By Martin Yate
There are good times to interview and bad times to interview. Determining the best times to schedule your job interview requires understanding the psychology of hiring managers.
Because their #1 priority as a manager is “Getting work done through others,” making the right hiring decisions is a matter of professional survival.
Typically, H.R. works with a hiring manager to set the series of short-list candidate interviews within a contained time frame, usually two weeks at the most. On these days interviewing becomes the manager’s focus, and interviews can start as early as 7AM and go as late as 5PM.
Hiring managers tend to be technically competent, highly analytical and forward thinking, and because they are always pressed for time, tend to have excellent time management and organization skills. All these considerations play into your choosing the best days and times to interview.
So when is it best to be interviewed, first, last or in the middle?
When the opportunity of an interview comes up, one of the first questions you ask is about the time span for interviewing all the short list candidates. To do that, say something like this --
“We are pretty jammed with a deadline right now so any flexibility you can give me will be appreciated. What is the time frame for interviewing everyone?”
Once you know, for example, that all the interviews will happen between the 1st and 10th of the month, you want to shoot for the 10th.
If you go in first, their memory of you dims with every other candidate who is interviewed. And, the interviewer has ten days to forget or confuse you with another candidate.
On the other hand, if you are one of the last to be interviewed, their memory of you will be freshest. Additionally, over those ten days, the interviewer has had time to refine his or her needs.
If your answers are followed by questions that demonstrate your real engagement with the guts of the job, your stock soars.
Monday morning is hell on wheels for everyone so never, ever interview on Monday morning.
I, like you and most smart professionals, try to keep meetings to a minimum on Monday so I can get a good start on the week’s top priorities. So whenever possible avoid Mondays entirely as it is everyone’s busiest day of the week. Scheduling on Monday maximizes the chance of your interview being disrupted and the interviewer's recall of the interview being more fractured.
Almost as bad as Monday morning is Friday afternoons, because that is when everyone is trying their damnedest to get out of Dodge and have a life. This basically leaves us with Tuesday through Friday at lunch time.
Are there other considerations for time of day? You betcha...
Managers tend to be highly efficient, which means they have developed good time management and organization skills. This means that mornings and into early afternoons, a hiring manger is likely deep into their #1 priorities. They could be either distracted or the meeting interrupted by questions from staff or direct reports.
But come 2 PM whatever is happening that day is already in flow, the pressure is less, and therefore the interviewer will be more psychologically ready to give you his or her full attention.
Now the good time management and organization skills that make multitasking possible, require that the last 30 to 60 minutes of the day be devoted to the Plan-Do-Review Cycle. This is basically a personal performance review and planning exercise:
So assuming the workday ends at 5PM, you want to make interview appointments starting between 2 and 3 PM, whenever possible.
If an interview for an experienced professional goes well, it can go longer than an hour. Most interviewers prefer a break between candidates, so when you hit the 2-3PM slot you’ll likely be the last candidate interviews that day.
Aim for 2-3PM interview start times on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and as close to the end of the selection time schedule as possible.
If it has to be Friday, avoid the afternoons, I’d suggest 11AM, because if things go well there is a greater chance it may result in an invitation to carry on the meeting over lunch.
If your job involves entertaining vendors or customers, then you can expect one of those interviews to include a lunch or dinner to examine how you engage professionally in social settings. You aren't going to represent a multi-national if you use your knife like a dagger or talk with your mouth full of food.
Another reason to make this, where possible, on Friday lunchtime, is that you want to get out of Dodge and get on with your weekend too.