Order Effects in Interviews- Will interviewing first get you the job?

Before a job interview many of us research ways that may help us land the job. However, most people do not realize that the order in which we participate in the interview process may make or break the interview. This phenomenon is classified in psychological research as order effects; the two specific effects that contribute to job interviews being the primacy effect and the recency effect. When preparing for a job interview many do not take into account the interviewer and the interview process, instead focusing on his or her own appealing qualities.

The primacy effect comes into play when one is the first candidate in an interview. Interviewing first allows the individual to give the interviewers an impression that sets a precedent for all interviews after, and often creates an impacting memory. The recency effect takes place when an interviewee is last in the interview process. This individual will make a lasting impression on the interviewers because is the most recent candidate, which means he will most likely be remembered best out of all the candidates (Zackal, 2015).

Recency and Primacy effects are relevant to the interview process due to the way interviews are analyzed. The decision of which candidate is the best for a job position is decided in two different ways; the step-by-step decision-making model, where each candidate is analyzed after their respective interview and the end-of-sequence decision-making model, where a judgement of all candidates takes place after the interview process has concluded (Shaheen, 2010).  These effects are seen as significant for several reasons. Often interviewers become fatigued during the process of listening to candidate after candidate the times in which they are paying most attention to candidates are at the beginning and end of interviews; those who interview in between the first and last candidates often have less critique and do not stand out (Zackal, 2015).

However, order effects do not guarantee a successful interview. A candidate that is late or says something negative may have consequences no matter the position of his or her interview (Shaheen, 2010). There also could be several dates for interviews, allowing more than one opportunity for an interview to be first or last of the day. A quote from Simonsohn states “If it was a good day with many good candidates, it’s really a bad idea to be the last, but if it was a weak day with many bad candidates, it’s a really good idea to go last…. the most recent information seems to be the best, and a bias effect occurs toward the most recent interviews in judgment and possibly the most recent candidates interviewed.” (Zackal, 2015). According to these findings order effects do have an effect on the interview process, but this effect is not significant enough to outweigh a great interview.


Shaheen, J. (2010, February 25). The Recency and Primacy Effects in the Talent Acquisition Process.  Retrieved August 19, 2015.

Zackal, J. (2015, May 5). Is It Better to Interview First or Last? Retrieved August 19, 2015.

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