Why you should be the last candidate in any interview

By Farhan Shah

What do goodnight kisses at the end of a date and being the last candidate in job interviews have in common?

Much more than you think, according to Ed O’Brien, a psychologist from the University of Michigan says.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that when it comes to last experiences, be it your final dinner in a restaurant or that final goodbye, the act is somehow more poignant and emotional than usual. However, Ed O’Brien and his colleague, Phoebe C. Ellsworth, have discovered that it might not even actually have to be the last, but just the idea that it is the last.

In the study, 52 people were recruited in what they thought was a Hershey’s Kisses taste test. Participants had to rate how delicious they thought the different flavoured chocolates tasted according to a predetermined scale. The only variable that was changed was the instructions the experimenter gave.

When the experimenter said, “Here is your last chocolate”, a significant amount of subjects (64%) chose the last chocolate as the most delicious, no matter what flavour it was.

For the subjects that received the instructions, “Here is your next chocolate” when it was the last chocolate, only 22% chose the last chocolate as the most delicious.

But, how do the findings of this study apply to the corporate world?

“The issue of job candidates is interesting. Our results suggest that, with all else being equal, if you have a relatively similar group of candidates with similar qualifications, then the person who is interviewed last may be seen as the best, and therefore will more likely be offered the job,” O’Brien speculates.

According to him, this could be due to a number of factors.

1: The interviewer could simply be tired after a long day of interviewing and will be in a better mood when he or she knows there is only 1 candidate left.

2: The interviewer expects good things to be saved at the end because much of everyday life is structured in this way. For example, dessert at the end of a meal, a powerful message at the end of a speech, etc.

3: The interviewer is motivated to make the last candidate worthwhile because he or she has spent the entire day interviewing and wants to believe that the last one is really special.

In Singapore’s competitive corporate environment where distinguishing one cookie cutter candidate from another can be a hard task, this phenomenon might be prevalent, especially when everyone comes in with a crisp white shirt and paper qualifications from the same factory.

However, don’t fret if you’re the middle interviewee in a pool of candidates jostling for the same position. O’Brien suggests that if you want to counteract this phenomenon, you need to differentiate yourself, which can be achieved in 2 ways.

Emphasise your unique abilities

If you’re able to bring a sought-after ability to the table or boast of a skill that will prove useful in the job, then this will make you stand out from the rest. It could be anything from your linguistic ability to your prowess in social media.

“Try to find out the profiles of the other candidates so that you can emphasise something about yourself that is unique, special or different from the rest during your turn,” O’Brien says.

Employers love workers who have multi-faceted skills that can help the company grow and prosper. At the same time, you’re also helping the organisation save money because they don’t need to hire someone else to do the job; anything that helps the company’s bottom line will ultimately make you look good.

Groom yourself well

Although this goes without saying, you’d be surprised at how many people actually turn up for an interview in ill-fitting or sloppy clothes. By wearing suitably-fitted clothes and appearing for the interview clean-shaven with nicely coiffed hair, it will make a world of difference. You will stand out and create a good impression.

--

“If you want to counteract the ‘last-is-best’ bias, you may need to distinguish yourself from the others and do whatever you can to emphasise your better qualities. The more you are seen as similar to the others, the more you put yourself at risk to receive unfair treatment if you aren’t interviewed last,” O’Brien concludes.

Tell us whether this ‘last-is-best’ phenomenon had happened to you. Share in the comments box below!

The JobsCentral Group, a CareerBuilder company, is the owner of JobsCentral.com.sg, one of Singapore's largest job and learning portals. Get a free career personality test and more career- and education-related articles at JobsCentral and JobsCentral Community.

  • Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report 26 minutes ago
    Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 11 hours ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 12 hours ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • David Moyes statement after Man United firing
    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    Statement released by David Moyes on Wednesday, a day after Manchester United announced he left as manager after less than a season in charge.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake
    Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's military commander said critics who called him out for wearing an especially luxurious watch should be quiet because the timepiece is actually a cheap Chinese fake.