The Steps of the Interview Process

By Indeed Editorial Team

October 6, 2021

The job interview process serves a twofold purpose of helping an employer determine whether you're qualified for the job you're interviewing for and helping you to decide whether your values and goals align with those of the employer. This process can vary depending on the company and role, with some companies requiring several face-to-face interviews while others can make a decision after one meeting. In this article, we explain the steps of the interview process and tips for doing well in an interview.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Job Interview Etiquette

What is a job interview?

A job interview is a meeting between a job candidate and an interviewer, who is typically a manager, human resources personnel, another representative of the employer or the employer. This meeting is held to help assess whether the applicant is the right person for the role.

The employer uses a job interview to find out what you can do for the company in terms of your qualifications and the potential contributions you can provide. An interview also allows you to determine whether this is an environment in which you can thrive and you want to enter. Interviews can be conducted in person, over the phone, via email or using video conferencing applications, and it's common to attend two to three rounds of interviews before a final hiring decision is made.

Related: 21 Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

Steps of the interview process

Interview processes can vary depending on the company's practices and protocol, but most interviews generally follow the same format, consisting of the following steps:

  1. Screening

  2. First interview

  3. Second interview

  4. Third interview

  5. The decision

1. Screening

Many employers conduct a preliminary interview to determine whether you're a viable candidate for the job. The screening can be conducted over the phone or in-person and typically lasts fifteen to twenty minutes. This conversation serves to curate the list of candidates to be called for official first interviews.

2. First interview

Typically, the first interview is the first face-to-face meeting with your potential employer. Their goal is to get to know you and assess your skills and experience in relation to their needs for this particular role. They're also looking to get to know you to determine if you will fit in with the company's culture. The following stages typically make up the first interview:

Introduction

The first few minutes consist of meeting the interviewer and getting settled into the interview space. This is also their first impression of you, so it's important to make it a positive one by using good posture, eye contact and a firm handshake. The interviewer generally takes the first several minutes of the interview to tell you about their organization.

Interview questions

The main part of the interview consists of the employer asking you questions and listening to your responses, sometimes taking notes for later reference. Most of the time, this part lasts around 20 minutes.

Your questions

When the interviewer invites you to ask questions, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, expertise and the extent of research you've done on this company. Arrive prepared with three to five thoughtful questions, adjusting as you go based on what you learn during the interview.

Concluding the interview

As the interview ends, the interviewer will likely walk you out. It's a good idea to ask all your questions before you rise from your seat. As you leave, restate your interest in the position with enthusiasm and make sure to thank them sincerely for the meeting, offer a firm handshake and maintain eye contact.

3. Second interview

If you've succeeded in impressing them in the first interview, you may be asked to return for a second meeting. This meeting typically allows you to meet the different department heads and sometimes tour the facility. The interviewer will ask deeper, more specific questions to follow up on certain topics from the first interview and attempt to get a better idea of how you'd acclimate to the work environment.

4. Third interview

Some employers prefer to conduct a third interview to help them make a final decision. For this session, you should have gained some in-depth knowledge about the company and how it runs day-to-day and maybe have an idea of how you'd fit into the existing workplace culture. You may have the opportunity to meet potential coworkers during this time.

5. The decision

The final step in the interview process, if the company wants to hire you, is usually a job offer contingent upon your background check and references. The offer will usually come in the form of a typed letter, but in some cases, you'll receive the offer in an email. Most employers offer a verbal offer before presenting the hard copy to make sure you're happy with the terms or allow you the chance to negotiate before signing on.

Related: How to Ace Your Final Interview

Tips for performing your best in an interview

Being called for an interview can be exciting but also cause for nervousness. These tips aim to help you avoid any typical missteps to help you enjoy a smooth interview process:

  • Practice your introduction.

  • Research.

  • Prepare your answers.

  • Check your social media.

  • Arrive early.

  • Dress professionally.

  • Bring necessary materials.

  • Ask questions at the end of the interview.

  • Send a thank you note.

Practice your introduction

Start your interview off well by practicing your elevator pitch, a thirty-second to two-minute overview of your skills, goals and what value you'll bring to the company. It's useful to video record yourself giving this pitch so that you can play it back and correct any mistakes, gestures or eye contact problems.

Research

You are expected to be well-versed in the basic specifications of the company before you arrive for an interview. Take the time to thoroughly peruse the company's website. Additionally, if you know who will be interviewing you, read their bio on the company's website to get an idea of the type of person you'll be speaking to.

Prepare your answers

While you won't know exactly what will be asked in the interview, you can still prepare great answers to common questions in advance and have anecdotes ready to discuss that are relevant to the skills required for the position. This is commonly a great way to answer questions along the lines of identifying your weaknesses and how you're improving on them.

Check your social media

Your social media accounts, or anything pertaining to your online presence, should only consist of information that you're comfortable with a potential employer knowing. Potential employers will likely look at your accounts during the selection process.

Arrive early

You should plan to arrive around 15 minutes early for an interview to give the impression that you're professional and serious about the job. If you arrive much earlier than 15 minutes before, wait somewhere nearby before going in.

Dress professionally

While many workplaces have a casual dress code, you should aim to dress one step up from a typical workplace casual dress code. How you present yourself illustrates your desire for the role as well as your professionalism.

Bring necessary materials

It's a good idea to have a list of what you want to tell the interviewer as well as what you want to ask them in front of you, in case your nerves cause you to forget the things you've prepared. It's helpful to have a notepad ready to take notes, and you should bring extra copies of your resume and cover letter to give to the interviewer and for you to refer to during the process.

Ask questions at the end of the interview

When the interviewer asks if you have questions for them, make sure that you do. Generally, it's a good idea to have a list of three to ten thoughtful questions ready. Be sure that your questions don't ask about something that you could have easily found on the company's website, and avoid asking about salary and benefits, as this is something that should be addressed by the interviewer first. Some good questions include:

  • What can you tell me about the corporate culture of your company?

  • How does the department/role I would be working in fit into the organization's overall structure?

  • What are your favorite things about working here? What would you change if given the opportunity?

  • Are there specific projects I would be jumping into upon starting? How would success be measured in the first thirty to ninety days?

  • What are the next steps in the interview process? How would you like to be contacted for follow up?

Send a thank you note

Send a thank you email or note to the interviewer within 24 hours of the interview. Keep it simple, expressing gratitude for the interview and happiness at meeting them. Send one to each person in attendance at the interview. This will keep you, your qualifications and enthusiasm for the job at the forefront of their minds as they continue to consider candidates.

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