Guide to In-Person Interviews: How To Prepare and Tips

Updated June 9, 2023

In-person interviews are one of the most crucial steps in the hiring process. At this point, you have likely impressed the potential employer with your qualifications but now must prove that you are the strongest all-around candidate. You need to showcase your enthusiasm for the opportunity and explain how your skills add value to their team. In this article, we explore what in-person interviews are, discuss their advantages and provide advice that will help you prepare for and deliver a successful interview.

What is an in-person interview?

In an in-person interview, you meet with a hiring manager in their workplace. This step usually follows a phone interview, which screened your qualifications as a candidate. During the in-person interview, you provide more details on your experience so the employer can determine whether you are the best fit for the job. Compared to phone or video conversations, an in-person interview can range from 30 minutes to several hours. This is because you may take part in a series of on-site interviews with different managers.

Benefits of an in-person interview

The in-person interview helps employers make their final hiring decisions. It enables them to gain a clear understanding of each candidate and how they would fit at the company. Some of the benefits of in-person interviews include:

  • Presence of non-verbal cues: In-person meetings allow you to communicate and convey your personality through non-verbal cues. As a result, you and the interviewer can get a clearer perspective on how you feel about each other. You can also use non-verbal communication to gauge the tone of the conversation and the work environment, such as whether it is more formal or casual.

  • Improved communication: Many people find it easier to communicate and build rapport while in person. The experience feels more personal because it removes the barriers of a computer screen or telephone call. As a result, you can focus on your conversation and pick up details about the interviewer that you may not get otherwise.

  • Decreased interruption: You likely conduct phone or video interviews from home, which come with distractions. You may also experience technical issues that disrupt the interview. In-person interviews avoid this by requiring you to meet at the employer's office or another quiet setting.

  • Streamlined process: Candidates may meet with several managers in one day, which saves the time of scheduling multiple interviews over days or weeks. Managers can make their candidate decisions on the same day, potentially speeding up the hiring process.

How to prepare for an in-person interview

Performing well during in-person interviews requires planning and practice to ensure you showcase your best qualities. Here is a list of steps you can take to prepare yourself:

1. Do your research

You should research the company, starting with recent news articles or press releases. These provide insights on current events at the company, which you can mention during the interview to show awareness and impress your interviewer. Also, try to read up on its industry and competitors—you can use this information to show how you would solve the company's challenges.

If you know your interviewer's name, try to find them on social media sites to learn about their interests, background and perspectives on any company- or industry-related news. Use this information to create a rapport during your conversation.

Review the job description because the interviewer will expect you to understand the qualifications needed to perform successfully, along with your reasoning for wanting the job.

2. Practice your answers

While you cannot predict what your interviewer will ask, you can practice answers to common questions. Try to develop concise responses that highlight your specific skills or qualifications. This practice can help you feel more comfortable discussing yourself and your value. Also, be ready to explain any gaps in your employment history or other irregularities.

Some examples of common interview questions include:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • Why do you want to work here?

  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Related: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

3. Prepare your stories

In-person interviews take place toward the end of the hiring process, which means interviewers ask more in-depth questions to assess your problem-solving abilities. The best responses use stories that demonstrate experience. Your anecdotes should follow the STAR method, which stands for:

  • Situation: Describe the challenge you faced.

  • Task: Explain your role in the situation.

  • Action: Detail the steps you took to overcome the challenge.

  • Result: Explain what happened after you took action.

These stories not only prove your abilities but can also make you a more memorable candidate. Here are some common topics that benefit from using the STAR method:

  • Having a conflict with a peer or manager

  • Working under significant pressure

  • Making a mistake and correcting it

  • Setting a goal and achieving it

4. Create a list of questions to ask

At the end of the conversation, interviewers ask whether you have any questions, so prepare a few in advance. These questions should help determine whether the job is the right fit for you. Ask for details on the role, the company environment or advancement opportunities. You'll likely find a few more questions to ask during the conversation, but preexisting questions display thoughtfulness and preparation.

Related: 17 Best Questions To Ask Your Interviewer (With Video Examples)

5. Plan what you wear

Decide what you want to wear and bring to the interview the night before to save yourself time later. Choose an appropriate, professional outfit—it is always better to overdress than underdress. Make sure your clothing does not have stains, then iron or steam them to ensure they are free of wrinkles. You should also prepare items you plan on bringing to the interview, such as several copies of your resume, your portfolio and a pen and notepad. Place them in your bag or briefcase to avoid having to look for them on the day of the interview.

6. Set your travel plans

Thoroughly map out your travel to ensure you arrive at the building early. Try taking your planned route at least the day before the interview to see what traffic is like. If you're taking public transportation, plan any transfers and transfer times that you'll encounter. Try to review the parking situation beforehand, though you may receive instructions from the employer.

7. Ready yourself with day-of preparations

On the day of your interview, you should have prepared enough in advance that your main focus is to remain calm. Set your alarm early enough to finish any last-minute preparations. Allow yourself time for a relaxing activity that you enjoy, such as reading or meditation exercises, to keep you composed. If you are still nervous, give yourself positive affirmations or review the more challenging questions and answers.

Tips for a successful in-person interview

Once you arrive, you can use these tips to make an impressive impression on your interview:

  • Connect with the interviewer. Along with your relevant qualifications, potential employers want to see your personality. Think of the interview as a conversation and engage the interviewer by using their name and employing small talk. For example, you may notice something on their desk that represents a shared interest. You can use similarities to bond while making yourself unique and memorable.

  • Maintain professionalism. While you want to form connections, try not to be too casual. Avoid using slang or inappropriate language and asking about or sharing too-personal details. You should also avoid speaking negatively about prior employers. Instead, focus on what you learned or how you grew from those previous challenges.

  • Allow silence. While the quiet can feel awkward, taking a moment before answering shows thoughtfulness. This pause also allows you to reflect on what the interviewer is seeking and provide a relevant answer.

  • Pay attention to non-verbal signals. Take advantage of the fact that you are meeting in person and can see each other's body language. Note how your interviewer reacts to your responses, as it can help you gauge their interest. It can also let you know if you need to be more concise. You may notice a sense of confusion, to which you can ask if they need any clarification or elaboration on a topic.

  • Express enthusiasm. One goal of in-person interviews is to ensure that you genuinely want the job. You can use verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to prove your interest. Smile, maintain eye contact and display a positive attitude throughout the conversation. Before leaving, reiterate your excitement about the opportunity and ask about the next steps in the process. Interviewers have more appreciation for a candidate who reassures them of their interest.

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