Interview Process: Everything You Need to Know
The interview process involves a number of steps that both a company and a job candidate go through in order to hire or be hired for a position.8 min read
What Is the Interview Process?
The interview process involves several steps that both a company and a job candidate go through to hire or be hired for a position. For many positions, the process is a multistep one.
What Steps Does an Interview Process Involve?
The interview process used to be a simple one. It involved a meeting, a few questions, a handshake or two, and a job offer for the right candidate. Today's companies demand more when looking for new employees. The steps in an interview process are now more complex, starting with screening interviews, followed by several more interviews, background checks, questionnaires, and more. The people involved in the process may include hiring managers, department managers, and other relevant staff members.
An interview process can typically involve the following steps:
Once a company has narrowed down their list of candidates based on the applications and resumes received, they may choose to conduct a screening interview. The screening interview is usually done over the phone and serves to identify whether or not an applicant meets the qualifications required for the particular position. The first interview may be arranged during this step.
The first interview is normally a one-on-one, in-person event. Remote positions or candidates who reside outside of the area, but have indicated a willingness to relocate may have their first interview conducted by phone or by video conference utilizing programs such as Skype or Google Hangouts.
The hiring manager is usually the only one present during this step in the process. They will ask the applicant more basic questions regarding:
- Experience and relevant skills
- Work history
The second interview is a good sign that a candidate is a serious contender for the position, but there may still be a long way to go. It is a more in-depth part of the process which may involve the original interviewer as well as other company staff. Others on the interview panel may include those whom the candidate would directly report to should they be successful. Second interviews may be day-long events.
A third interview gives further opportunity for a potential candidate to meet with the company's management or executive team and other possible colleagues. Companies may even conduct dining interviews where the employers are able to review a potential candidate's interpersonal skills within a more relaxed environment.
More interviews may occur, but the final step in the interview process is where a candidate may learn whether or not they will be offered the position.
Once the arduous interview process is completed to the satisfaction of the employer, including checking references, a job offer will be made to the chosen candidate. The company will have evaluated the candidate to determine their suitability for the position, so it is now the candidate's opportunity to evaluate whether or not the job offer is suitable to them. A candidate should consider the compensation package that is being offered and determine whether or not they wish to make a counter offer. Whether or not the offer is agreeable, the candidate should accept or decline it in writing.
Some companies may require the completion of a background check and/or a credit check, including a review of social media, prior to offering a job. Other companies may offer the position contingent on the satisfactory results of a background and/or credit check. The results of these checks may determine whether or not an applicant receives the offer in the first place, or if an offer is withdrawn altogether.
The Interviewer/Interviewee Relationship
The interview process is a mutual event that requires commitment from both parties. Therefore, it can be beneficial to the interviewer and the interviewee to understand the elements of this process from both sides.
For both the interviewer and the interviewee, preparation is the key to a successful interview.
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes before a job posting ever goes live. Before the interview process can even begin, a company must:
- identify the position that needs to be filled and conduct a thorough job analysis,
- determine the need to hire a new employee for the position,
- formulate a job description and job specifications based on the job analysis,
- determine the appropriate, equitable salary range, based on internal and external resources,
- identify appropriate outlets for seeking qualified applicants, such as job sites, job fairs, or internal posting boards,
- plan out interview questions,
- determine who will participate in the interview process and at which step they will join in, and
- review applications and resumes received to select the most qualified candidates for consideration.
The job hunting process usually involves sending out multiple resumes and completing multiple applications. An interviewee should never submit their resume or application without first doing a bit of research on the company and the position for which they are applying so they can better understand the requirements. This way, there will be no surprises during an impromptu screening phone call.
If the applicant is selected for an interview, it is their responsibility to conduct further research to prepare for the interview itself. This is also an opportunity to speak with someone within the company, if possible, to get a sense of the company environment and what may be going on within the particular department or division for which the candidate applied. Visiting the website and employer LinkedIn profile can help an applicant determine the company's work environment, including energy level, philosophy, and dress code.
A thorough review of the job description provided in the job posting will help an applicant shape themselves for the role and provide an opportunity to present themselves in an interview as the solution to the challenges the company or department might face.
