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When It Is Good to Come in Fourth

Hiring managers can determine an applicant's viability as a possible hire within the first minute, research shows.

| BY Kent McDill

A job interview is often stressful, and interviewees struggle with how to put their best foot forward and project the image they are guessing the employer is looking for.

But research indicates that luck, in the form of order of appearance, has something to do with getting hired.

Researchers from Old Dominion University, Clemson and Florida State combined efforts to publish findings in the Journal of Occupational and Organization Psychology which state that, all things being equal, the fourth person interviewed for a job has the best chance to get hired.

The study also looked at the amount of time the average hiring manager takes to speak to a job applicant. The research found that decision-making takes five minutes for the first interviewee, and can reach closer to eight minutes for the fourth applicant, due to the added information that came from the first three interviews.

That added time, however, benefits the fourth applicants because he or she has more time to impress upon the hiring manager.

After the fourth applicant, however, the time needed to reach a decision begins to decrease and continues to decrease with each additional interview. Haring managers, it seems, determine that their choices for the new hire are displayed within the first four applicants. After four interviews, the interviewer begins to process information differently, resorting to mental shortcuts and speedier processing of key conversation points.

The research headed by the team from Old Dominion did research on more than 600 30-minute job interviews with college and graduate students. They spoke to the people doing the hiring, and found that many interviewers decided within the first minute whether the applicant was a reasonable candidate for the position. Another 25 percent decided within the first five minutes. Overall, 60 percent of decisions were made within the first 15 minutes, or halfway through the scheduled interview time.

The research also found that interviewers can affect the impression they get from applicants. Interviewers who spend time making small talk unrelated to the job tend to make quicker decisions, perhaps because personal questions produce stronger reactions.

Interviews that ask each applicant the same questions and are extremely structured in order to measure candidates on a consistent template of information tend to take more time to make their decisions.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.