What To Expect in an Interview and 10 Steps to Prepare

Updated August 31, 2023

When seeking employment, an interview with the hiring manager is often required. The job interview is a great way for companies to assess if you’re qualified for the position you’re applying for. While the way an employer conducts the interview, the questions they ask and the interview’s duration will vary by company, in general, they will have a similar structure, which allows you to prepare for yours.

In this article, we’ll discuss what to expect in an interview and how to best prepare.

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What is an interview?

An interview is a meeting in which you answer questions that highlight your skills and qualifications for a job. Interviews are often held with one interviewer and an interviewee, but you may meet with multiple interviewers at once.

You might also go through multiple rounds of interviews that ensure you’re the right candidate for the job. Interviews can take place in person, over the phone or video call or even in a group setting.

Related: Guide: How To Succeed at a Hiring Event or Open Interview

What to expect in an interview

There are several things to expect when it comes to the interview process, but the format will greatly depend on the company you’re interviewing with. Here is a general overview of what you can expect during a formal, in-person interview.

The pre-interview process

Before your interview, you will have already been in communication with a recruiter or even the hiring manager. It’s likely you already sent them your resume and cover letter after determining their job posting interests you. If required, you might have also provided them with your portfolio or other supporting materials they can use to evaluate you as a potential asset to their company.

If they think you might be a good fit for the role, you should expect to hear back from them. In this scenario, they’ll either ask you to come in for a formal interview or ask to speak with you over the phone or via a video call. If the latter is the case, this means they want to get to know you a bit more before moving forward.

Recruiters will often screen candidates by phone before asking them to come in for a formal interview. Be prepared to answer general questions about your background and experience. They will also be gauging your interest in the role and the company itself.

You can rest assured that they felt confident enough in your abilities to want to know more about you and your expertise.

Related: The Steps of the Interview Process

During the interview

While every company and human resources department works differently, the way they structure their interviews is generally the same.

When you arrive for your interview, head to the secretary or reception desk and let them know who you are and what position you’re interviewing for. You’ll likely be asked to sit in a waiting area until the hiring manager is ready to see you. It’s important to stay off your phone so you don’t seem disinterested in the role. 

Once the hiring manager has greeted you, they’ll likely escort you to their office. They might engage in small talk during this time. It’s important to stay attentive and actively listen to everything they have to say, even before the interview has officially begun. The hiring manager will then provide you details about the job you applied for and the qualities of the candidate they’re hoping to fit the role. 

Once the interviewer gives you an idea of the position and what it entails, they’ll want to hear how you are qualified for the role. They’ll ask a series of general, behavioral, situational and in-depth questions as they pertain to your industry. Be prepared to answer questions regarding your experience, skills and achievements.

It’s also possible they might ask you about employment gaps and your preferred salary range. No interviewer will have the same questions, so it’s best to prepare for the most common ones you’re likely to encounter.

Here are common interview questions that you can likely expect:

  • Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

  • Why did you leave your last job?

  • What are you looking for in a job?

  • How did you hear about this position?

  • What do you know about the company?

  • Why do you want to work for our company?

  • What do you expect from your manager and team?

  • Where do you think you'll be in five years?

  • Why should we hire you?

After a round of questions, the hiring manager might ask if you have any questions about the position or company. This is your opportunity to get clarity about anything, express your interest in the role and show that you’ve done your research on the company. In essence, this is a great way to show the hiring manager how interested you are in working for them.

After the interview, the hiring manager might give you a sense of what the workplace environment is like by giving you a tour of the workplace. There’s also a chance they’ll introduce you to your potential future colleagues. Be sure to thank your interviewer both for their time and for the opportunity to interview for the position before leaving.

Related: The Typical Interview Timeline and What You Can Expect

Waiting to hear back

After you leave the interview, it’s a good idea to reiterate your thanks by sending the hiring manager an email. A simple thank you will go a long way, and it’s a great gesture should you work there in the future.

While you’re waiting to hear if the hiring manager sees you as being a good fit for the role, it’s important to determine whether or not the role is a good fit for you. Consider the information you gathered from the interview such as the workplace environment, the job duties and what will be expected of you.

As much as the interview process is an opportunity for them to determine your potential value to their company, it’s also a great indicator for you to personally decide if this is a role you could see yourself in.

