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Over the last two years I’ve interviewed 15+ candidates for a couple of senior level positions with our firm, and have been astonished with the responses I received when I asked each a very simple question.

Mind you, these were senior level executives with at least 15-20 years’ experience.

But when asked, “Do you know where we are in the process?,” none of them had the faintest idea.

Why does this matter? Well, in the first place, it’s an advantage to interview later in the process. Organizations and interviewers, at least in my experience, will tend to be more critical and discriminating earlier in the process. As they see more and more candidates the pressure to identify the candidate of choice becomes greater. In addition, when you interview later in the process the interviewers’ memory of you will be fresher and more vivid. It makes no sense to be the first guy (or gal) in. None.

How can you control your position in the process? When your recruiter or the hiring firm’s HR rep calls to set up an interview, ask where the hiring company is in their search. If they are just beginning to schedule interviews, simply do not make yourself available for at least a few weeks. (The more senior the position, the greater you should delay. If it’s an entry level position, you shouldn’t push it much more than a week to week and a half.) If you’re particularly anxious to land a new job this may seem counterintuitive, but remember you do NOT want to be interviewing early in the firm’s process.

A couple of other thoughts: do not interview on Mondays or Fridays, for obvious reasons.

When you actually do arrive on site for your interview, ask again where the firm is in the process. This is an entirely fair question.

If you happen to meet up with me during an interview, I’ll have greater respect for you if you’ve had the smarts and assertiveness to know where we – and by extension, you – are in the process. Good luck!

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