When applying for a job, getting contacted for an interview is the first indicator that you’re being considered for a position. The interview process can be short or extensive, and if you are adequately prepared and are able to impress the employer, ultimately results in a job offer. In this article, we explain what the interview process is, describe some common stages of the process and detail the primary phases of a normal interview.
What is the interview process?
The interview process is the multistep practice that companies use to screen and hire new employees. The different stages and requirements involved with this process can highly vary depending on the industry, position and company where you are interviewing.
Steps in the interview process
Though companies can conduct the interview process differently depending on their needs, protocols and industry, here are some of the steps you might encounter during the interview process:
Screening interview: Sometimes companies start the interview process with a screening interview to determine which candidates have the desired and necessary qualifications for the job. Employers occasionally replace this step with more of an open interview, sometimes referred to as a group interview. Companies typically conduct open interviews at an open hiring event, where they interview multiple candidates at the same time.
Phone interview: Companies often use phone interviews as an initial way to narrow the number of applicants and identify candidates who they would like to invite for an in-person interview. Though this is the case for most jobs, interviewers hiring for remote positions often have to solely rely on video or phone interviewing to recruit ideal candidates.
Skill assessment: Some positions may require that you take and pass a test that is designed to evaluate the technical abilities required for the job in question. For example, an employer might ask a candidate applying for a writing position to take a grammar test or write a test piece.
First interview: The in-person interviews usually begin with a one-on-one interview with the hiring manager. During this initial meeting, the interviewer typically asks questions about the candidate’s qualifications, skills, work history and relevant experience.
Second interview: After the initial in-person interview, the meetings tend to get more in-depth to further examine a select few candidates and determine which ones are real contenders for the job. Second interviews sometimes serve as an additional meeting with the same interviewer, or they can serve as a day-long meeting that involves multiple interviews with various members of the staff, such as executives, staff members and supervisors.
Third interview: While this step is somewhat rare, companies sometimes use three or more interviews before selecting a candidate. These meetings often involve an opportunity for current employees to meet the prospective new hire.
Lunch or dinner interview: Depending on the type of role you are applying for, the employer may ask you to join them for a meal so that they can evaluate your etiquette, interpersonal skills and communication skills in a more relaxed setting.
Background check: At some point during the interview process, the employer may conduct a background check or a credit check. Depending on the results, your application can progress through the interview process or be withdrawn from consideration.
Job offer: If you successfully progress through the interview process, the last phase is when the employer makes you a job offer. This is when you would find out the terms and conditions, compensation and benefits for the position. Make sure that you study the offer carefully before accepting it. If you would like to adjust a certain aspect of it, you can make a counteroffer. After negotiations are done, you can then either accept or decline the job offer, usually by signing a form.
The primary stages of an interview
While not every hiring process will contain the same elements and each interview will be specific to the job, there are certain things that you can expect of the interview format so that you can arrive prepared for the experience. The average interview usually progresses through basic stages including the following:
Before the real interviewing begins, the interviewer usually greets you with a handshake while introducing themselves. To give a good first impression, make sure that you make eye contact, shake their hand firmly and say something like, “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you.”
2. Light conversation
Next, your interviewer may try to make a personal connection with you to gauge your interpersonal and communication skills. Keep the conversation positive and look for opportunities to ask your own questions. Unless it’s relevant to the company or position, it’s usually a good idea to avoid serious or divisive topics such as politics. Sometimes the interviewer may choose to give you a tour of the workplace during this time as you make your way to the interview area.
3. Professional pitch
One of the first things that the interviewer might ask you to do is to tell them a little bit about yourself. In other words, they want to hear your professional pitch. Tell them about the path that led you to that company, along with any relevant qualifications or experience that could distinguish you as a great candidate for the position. It’s helpful to practice your pitch ahead of time so that you seem organized, communicative and confident.
4. Question and answer
Depending on the company and industry, you can experience different types of interview questions, including:
Behavioral: Interviewers may ask behavioral questions to learn how you handled past work situations and how you may behave in similar situations in the future. These questions allow them to gauge your skills, qualities and personality. When answering this question, tell stories about previous situations and give specific details about how you used your strengths and skills to overcome certain workplace challenges.
Situational: These questions help reveal your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Interviewers may pose a hypothetical situation and ask how you plan to solve the problem. Carefully assess the situation they provide and reflect on how it’s similar to your past workplace experiences. Explain your plan of action to solve the problem and connect it with a similar challenge you overcame in the past.
General: These are questions interviewers may commonly ask employees. They can range anywhere from, “Tell me about yourself,” to “Where do you see yourself in five years?” They may also relate to the specific industry or role you’re applying for. It can be best to research common interview questions ahead of time to practice and feel prepared for your interview.
When you rehearse answering possible questions before the interview, ask a friend or colleague to practice interviewing with you. They can provide constructive notes to help you look more natural and confident in your interview. You can also try practicing in front of a mirror to ensure your hand gestures and posture are professional and natural. Additionally, you should prepare some questions of your own about the company and the position. This shows your interest in the company and role and may impress interviewers.
5. Final remarks
When the interview closes, consider this one more opportunity to make a lasting impression. At the end of your interview, you should shake the interviewer’s hand and thank them for their time and consideration. Remember to make eye contact and smile.
6. Follow up
The interview may indeed be the bulk of the process, but when the interview ends you still have an opportunity to make an impression. After each interview during the interview process, you should send a follow-up email to the person you met with. Make sure to:
Thank them again for meeting with you.
Take a second to clarify or ask anything that you wish you had during the interview.
Reiterate your eagerness to join their team.