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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What does interview process mean?

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 applications. The exact process will vary for each organization, depending on the role and who is responsible for recruiting and hiring. 

There are two main objectives of the interview process. The first is to determine if the job candidate is qualified, possessing the skills and experience needed to fulfill the role. The second is to evaluate if the candidate is the right cultural fit, ensuring that their goals and values align with the organization. 

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 are as follows:

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. These initial screening interviews are kept short, generally a 15-20 minute phone interview, and aim to narrow down which candidates to invite to the official first interview round. If an organization is outsourcing recruiting to an agency, then an external recruiter will take over the initial screening interviews. 

2. 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 telephone interview. 

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.

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. 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 often 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. 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.

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 and include behavioral and situational questions.

Behavioral 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.

5. The decision

The interview process is complete once an offer is made to a candidate. 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 to make sure they are happy with the terms or identify areas that need negotiating.

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