The amount of time required for someone to make a first impression is still up for debate. Is it 30 seconds, seven seconds, or one-tenth of a second? Whatever the case may be, an interviewee should know that making a great first impression is a big part of a successful interview. At the same time, the interviewer should not be too quick to judge. Candidates who don't make good first impressions, whether through their appearance or nervousness during the interview process, may still have the potential to be excellent employees.
In a job interview, the company is selling itself to a potential candidate as much as the candidate is selling themselves to the company. They need a job, but the company needs an employee who will want to work with a good organization. The interview process is a reflection of how a company values its potential employees, and by extension, its current employees. An interviewer can make a good first impression and help put a potential candidate at ease during a very stressful process by:
- making sure that the candidate is greeted in a friendly manner,
- escorting the employee to the interview area, if necessary,
- telling a little bit about the company and providing a brief summary of the position, and
- being professional as well as personable during the interview.
There are two sides of the table in an interview process. An interviewee may feel nervous about the people they are facing, but keep in mind that the interviewer may feel the same way. More often than not, interviewing potential job candidates is not a task that every interviewer might enjoy.
The process of interviewing requires that employers set aside their everyday tasks, deadlines, and projects to meet with strangers who may or may not be right for the job. It can be a psychologically taxing situation that negatively affects even the most extroverted decision-maker. However, it is a necessary task, and the interviewee has the opportunity to make it easier on them. The candidate can do this first and foremost by arriving on time—better yet, arriving early—and by being prepared. Have all documentation, such as resumes, certifications, or portfolios, ready to go when the interviewer asks for them.
While interviewing candidates might be part of a human resource employee's job description, other employees from other departments may find the prospect just as intimidating and uncomfortable as the interviewee. An applicant should do their best to be engaging and personable from the moment they walk into the interviewing room. If the interviewer had been dreading the interview process when their day first began, a candidate's aim should be to make them feel that conducting this particular interview was time well-spent, even if they ultimately determine that this is not the right person for the position. Either way, an applicant that approaches an interview with this in mind will leave a lasting, positive impression.
Questions and Answers
The questions asked during an interview are an opportunity to truly evaluate an applicant's potential, their experience, and their aptitudes. The interview process, though, is not only about the employer asking questions of a potential new employee. Both sides have the opportunity to dig deeper with questions to determine if this is the right position for the person being interviewed.
A company can ask any number of questions to determine a candidate's suitability for the role. Those questions can fall into four different categories.
- Closed-ended questions are simple inquiries that usually result in a yes or no response. For example, "Are you willing to travel for extended periods of time for work purposes?"
- Open-ended questions require more thought and allow the candidate to provide further insight into their attitudes, behaviors, and opinions. An example of this type of question would be, "How did you handle a stressful situation in your previous job?"
- Hypothetical questions challenge the interviewee with imaginary scenarios that may occur specifically within the position or in general. "How would you respond to a project that does not meet its goals?" is a good example of this type of question.
- An interview can also ask more creative questions, such as, "What is the most unique or unusual thing about you?" These kinds of questions may seem strange, but they can reveal a candidate's personality and even lighten the tension of the interview process.
An applicant should use the opportunity to put their potential employer on the spot as well by coming to an interview prepared with questions of their own, such as:
- What are the daily tasks and responsibilities of the position?
- Can you describe the company environment and culture?
- What direction do you see the company heading within the next five years?
- How much travel is expected?
- What kind of opportunities exist for advancement?
- What are the biggest challenges and opportunities that the company faces?
- Is this a new position? If so, how does it fit in within the company's existing framework?
- Is there a new employee onboarding process?
- How many people work at the company or in the department?
Both the interviewer and the interviewee can and should take notes during the process, so be sure to have extra pens or pencils handy.
The Importance of Follow-up
For an applicant, following up with the interviewer afterward is an important step in the interview process. It is an opportunity for the candidate to reiterate their interest in the position and to express their gratitude to the interviewer for taking the time to meet with them.
It is also good practice for employers to do the same. Many job seekers are frustrated by companies that don't follow through on promised follow-up or who do not provide clear next steps. Communicating in a timely manner with potential candidates—even ones that may not be the right fit for the company—shows courtesy and respect and enhances the company's reputation.
The interviewing process is a practiced art for both the employer and the potential employee. With good strategies on both sides, the right candidate can be found for every position, and successful working relationships can develop that potentially eliminate the need for future job or candidate hunting.
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