Hiring decisions can vary from one employer to another, and even from one job to another within the same company. Below you will find a brief description of the various stages of the interview processes along with what to expect at each stage.
Invitation to Interview
The very first stage of the interview process is when you receive an invitation to interview, usually by phone or email. This is your opportunity to schedule the interview itself, as well as probe for a little more information on the process.
Don’t be afraid to politely ask for more information on who will be interviewing you, the overall interview process and timeframe, as well as how many candidates are being considered for the position. The more information you have at this stage of the process, the better you can prepare for what is to come.
Employers often conduct a pre-screening interview, usually by phone. This is a way to keep the job search efficient, allowing the employer to save time by eliminating candidates who may lack key skills, qualifications, or seem to be a poor fit right off the bat. If you will be relocating in the event that you are hired, the employer may also want to discuss expectations about travel logistics and relocation expenses.
Questions during a prescreening interview tend to be more about verifying that you are who your application materials suggest. They may ask you to talk more about your previous work experiences, your interest in the current position, and why you think you are the ideal candidate for the job. However, questions can cover the same range as traditional interview questions, so it is best to fully prepare in advance.
It is not unusual, particularly in technical disciplines, for the interview process to include some sort of assessment that is administered online or on location. While they are usually designed to assess key competencies, occasionally employers also ask applicants to complete personality, cognitive ability, and or integrity tests to assess their fit.
These tests can happen at any stage of the interview process and you will generally be notified either when you apply for the position, or when you are offered an interview.
If you have made it to the first round interview, congratulations, you have made the short list of candidates! Generally, employers choose the top 5-15 candidates for this time intensive phase of the interview process. This is an opportunity for the hiring manager to get to know you in more depth.
In some cases, particularly for entry level positions, the hiring process includes only a single round of interview. In such cases, you may be offered a position in the week or two following this interview. For management level positions and higher, there is often a second interview of the top candidates.
If you are invited to a second-round interview, expect a more in depth look at your fit for the position. Generally, this round of interview is only for the top 3-5 candidates for a position.
In many cases the second round includes some of the people you will be working directly with. It is often conducted with a panel of people you may work closely with in the role. It may also include social engagements such as a group dinner so that even more future coworkers can gain insight into the top candidates to provide their input on the hire.
A second round interview may also include the expectation that you will give a presentation relevant to some aspect of the job. You will normally be given advance notice if this is the case. Be sure to check with the person that you schedule your job talk with about technology requirements so that your presentation will go off without a hitch.
It is your responsibility to follow up in a timely and professional manner after each and every stage of the interview process. Usually a professional and polite email addressed to the hiring manager and/or members of the hiring committee will suffice. It is important that your follow up reminds the hiring team of your ongoing interest in the position, brings up something specific from your meeting, and solicits information about the next stage of the interview process.
If you do not hear back within the expected timeframe, it is appropriate to send a shorter email to check back in with the hiring manager to express your continued interest in the position and ask if they have any more information concerning the hire. It is advisable to wait at least a week or until after the timeframe for this stage of interviews has passed before sending a second follow up.
Reference and Background Check
At some point during the hiring process, usually after the first round of interviews, the employer is likely to contact your references. Hopefully you have already talked with your references in advance so they will be expecting a call or email from potential employers during your job search.
If you have included a previous employer on your reference list, questions are likely to center on your dates of employment, if you were promoted, your responsibilities, your character at work, and potentially your starting and ending salary. For personal references they may ask questions as to how long the person has known you, your character, and your overall work ethic.
In many cases they may also do a background check. This may include verifying your school records, checking for a criminal record, and a basic credit check. In addition, some employers will look at your online presence, checking your public social media profiles for potential red flags.
Generally hiring decisions are made within 1-2 weeks of the final stage of the interview process. In some cases, employers will notify candidates that have not been selected during this phase. However, in some cases they may not. Again, this is your window for a polite follow up email or phone call.
Although employers can bring up the issue of salary at any stage of the interview process, many will wait to include an official salary (and benefits package) when they present their initial job offer. This is your opportunity to review the offer, and if necessary, present a counter offer.
Once you have agreed on the terms and conditions of the position, be sure to follow up in writing even if you already accepted the job in person or over the phone.