The Order Of Candidates In Shortlist Interviews; Does It Have An Impact?

I’m often asked whether there’s any particular science behind the order of candidates when conducting shortlist interviews. Having participated in close to 600+ shortlist interviews I’m a firm believer other factors have a much greater bearing on the outcome.

Firstly, an interview is just one of the selection tools generally available to the employer. Background investigation, reference checking and pre-employment testing (e.g. cognitive or behavioural tests) should also be part of a robust process. However, it is true the final interview is most often relied upon as the determining factor to appoint or not. The method of interview, whether structured (directive) or unstructured (nondirective), can have an enormous bearing on the outcome and is of much greater significance than the candidate order. An unstructured interview has no real format, is very conversational and the discussion can run in any direction. On the other hand, structured interviews are based on a series of pre-agreed questions designed to interrogate and explore the candidate’s background against the job requirements, allowing the interviewer to rate these responses across all candidates.

Not surprisingly, unstructured interviews have a moderate to low correlation with future job performance while other research suggests that structured interviews have validity about double that of unstructured interviews.

Two other recent findings are also of interest:

  1.   A candidate deemed the most “likable” by a selection panel, more often than not, gets the job; and
  2.   Cognitive ability has a high correlation with future job performance.

Now, back to the order of interviews; there appears to be very little evidence supporting the notion that being interviewed, first, middle or last has a particular influence on the outcome. Of course, some factors do come into play including the panel’s “energy levels” after say four interviews on the same day compared to their level of alertness at the start of the day or being interviewed immediately after another candidate who did not perform well.

A simple rule of thumb is the combination of a robust recruitment process, based on factors of merit, incorporating a structured interview protocol and solid background investigation, reference checking and pre-employment testing, will identify the most capable and suitable candidate. These strategies are clearly more important than over-thinking the order of candidates. If you don’t believe me, make sure you bring jelly beans to hand out if you are interviewed late in the day.

RM – Sportspeople Recruitment
First Published 2017

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