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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is the interview process?

The interview process is a multiple-stage process for hiring new employees. The stages mainly comprise job interviews held either one-on-one, with a group of candidates, or with a panel. Interviews are conducted in person, over the phone or by email, or via video conferencing tools. The exact process will vary for each organisation, depending on the role and who is responsible for recruiting and hiring. 

Below, you will find all the information you need to know about the interview process. Not only will you learn which steps are commonly involved in the interview process, but also what types of questions to ask during the 5 stages of the interview process.

Follow the steps described below to create a solid interview process for your business. They will help you select the right talent for your job opening more effectively, ensuring you find the best hire for the position!

Before you start, keep in mind that there are two main objectives you are after. The purpose of the interview process is to:

  1. Determine if the job candidate is qualified, possessing the skills and experience needed to fulfil the role. 
  2. Evaluate if the candidate is the right cultural fit, ensuring that their goals and values align with the organization.

As such, the goal of holding interviews with candidates is to figure out if hiring someone benefits both parties.

Steps of the interview process

Each role to be filled requires different skill sets and experience levels, so the number of steps in the interview process will vary accordingly.

Typically, the most common interview steps and stages are as follows. We’ve included example interview questions to ask candidates for each stage of the interview process, so you can get a better understanding of the purpose of each step.

1. Initial screening interview

Most employers conduct preliminary interviews to vet selected applicants and ensure their skills are a strong enough match for the role. If an organization is outsourcing recruiting to an agency, then an external recruiter will take over the initial screening interviews.

These initial screening interviews are kept short, generally a 15-20 minute phone interview or via a video conferencing tool. Screening interviews aim to narrow down which candidates to invite to the official first interview round.

Therefore, typical screening interview questions will be relatively general, straight-forward, and aimed at assessing a candidate’s hard skills and work experience. What practical experience and skills do they have to potentially perform the job?

Example initial screening interview questions:

  • Tell me about your background/your career so far.
  • Why would you like to work for our company?
  • Are you interviewing with other companies?
  • What did you do during that year-long gap in your CV? (in case of employment gap)
  • What are your salary expectations? 

At this stage of the interview process, you shouldn’t focus too much on cultural fit yet. Rather, consider it as finding out if the candidate “on paper” meets the requirements of the job.

2. First interview

The next step in the interview process is generally referred to as the first interview. The first interview is usually a one-on-one interview with the applicant and hiring manager. Commonly, the first interview is in-person and on-site, but it can also be a virtual or a telephone interview.

The purpose of a first interview is to further assess the candidate’s experience and qualifications by building further on the initial screening.

The most common questions asked in a first interview pertain to the qualifications a company is looking for in their optimal candidate. The interviewer will inquire about the applicant’s work history, experience, and skills to determine whether a candidate can do the job and fit in with the company culture.

Example first interview questions:

  • Can you elaborate on what experience you have within our industry/field of work so far?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Can you give me an example of when you handled a large project?
  • Have you worked in an agile company before? What did you like or dislike about this way of working?

At this stage, you want to dive a bit deeper into their experience, beyond what’s written in their CV. By now, you also may start getting to know the person a bit better and not just their qualifications. You will expand on this further during the next step in the interview process.

3. Second interview

Candidates invited for a second interview are serious contenders for the role. Often this round is where candidates meet with different department heads and tour the workplace (when conducted in person). In the second interview, the hiring manager from the first round might be present alongside someone who would directly work with the candidate.

Second round interview questions are a deep dive into the topics discussed in the first round. The interviewer will typically focus on job-specific questions that require candidates to respond with detailed answers with specific examples of how their abilities will enable them to perform well in the role.

Therefore, this round typically includes behavioural and situational questions:

  • Behavioural questions ask candidates to recall an experience, explain how they handled it, and describe the outcome. They encourage candidates to share stories that detail where they excelled or struggled at past jobs.
  • Situational questions present candidates with hypothetical situations and ask them how they would respond. These kinds of questions give insight into a candidate’s problem-solving skills and how they handle workplace conflict. Evaluating the answers to these questions will help shape the final candidate list.

Other kinds of second interview questions probe further into why the candidate wants the job and how much they know about or understand what the company does.

The purpose of the second interview is to further get to know the candidate’s work experience, but also to start assessing if they are a good cultural fit.

Example second interview questions:

  • What would you say is our company’s main USP?
  • Can you name some of our top competitors and what they do well?
  • We are planning a large campaign/project and want you to take the lead on it. How would you approach this situation?
  • Can you tell me about a time you helped out a colleague?
  • Can you give me an example of a time you had to work cross-departmentally on a project? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?

By now, you should have gained a solid understanding of the candidate’s work experience and preferred ways of working. You’ve also got to know their personality a bit more, giving you an idea of whether they’d fit into your team.

You almost finished the interview process and found your next hire. But before making a decision, you might want to invite the candidate for one more interview.

4. Third interview

Not all interview processes include the third interview, so what happens in this round might occur in the second interview. In some cases, the third interview takes place after a candidate has completed an assignment or might consist of a candidate presentation.

If there is a third interview, the goal will be to go even deeper into a candidate’s ability and aptitude for the job. This interview step will include more behavioural and situational questions. At this stage, you also want to ask any further questions you might have to assess how they might fit into your workplace culture and team structure.

Example third interview questions:

  • Can you describe what your ideal working environment looks like?
  • Tell me about the time in your career so far when you felt most successful/in your element. What was your working situation like at that time?
  • Say we hire you for the position, what are you planning to do within your first three months on the job?
  • Say we hire you for this position, what do you expect from us during your first months to help you settle into the team and your position?
  • If you had to name one thing that might prevent you from joining our team, what would it be? How could we ensure this doesn’t prevent you from accepting a potential offer?

These interview questions are all asked with the candidate being hired in mind. They are hypothetical situations of what working with the candidate might look like and how they might fit into your team.

5. The decision

At this stage, you shouldn’t have more than one or two potential candidates left. Both parties have had multiple chances to ask as many questions as they like, so any candidate that’s left should make a great addition to your team. So it’s time to make the final decision.

The interview process is complete once an offer is made to a candidate. Depending on the industry, some companies do a background check or contact references before sending an official offer letter.

It’s common for candidates to first receive a verbal offer over the phone or in writing via email (or both) to make sure they are happy with the terms or identify areas that need negotiating.

As soon as they accept the offer, you can officially close the interview process and the candidate will move on to the next stage: the onboarding process.


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