How to Prepare for an Onsite Interview

Updated June 28, 2022

Onsite interviewing is an exciting and critical stage of the hiring process. Meeting an interviewer in person can be intimidating but it is also an excellent opportunity for you to make a lasting impression. Before you can ace your onsite interview, you will need to make time for some important preparation. In this article, we will look at what you can expect in an onsite interview, the steps you need to take to prepare and what you can do to follow up on an onsite interview successfully.

Related: How to Prepare for an Interview

What to expect in an onsite interview

After you apply for a job and submit your resume, potential employers will typically ask for a preliminary phone call or phone interview. If the conversation is successful, the hiring manager will extend an invitation for you to meet and participate in an onsite interview.

Onsite interviews frequently occur at the company’s place of business, but they can take place in a variety of locations, including restaurants, hotel conference rooms or airports. Onsite interviews are usually conducted by a hiring manager, personnel manager or human resources staff member. Onsite interviews are often the first opportunity you will have to meet a company representative in person, so it is crucial to make a memorable impression. The interviewer will likely speak with you one-on-one, but you might also be introduced to other team members during the meeting. 

Onsite interviews typically consist of a series of interview questions, which can be general or technical in nature. Whether the interview is formal or casual will vary depending on the interviewer and the setting. Most hiring managers use onsite interviews as a chance to get to know a candidate personally through conversation. According to research, being able to communicate confidently is the number one thing that interviewers look for in a candidate. For the majority of job seekers, the key to navigating onsite interviews with confidence is preparation.

Read more: 21 Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

How to prepare for an onsite interview

Taking steps to prepare in advance will help you feel collected and confident on the day of your interview. Here are suggested steps to take to prepare for an onsite interview:

  1. Read the job description

  2. Do some research

  3. Study common interview questions

  4. Prepare your own questions

  5. Make plans to arrive early

  6. Get a good night’s sleep

  7. Dress professionally

  8. Pack a bag of interview materials

  9. Stay calm and remain positive

1. Read the job description

The first step to preparing for your onsite interview is to read over the job description carefully. Pay attention to the list of requirements and desired skills and decide how you can incorporate them into your interview answers. Memorize some of the repeated keywords so you can use them when describing your experience level or skill set. The more you know about what the company is looking for, the easier it will be to present yourself as an attractive candidate.

2. Do some research

Conduct an internet search of your potential employer and visit their website to find out as much as you can about the company. Points of interest include:

  • CEO and the management team

  • Founding and history

  • Mission or value statement

  • Products or services it provides

  • Target demographic  

  • Main competitors

If possible, find out exactly who will be interviewing you and read their bio on the website or social media. You do not want to overdo your research, but knowing the interviewer’s job title or employment history can help you find something in common.

3. Study common interview questions

Studying possible interview questions in advance is one of the best ways to be a confident interviewee. An internet search can provide lists of frequently asked interview questions, complete with examples of good answers. If you can prepare your own answers to the most common questions in advance, you will be able to answer the interviewer quickly and capably. Interviewers are usually impressed by potential hires who take the time to think through their answers beforehand.

Read more: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

4. Prepare your own questions

In addition to deciding how you will answer the interviewer’s questions, you will also need to plan on asking some questions of your own. You may be able to politely insert some questions during the interview, especially if the interview is more casual than formal. However, the interviewer will most likely wait until the end of the interview to ask if you have any questions. This is the perfect opportunity to show you are interested in the position and committed to pursuing the job. 

This is a good time to ask questions that will help you understand the job or the company better. You should refrain from mentioning salary or benefits unless the interviewer brings them up, but any other work-related topics are open for discussion. Some recommended questions are:

  • What is the work environment like in the office?

  • What does a typical day look like for someone in this position?

  • How long have you worked at the company? What is your favorite part about working here?

  • What opportunities for advancement exist for someone in this role?

Read more: 9 Best Questions to Ask Your Interviewer (With Video Examples)

5. Make plans to arrive early

In the days leading up to your interview, it is important to put together a plan for transportation. Make sure you have access to a functional vehicle and look up directions to the meeting place. Depending on the situation, you might need to handle buses, taxis or airplanes, so allow plenty of time for delays. Even something common, like unexpected traffic on the freeway, can cause you to be late, so planning in advance is crucial. You can use a GPS or mobile application to find out how long the trip will be and to monitor traffic conditions.

You will want to arrive at least fifteen to twenty minutes before your interview is scheduled to begin. The extra time will allow you to find your way to the right office, check in with security, use the restroom to freshen up and gather your thoughts. You can use your brief time in a waiting room to review your interview answers and talking points, which will help calm your nerves before the interview begins.

6. Get a good night’s sleep

On the night before the day of the interview, try to get to bed early and sleep well. Getting a good night’s sleep will help you remain focused, energized and engaged throughout your interview.

If possible, try to limit your commitments the night before your interview. You will want to say “no” to drinks, late dinners or other activities that could inhibit your performance the next day. Instead, try to get out of bed early to give yourself time to fully wake up before your interview.

7. Dress professionally

One of the most well-known pieces of advice concerning onsite interviews is to dress the part. This means wearing an outfit that makes you look professional, capable and mature. Typically, you will want to wear clothes that fit the business casual category, unless instructed otherwise. Make sure your outfit is clean, wrinkle-free and relatively conservative. Your appearance will convey a message about your attitude to your interviewer, so it is important to plan your outfit thoughtfully. 

8. Pack a bag of interview materials

Make a shortlist of important items you may need during your interview. You should bring a copy of your resume and a form of ID. You may also want to bring a notepad, pen or pencil, business cards of past employers, examples of your work, a list of references or other relevant documents. You might also want a water bottle, a mint (not gum) or anything else that could make you feel more at ease during your interview.

9. Stay calm and remain positive

Pre-interview anxiety can be a challenge for even the most experienced of professionals. Before your interview, calm yourself by listening to music, talking to a friend or engaging in other activities that make you feel peaceful and collected. 

Your facial expression and attitude can also impact the way your interviewer sees you during your meeting, so it’s helpful to to smile and demonstrate that you’re listening. 

Remember that the interviewer likely wants you to succeed, so all you have to do is present yourself as a valuable potential employee. If you meet the qualifications, have a suitable skill set and can communicate those facts confidently, you have every reason to walk into your interview with an optimistic outlook.

After the interview

Preparing for your interview in advance is crucial to your success as a candidate, but you will also need to put some thought into what to do after you leave. Here are a couple of post-interview tips:

Send a thank-you note

After the interview, immediately send an email to the interviewer thanking them for their time and attention. Make sure to mention how grateful you are for the opportunity and reiterate how excited you would be to work for the company. You might also offer to supply any additional information the hiring team might need to complete their process. 

The point of the thank-you email is to show the interviewer your professionalism and that you are truly interested in the job. After sending the email, you can also choose to send a second, handwritten note to the interviewer’s office, although that is not strictly necessary.

Read more: Follow Up Email Examples for After an Interview

Follow up

As you are leaving your interview, ask the interviewer about the next stages of the hiring process. Find out when you can expect them to back to you, what the next step would be and if they need anything further from you in the meantime. If they give you an exact date, wait until that date passes before sending the interviewer a follow-up email or giving them a call. If they do not give a precise deadline, wait for three to five days before contacting the office. At that time, the interviewer should either be able to give you an update on the hiring process or let you know that they are pursuing other candidates.


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