7 Important Steps in the Job Interview Process
September 13 • 6 min read
Congratulations — your resume has caught the eye of a hiring manager at your dream company. Welcome to the interview process, where you get to show off your skills and learn more about the position and the culture of the company you're hoping to join. Understanding the interview process allows you to manage your expectations and make the best impression at every step along the way.
A job interview serves two major purposes — first, it helps the company evaluate whether you're a good fit for the job. Second, it makes it easier to decide whether the job is a good fit for you, your plans and your goals. This typically means that you'll have several interviews with various people before a decision is made to make a job offer to you. Each interview is typically with a different person — or team of people — and each brings you one step closer to getting that job offer. The typical job interview process may include any or all of the following steps:
- Screening Interview
- Phone/Video Interview
- First Interview
- Second Interview
- Third Interview or Team Interview
- Background Check
- Job Offer
Each of these steps has a different purpose, and they may take place in a different order than above. Depending on the company, you may only have one or two interviews — the smaller the company, the fewer interviewers you're likely to meet. With larger companies, the process may be even more involved. Here's what you can expect from each step, along with some tips so that you can shine at each stage of the process. Keep in mind that some companies may combine several of these steps within one day, while others will space them out over several days or even weeks.
The screening interview is typically conducted with a member of human resources (HR) that helps the employer determine if you have the basic qualifications they require for their job opening. Some companies — particularly those that use online recruiters — may conduct the screening as part of the original job application, in the form of a simple questionnaire asking if you possess each of the required qualifications. It may even be carried out by the recruiter, who will then pass the applications of those who pass the initial screening on to the hiring company. In most cases, this initial interview will take place by phone or at an open hiring event, such as a job fair.
Tips: If you're attending a job fair, dress neatly and carry your job resume with you. If the screening interview is by phone, be polite and friendly. Answer the questions truthfully and completely, but don't volunteer information that the interviewer doesn't ask. If you pass the screening, the interviewer will schedule you for a first interview, which may be by phone, video or in person, and will usually take place within a few days.
A background check is almost always a part of the job application process these days, so it's important to know your rights where background checks are concerned. You may be asked to authorize one at any point in the job application process, before or after they extend a job offer.
Tips: If you haven't done so already, order your own background and credit checks so that you know exactly what your potential employer will be seeing. It will give you a chance to dispute information that's in error — and get them removed before any potential employers see them — as well as prepare yourself to answer questions about them that may arise.
Some hiring managers use phone or video interviews to narrow the field of candidates who will be invited to interview in person. It's important to treat it as you would any other interview because it may be the only chance you get to show them why you're the right person for their open position.
Tips: Eliminate any distractions. Turn off the television and background music. Take the call in a private area of your home where you won't be disturbed by other members of the household, and put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode so you're not interrupted by other calls.
Your first interview will usually be with a hiring manager, who will ask you questions about your job history, work qualifications, availability, experience and relevant skills. They may also ask you about your immediate and long-term career goals. The hiring manager will decide which applicants to move forward for further interviews and consideration.
Tips: Research the company and the position for which you're applying so that you can ask informed questions during this interview. Prepare your answers for the most typical interview questions, such as where you see yourself in five years or ten years or how you handle conflict in the workplace. If the interviewer doesn't mention next steps before the end of the interview, ask!
If you've been invited back for a second interview, pat yourself on the back. At this interview, you may meet other department heads or tour the facility. Expect deeper, more detailed questions — the interviewer may want to clarify your answers in earlier interviews or evaluate how well you'll fit in with the general company culture and your co-workers. Your interviewer will typically tell you what the next steps are — for example, whether and when they'll be scheduling third interviews or when they expect to make a decision on the position.
Tips: Be friendly, professional and approachable. Do practice interviews ahead of time to prepare you to respond to typical questions easily without sounding like you're giving a recitation. And again, if the interviewer hasn't mentioned next steps, ask what you can expect.
Most hiring managers facilitate two to three interviews per job candidate. Some companies may want a third interview to help them make a decision among the most qualified candidates for the position. This sometimes entails more members from their team sitting in on a group interview. Again, the interviewer should give you an idea of the next steps and a time frame for their final decision. It can take a week or more to hear back from a company after this final interview. If more than a week goes by and you've heard nothing, it's okay to reach out to your closest contact at the company to follow up.
Tips: First, take a deep breath. Only the most qualified candidates make it this far. Whatever you've been doing, keep doing it, but don't assume you have the job. Be prepared with some good questions about the company's overall goals and day-to-day operations. Go back over your notes from previous interviews so that you can emphasize the skills and abilities that have cropped up most often in earlier questions or to fix mistakes in earlier interviews. If, for example, you learned that the company uses particular software, this is the time to mention your experience with it — or, if you don't have that experience, to note that you looked it up and have started learning more about it.
No matter the number and forms of interviews, there are a few important tips to keep in mind:
- Always bring your best self to interviews. Be neat, professional and well-groomed.
- Arrive early, but not too early. About 15 minutes before the scheduled interview time works well.
- Come prepared. Bring copies of your resume, your business card and a notebook and pen.
- Turn off your phone.
- Let the interviewer bring up salary and benefits first.
- If you want the job, let them know.
Finally, as old-fashioned as it sounds, do follow up after every interview with a written thank you to your interviewer(s). You remember their name(s) right? We hope so! A hand-written thank you can be the chef's kiss that makes you stand out as the perfect candidate for the job.
The final step in the job interview process is the job offer letter. You may receive it in an email, as a printed job offer letter via snail mail, or presented in person in a final interview. Take the time to read the offer carefully and decide whether it's acceptable to you. In some cases, the company may extend the job offer verbally. This gives you — and the company — a chance to negotiate before they put it in writing.
Understanding the steps involved in the interview process can help you better prepare. Not to mention, you won’t be caught off guard if the company asks you to come in for a second and third interview.
First, you need to land an interview by showcasing your experience in your resume. See how Rocket Resume can kickstart the interview process helping you to design a stellar resume.
Sources: The Balance Careers - How Much Time From Interview to Job Offer? Indeed - FAQ: How Many Job Interviews Should You Expect in the Hiring Process? Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - Background Checks: Consumer Information