You should expect to hear back from the hiring manager within a week or two. In some cases, you might not hear back unless they want to proceed or make you a job offer. When you hear back, you’ll either be provided with a job offer, be told they want to proceed with the next round of interviews or be notified that they’ve chosen another candidate.

Even if you’re not provided with a job offer, the interview process alone provided you with valuable experience.

Related: How To Write the Best Thank You Email After Your Interview

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How to prepare for an interview

Along with preparing how to answer interview questions, it’s also important to consider other aspects that will set you up for a successful interview. Before your interview, use the following steps to guide you:

1. Review the job description

Reviewing the job description is vital in understanding exactly what the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate. The job posting is a great guide that can help you better comprehend what the position entails and what will be expected of you should you be hired.

Be sure to review it in its entirety, as you’re likely to receive questions about it. The more you can present how you align with the details in the job posting, the more qualified your interviewer will see you for the role.

Read more: How To Ask for a Job Description Before an Interview

2. Consider why you’re applying for the position

If you applied for the job, it’s more than likely this is a role you’d like to have. Make sure to know exactly why this position is for you and why you want it in the first place. The hiring manager is likely to ask you about your interest in the role and why you’d make a good fit.

3. Think of how you might answer interview questions

Review common interview questions you might encounter for your field, and consider your answers to each of them. This will help you feel more fully prepared when you go in. Running through common interview questions will give you an idea of how you’ll craft your answers.

Related: 10 Closing Statements for Interviews (With Examples)

4. Research the company

Researching the company will help guide your answers to common interview questions and give you a better idea of the company culture and role. Researching the company and position is a great way to stand out among other candidates while also expressing your interest in the position.

5. Practice your speaking voice and mannerisms

Confidence is a great way to make a good first impression. Practice a strong speaking voice and friendly posture. Nodding your head while listening, planting your feet to the ground while sitting and sitting all the way back in your seat are just some things to keep in mind during your interview. 

Related: Nonverbal Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

6. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer

Asking insightful questions at the end of the interview is a great way to show your interest in working for the company. Prepare several questions to ask the interviewer that pertain to the position, company and office environment.

Image description

Two women sit across from each other at a table. There is a list of interview questions between them. The headline says, "Questions to ask in an interview"
The questions below the headline are:
•Can you elaborate on the day-to-day responsibilities this job entails?
•What are the characteristics of someone who would succeed in this role?
•What's the most important thing I could do to help within the first 90 days of employment?
•What are some of the challenges you've seen people in this role or on this team encounter?
• If I were in this job, how would my performance be measured?
What does the career path for someone in this role look like?
What other functions or departments does this team work with most often?
•What does your job look like day-to-day, and how would you anticipate working with the person in this role?
•What do you like best about working here?

7. Practice your interview ahead of time

Ask a friend or family member to walk through a mock interview with you. You can also practice your answers out loud to yourself. Knowing the flow of the interview process will help you stay calm and give you a better idea of what to expect come the day of the interview. Repeatedly walking through a mock interview will make you more comfortable and confident. 

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

8. Print your resume to take with you

While many recruiters will have a digital copy of your resume, printing a hard copy is a good idea in case they don’t have one readily available on the day of the interview. Bringing a copy of your resume with you will let them see that you’ve come prepared. If you’re interviewing with more than one person, be sure to print multiple copies. 

9. Plan your travel arrangements

Coordinate how and when you will arrive at your interview. Make sure to map your route and leave plenty of time for travel and potential traffic. Arriving early for your interview is a great way to show your interviewer that you are punctual. Arrange to leave early should traffic become an issue. Have the address of the location readily available if you need to reference it. 

If something out of your control comes up, keep your interviewer’s contact information on hand, as well, in case you need to call them and make them aware of the situation. If your interview will take place in an area close to you, it’s a good idea to visit the surrounding location in advance to scope out parking and traffic so you know what to expect the day of your interview.

10. Plan your attire

Have your outfit laid out ahead of time. Select attire that will help you make the best impression. The style of outfit you choose should depend on the company’s dress code. Some companies have a formal dress code whereas many startups tend to have a more casual and laid-back dress code. Dress for the company you’re hoping to work for.

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