistake for the reasons above.Remember, they called you and want to see you.

A better strategy would be to assess their urgency and where they are in the interview process and schedule your interview to be toward the end of round one of their process. So specifically, here are some tactics to consider in suggesting the schedule of your first interview:

1. Assess and delay: Carefully schedule the appointment for the phone or face-to-face interview around the timing you uncovered. If you know they're just beginning the process tell them you have a busy schedule for the next week or so, so can we schedule it a week or 10 days out etc. Do schedule the interview, at least tentatively, on the phone with a commitment to confirm. If they are in the middle or end of interviewing, schedule immediately.

2. Assess and “test” the urgency to fill: Using “just suppose questions,” find out if they can move immediately for the right candidate. This is especially true if it’s a contract with deadlines, a key player quit or they have been looking for a while.

3. Apologize and Reschedule: if you find out that you are early in the cycle and you can't do much about it while on the phone, call back and reschedule several days later with a conflict or emergency while expressing strong interest in the meeting. Reschedule yourself later in the cycle.

4. Assess whether you can create a sense of urgency: - apologize for the rush but move the date forward as best as possible. Assess and close on possibilities of moving quicker and quickly if you are the right candidate because of some “plans” or “decisions” you are trying to make. Would the client commit to giving you some direct feedback of “interest” after your meeting.

5. If possible, schedule the second interview while you are there: At least schedule round two as carefully as you can to come in toward the end of the process. Again, the preference is to be as close to last as possible.

6. Close properly: Verify with a closing question that the timing has not changed,

"Mr. Interviewer, if you had your way, when would you want someone on board?

If good: “Well that can work for me also. How do we move the process forward quickly?

If a dodge: Readdress the “Concerns” or ask, “What happens if you don’t hire?”

Accommodate their timing where it makes sense. Satisfy their urgency where it makes sense. Create a sense of urgency if none exists, using your personal plans and goals of your job search. In any case you must establish the benefits to the company of making the decision about you as quickly as possible.

“Make time your ally” in your job search process by scheduling your job interviews carefully so that decisions can be made and your odds improved. Good luck and good interviewing.

Howard Cattie is Head Coach of CareerOyster, an innovative full service career coaching firm. CareerOyster helps job seekers learn powerful, effective resume writing andwinning job interview skills through personalized coaching and comprehensive video products such as ResumeCoach and InterviewCoach. To get started, and to get your FREE Private Consultation or visitCareerOyster.com