Why Earlier Is Better for Job Interviews

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What’s the best time of day to interview for a new job?

According to a new study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, what ultimately matters is the order in which you’re interviewed, vis-à-vis any other candidates for the job. (Hat tip to Business Insider for the original link.) An analysis of 600 job interviews at a university career center found that the day’s fourth job candidate received the most attention from the interviewer; after that, the interviewer’s decision-making time dipped with each subsequent candidate.

What’s responsible for that dip? Simply put, job interviews can prove as mentally exhausting for interviewers as interviewees; not only do the former need to evaluate each candidate’s standalone qualifications, but they also need to compare that candidate to any others seen that day. At a certain point, the cognitive requirements become too great, and the interviewers start spending less time considering candidates.

“This may prevent applicants who appear later in the schedule from having a full opportunity to perform,” the paper’s abstract concludes. “Organizations may benefit from limiting the number of interviews an interviewer conducts in immediate succession to around four, which may decrease reliance on more automatic information processing strategies.”

What does this mean for job candidates? Scoring an interview slot earlier in the day is arguably better, as you’ll end up facing an interviewer who’s fresher. By contrast, someone interviewing for a job later in the day may find themselves frustrated by an interviewer who either seems disconnected or whose mind appears already made up. Plan accordingly.

3 Responses to “Why Earlier Is Better for Job Interviews”

  1. Brent Kear

    I certainly agree. I believe the morning appointment interviews are best for both the interviewer and the perspective interviewee. From a personal perspective, I think both are more focused and refreshed. I think the fourth interview is the more favorable to the interviewee and puts that person in the advantage over the other candidates.

  2. Robert Daniels

    This assumes the interviewer will be handling multiple interviews in a single day. In most companies I’ve worked with and interviewed with, they interview candidates spread over several days, one candidate at a time.

    Personally, I prefer to interview in the afternoon so I can review my notes, and get that caffeine going.

  3. True that.
    Joel Spolksy, the author of “Smart and Gets Things Done” says that the INTENTIONALLY put the best candidates at the front of the schedule so they can decide ASAP.