The 5 Steps of the Job Interview Process: A Detailed Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 September 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.

The job interview process helps employers find and hire qualified candidates for key job openings. It also enables candidates to learn information about a job and decide if they want to pursue the role further. If you're preparing for an interview, learning more about what to expect can help you approach the event with confidence and professionalism. In this article, we discuss the definition and importance of the job interview process, provide the five stages of interviews and offer tips to help guide you in your preparation.

What is the job interview process?

The job interview process is a meeting between a job candidate and an interviewer, typically an employer, manager, human resources personnel or another business leader. Employers usually host these meetings after they've advertised a job opening and reviewed initial application packages, including CVs and cover letters. They use interviews to talk to candidates in real-time, get to know their personalities, investigate their professional backgrounds in-depth and assess their communication skills. This way, they can narrow the candidate pool and choose the most fitting person or people for the role.

Candidates themselves can use interviews as an opportunity to explain and prove their qualifications for a job. It's a great time to mention the contributions they could provide to the hiring organisation. Interviews are also ways for candidates to assess employers and determine whether the company is one they want to join. Interviews may occur in person, over the phone, through a videoconferencing application or through email messages. Depending on the company and its size, some employers only have one round of interviews before making their final hiring decisions, while others have two or three.

Related: How To Succeed in a Virtual Interview

5 stages of the interview process

The interview process varies depending on the employer's preferences, the company's structure and the role itself. For example, an employer hiring for a high-level, client-facing and managerial position may conduct multiple rounds of interviews to ensure their final candidate has strong interpersonal and leadership skills. In contrast, an employer hiring for a remote, highly technical role may only host one round of an interview and focus more on testing their candidates' industry knowledge and abilities. Despite the possible variation, many interviews follow a similar general format, consisting of the following stages:

1. Screening

Many employers conduct a preliminary interview or screening to determine whether candidates meet the most basic requirements for the job. This may involve asking simple questions about background and interests or checking certain qualifications and abilities. The screening can be over the phone or in-person and is typically brief, lasting around 15-20 minutes. It might even be a simple questionnaire that you can fill out through email or online. Employers use the screening results to curate a shortlist of candidates to interview. Here are some common screening questions:

  • Where did you hear about this job?

  • What is your desired salary?

  • When are you available to start the job, if hired?

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • Why do you want this job?

There are also special kinds of screenings for different roles, such as:

  • Physical: This is when an employer or a doctor assesses the physical characteristics and health conditions of the candidate to ensure they can perform the job well. It's common for roles where physical fitness matters, such as military cadets, firefighters, construction workers or health care professionals.

  • Background check: This is when an employer verifies a candidate's identity and checks their employment history, driving record, criminal history and other documents. This is common for jobs in which employees handle sensitive and confidential information, such as those in government.

  • Skill test: This is when companies administer a test through email or in-person, appraising the candidate's skills and capacity to perform the job duties. Many businesses pay candidates for completing these tests to compensate them for their labour.

Related: What To Do If You Aren't Hearing Back From Employers

2. First interview

First interviews help interviewers to get to know candidates better, gauge their interpersonal skills and estimate whether they're a good fit for the company culture. In addition, employers can ask about your CV, cover letter and credentials in relation to the particular role. The following are the typical components of an initial interview:

Introductions

In the first few minutes of an interview, you and the interviewer introduce yourselves to each other. It's beneficial for you to make a positive first impression by smiling, speaking clearly and calmly, maintaining eye contact, giving a firm handshake and using good posture. The interviewer generally takes the next several minutes of the meeting to tell you about the organisation.

Interviewer's questions

The main part of the interview comprises the employer asking questions and listening to your responses, sometimes taking notes for later reference. Most of the time, this part lasts around 20 minutes. Employers may ask questions like:

  • Why would you like to work for us?

  • What is your greatest strength?

  • What is your greatest weakness?

  • Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge.

  • Why did you leave your last role?

Candidate's questions

Near the end of the event, interviewers typically invite you to ask any questions you may have. Consider using this chance to demonstrate your enthusiasm about the role and knowledge of the company. You can also ask questions to decide if you want the job. It's a good idea to ask two to five thoughtful questions at this stage. Here are some ideas:

  • What can you tell me about the culture of your company?

  • How does this role fit into the organisation's overall structure?

  • What are your favourite aspects of working here?

  • What is the measure of a successful employee?

  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

Conclusions

As the interview ends, the interviewer may walk you out, if applicable. Express your politeness by restating your interest in the position and thanking the interviewer for the meeting. A good ending phrase to use is, "Enjoy your day."

3. Second interview

If you impress the employer in the first interview, they may ask you to return for a second meeting. This meeting typically allows you to meet the different department heads of the company and sometimes tour the facility. The interviewer asks deeper, more specific questions to follow up on certain topics from the first interview and attempt to get a better idea of how you might acclimate to the work environment.

4. Third interview

Some employers prefer to conduct a third interview to help them make a final decision. For this session, it's likely you've already gained some in-depth knowledge about the company, learned how it operates on a daily basis and formed an idea of how you'd fit into the existing workplace culture. You may have the opportunity to meet potential coworkers during this time.

5. The decision

The final step in the interview process, if the company wants to hire you, is usually a job offer contingent upon your background check and references. You may receive the offer as a typed letter or email. Some employers offer a verbal offer before presenting a hard copy to make sure you're happy with the terms or allow you the chance to negotiate before signing an agreement.

Related: Guide: How To Get a Job Fast

Tips for performing your best in an interview

Receiving an interview offer means that you've passed the first stage of the application process and that the employer believes you could be a great candidate for the role. While nerves are normal, remember that interviews can be exciting opportunities to meet a new person and see if a position is right for you. Here are some tips for performing well in an interview:

  • Practice your introduction: Start your interview off well by practising your elevator pitch, a 30-second to a two-minute overview of your skills, goals and what value you'll bring to the company. It's useful to video record yourself giving this pitch so that you can play it back and correct any mistakes, gestures or eye contact problems.

  • Conduct research: You can impress a potential employer with your knowledge of their company. Take the time to browse through the company's website and read about its history and mission.

  • Prepare your answers: While it's uncertain what employers plan to ask in the interview, you can still prepare great answers to common questions in advance. Make sure your answers are clear and concise, specific, genuine and relevant to the role.

  • Check your social media: Make sure your social media accounts, if you have them, only consist of information that you're comfortable with a potential employer knowing. This is because potential employers may look at your accounts during the selection process.

  • Arrive early: Plan to arrive around 15 minutes early for an interview to give the impression that you're professional and serious about the job. If you arrive much earlier than 15 minutes before, wait somewhere nearby before going in.

  • Dress professionally: Aim to dress in business-professional or business-casual attire. The way you present yourself illustrates your desire for the role and your professionalism.

  • Send a thank you note: Send a thank you email or note to the interviewer within 24 hours of the interview to help them remember you. Keep it simple, expressing gratitude for the interview and happiness at meeting them.

Explore more articles