Understanding The Steps Of The Interview Process

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 21, 2022

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A company will typically have a structured process to interview and lead them through the hiring process. The process can be simple, with minimal steps, or a complex procedure with multiple interviews. In this article, we discuss the definition of an interview process and details of the steps involved. We also review the essential stages of an interview meeting.

What is the interview process?

The interview process is a highly structured and multistage procedure that a company uses to evaluate your skills, competencies and ability to fit in with the established team. An interview process typically consists of an interview, reference or background check and job offer. But in some companies, the interview process is even more involved.

As a candidate, you often meet various people within the company, including the recruiter, hiring manager, other leadership, and sometimes potential colleagues. There may be phone interviews, in-person interviews and skills assessments. And while the interview process may feel intense and lengthy, it provides the company with critical information about your candidacy.

Related: What Is a Background Check?

What are the steps involved in the interview process?

To help you prepare, we have detailed the various steps that a company may include in their interviewing process. A company's actions depend on the organization's size, needs, protocols and industry. These are the potential steps you may encounter while going through the interview process:

1. Screening interview

Many companies begin the interview process with a screening interview. This is typically a quick phone call with a company recruiter asking specific and high-level questions to assess your primary candidacy, looking at areas of skills and requirements. Alternatively, this screening process may happen at a job fair, hiring event, or during a group interview where a recruiter is interviewing multiple candidates at one time. The recruiter typically asks questions about your appropriate educational training, certifications and other requirements for the position you're interested in or have applied for. They may ask about your salary expectations, availability and what questions you have about the job description.

2. Phone interview

The next potential step in the interview process is the phone interview. The company may combine the screening and phone interview questions into one step or separate calls. Recruiters typically use a phone interview to narrow down the number of candidates they want to have an in-person interview with based on skills, company fit and experience. During a phone interview, you may speak with one person or on speakerphone with several people present from the company. Be prepared to answer typical interview questions about your experience and how your skills and abilities would assist you to be successful in the role. Although not common, some companies rely strictly on phone interviews to recruit for remote positions.

3. Skills assessment

Many companies use skills assessment, personality, and aptitude tests to evaluate your skills and abilities. These assessments can evaluate everything from your spatial and critical thinking skills to your typing speed and knowledge of Microsoft Excel. Often, a skills assessment is done remotely, and the recruiter sends you an internet link to complete a test through an online portal. Depending on the position you've applied for, the company may require you to take one or several types of assessments.

4. First interview

The first in-person interview is typically between you and the company's hiring manager or recruiter. This interview is generally used to assess your work experience, qualifications, skills and abilities, availability and academic background. You may attend the first in-person interview at the company's head office, or the recruiter may organize a virtual interview.

Related: How to Ask for Interview Opportunities in 2 Different Ways

5. Second interview

Once you have moved to the second interview, you can expect the questions to be more in-depth and analytical. By this point, you are likely a contender for the position, and the second interview expands on the discussion of your first interview. You'll probably meet with the same interviewer from your first meeting, and they may introduce you to other company leadership. Depending on the company and their interview process, this may be one meeting or a series of meetings throughout the day to meet with other managers, supervisors, and staff members.

Related: 6 Common Second Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

6. Third interview

Although rare, some companies may include three or more interviews in their hiring process. This allows a broader range of company leadership and team members to meet potential candidates to assess the company's cultural fit within the group.

7. Dining interview

Depending on the company and role you are applying for, the hiring manager may request an interview over breakfast, lunch or dinner. This gives the hiring manager time to evaluate you in a more relaxed environment.

8. Background and reference checks

During the interview process, the hiring manager may ask you for your professional references or permission to conduct a background check. Depending on the company, they may use a third-party service to complete the background check, or the human resources department may contact your professional references. Depending on the company and position, the pending job offer may be contingent on successfully passing a criminal record check, credit check, vulnerable sector check or job health assessment test.

9. Job offer

Once you have completed the interview process, the last step is when the company provides you with a job offer. Typically, the hiring manager sends an offer letter with details about the position's terms and conditions, compensations and benefits. Be sure to read over the offer carefully and ask clarifying questions as needed. This is also your opportunity to make a counteroffer if you want to adjust the terms of your employment. After completing negotiations, you sign the offer letter, and the company includes it in your personnel file.

Related: 20 Tips on How to Not Be Nervous at an Interview

The essential stages during an interview

While each interview you attend is specific to the company and position, there are some standard stages you can expect to experience during your meeting. There are typically six stages to an interview:

1. Introductions

Before the interview begins, the interviewer will greet you with a handshake and introduce themselves. This is your opportunity to start with a positive impression by using open body language and showing confidence. If any other people are involved in the meeting, the interviewer will introduce you to them.

2. Light conversation

Once you have formally met the interviewer, they'll often continue with a casual conversation to put you at ease and to assess your interpersonal and communication skills. When taking part in light conversation, stay positive and upbeat, and look for opportunities to ask questions. Avoid topics that are controversial, such as politics, unless they relate to the company or position. While making your way to the meeting room, the interviewer may take you on a quick tour of the building.

3. Professional pitch

At the beginning of an interview, the hiring manager may start by asking you to tell them about yourself. You can tell them how you came to find their company, along with relevant experience, skills, and qualifications that make you stand out. Be sure to develop a response to this request when preparing for your interview. By preparing, you can provide an organized, concise, and thoughtful response that shows confidence and personality.

Related: How to Give an Elevator Pitch (With Examples)

4. Interview questions and answers

Depending on the company, industry, and position, you can experience several types of interview questions, including:

Behavioural interview questions

A hiring manager will ask behavioural interview questions to assess your character, skills, and abilities. They use these questions to evaluate how you handled a situation or circumstance in the past to predict your future behaviour. Using the STAR method can provide you with a framework to construct a thoughtful and organized response when answering these types of questions. Provide detailed examples from your previous experience and how you used your skills or knowledge to overcome the challenge positively.

Competency

A hiring manager uses competency-based questions to evaluate your technical knowledge and skills. Typically, these questions are directly related to the position and test your resume claims. For example, if you've shown on your resume that you are proficient in JavaScript coding language, the interviewer may ask a specific coding question to test your knowledge.

Situational

Hiring managers ask situational questions to determine your critical, analytical, and problem-solving skills. They present you with a situation and ask what you would do to solve the challenge. Similar to behavioural questions, use the STAR method to provide a concise and well-organized response explaining your thought process.

General

A hiring manager asks general questions to gain further information about your work history, experience, and competencies. The list of general interview questions can range from "tell me about yourself" to more specific questions like "where do you see yourself in five years?". When you prepare for your interview, be sure to think about how you'll respond to general questions in the discussion.

5. Final remarks

Once the formal question-and-answer period of the interview is complete, the interviewer may ask if you have any questions. This is your opportunity to ask several well-thought and relevant questions about the position or company. Be sure to end on a positive note and thank the interviewer for their time.

6. Follow up

While the interview itself is the bulk of the process, you can still make a lasting impression by following up. After each interview, be sure to send a follow-up email to the person you met with, expressing your interest in the position.

Related: What To Do After an Interview (With Interview Tips)

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