Ask HR Bartender: Different Types of Job Interviews

by Sharlyn Lauby on May 6, 2012

Recently, I got a note asking about different types of job interviews. Specifically, what’s the difference between a first, second and (possibly) third interview and what do I need to know as I progress through them? It’s a great question so I asked if I could answer it here on the blog.

I’m hearing more and more that today’s interview process involves several interviews. While it may be frustrating for candidates, it’s not a bad thing. One of the best aspects to multiple interviews is getting to know lots of people within the organization before you even start your first official day on the job.

Often organizations have unwritten rules and history. New employees might not want to ask their boss or human resources for “scoop” about the company. All of the people a candidate meets during the interview process will have a vested interest in a new hire’s success. And can be a source of information to a new employee.

interviews, recruiter, job interview, candidate, second interview, information, Chris HavrillaTo offer some additional insight, I reached out to a couple of my colleagues for their thoughts. Chris Havrilla is a recruiter and author of the blog Recruiter Chicks. Chris explains the good news when it comes to multiple interviews. “If they are talking to you about multiple interviews, you have likely advanced beyond the original pool of candidates into a shorter list of candidates who have been deemed qualified.”

[Chris’ Response] Truth be told, there really isn’t a consistent enough interviewing process across organizations to give you a clear cut answer.  While some companies may have to schedule multiple interviews due to interviewer availability, or lack thereof, many use the additional interviews to determine who among the smaller, qualified candidate pool would be the strongest performer and cultural fit to the team.  Additional interviews also give the company a chance to let multiple team members meet the candidates and build consensus in their hiring decision.

The best way to find out the purpose for additional interviews and how to prepare for them is to inquire about the company’s hiring process in the initial interview itselfI would never leave an interview without asking the following:

“After all we have discussed today, do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job and fit into your team?” 

This is a great way to get immediate feedback, as well as uncover any issues or concerns that may have arisen for the interviewer.   This is powerful information that can help you prepare for additional interviews.  If there does seem to be some concern, taking a few minutes to clarify or supplement with additional information may help get you to that next interview.  If the interviewer does appear enthusiastic about the interview and your abilities, or even references next steps, take the opportunity to inquire directly about the process — who you might be meeting, and what to expect.

If you can’t glean information from the company on the process or how to prepare, then do your homework.  Understand the company and its objectives, where they stand in the market and against its competitors, and the overall industry.  If you can demonstrate your knowledge – and most importantly, how you will add value and make an impact – you will be prepared for any interview.

As added preparation, look interviewers up on LinkedIn or Google to understand their background, current role, and how you may be connected.  Take the clues from the previous interviews on things of importance – and understand they will have feedback from the previous interview(s) that they are also likely tasked to validate.  Make sure to offer insights on past accomplishments that reinforce strengths, but may also address any concerns that may have risen.  The most important advice I would give is use all of the interviews as an opportunity to interview the company as well – and do your part to determine if the company and team is the right match for you.  Good luck!!

Chris’ Key Takeaways:

  • Get feedback during the interview about concerns regarding your abilities.
  • Prepare! Look up the company, the industry and even the recruiter.
  • Don’t forget you’re interviewing the company (while the company is interviewing you).

interviews, recruiter, job interview, candidate, second interview, information, Hannah MorganHannah Morgan is the founder of Career Sherpa, a site that helps new job seekers through the terrain of job search by providing tools to compete in today’s competitive marketplace. Hannah agrees that no two companies have the same approaching to hiring. “One of the most important things for a job seeker to do is to ask questions of the person arranging interviews.”

[Hannah’s Response] These might include:

“Can you explain the steps in your hiring process for me?”

“Who will I be meeting with during this interview and what is their role in the organization?”

“How much time should I block off my schedule for the interview?”

“Is there anything I should bring or should be prepared for?”

By asking these questions, the candidate shows professionalism, a familiarity with interviewing and most importantly interest in being the most prepared candidate. The answer to the question depends on whom the candidate will be interviewing with.

Interview with Human Resources/Talent Management Recruiter

This is usually the first interview and the individual will be assessing fit with the company and basic skills match with the job.  This may have occurred during the brief phone interview, but the face-to-face interaction is another way for HR to assess the candidate’s interpersonal skills and cultural fit. The candidate should be prepared to answer questions about what they know about the company and how they are a good match based on the research they have done on the company.

Interview with peers, team members and colleagues

Most positions today require teamwork and group interaction. This interview with potential candidates and colleagues is a way to assess chemistry and setting up the right team environment. These interviews also dive deeper into assessing the candidate’s knowledge of specific skills and tools. The candidate should be prepared to tell accomplishment stories highlighting specific examples of their success using these tools and working collaboratively. During this interview, it is important to not out-shine or intimidate colleagues conducting the interview.

Interview with senior management/leadership

During this interview, the senior leader might have authority either to approve or veto the candidate. In some companies, the senior leader simply wants to know who is being brought on board.  They can often be another check of cultural fit and skills match keeping in mind the longer-term vision of the company. The candidate should be prepared to emphasize their past successes impacting money, time and resources. They should also be prepared to ask more strategic questions about the vision and direction of the company.

Bringing new talent onboard is expensive and risky for companies. Job seekers have noticed they are being asked to come in for several interviews with a single company. By asking the person arranging the interview what to expect, the candidate will be better prepared for each situation.

Hannah’s Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the hiring process. Ask questions if you’re unsure about what happens next.
  • Share stories about specific projects where teamwork and collaboration were essential.
  • Be prepared to discuss accomplishments and their impact on the companies you’ve worked for.

My thanks to Hannah and Chris for sharing their expertise. If you want to learn more about them, I hope you’ll check out their websites and read their blogs.

Candidates should come to any interview prepared to discuss their skills and experience. Being able to ask questions, along with doing the proper research and preparation should take the guesswork out of what the interview conversation will be. A professional recruiter isn’t trying to trick anyone – they want to have a good conversation about your skills and abilities.

Always remember, a candidate is interviewing the company as much as the organization is interviewing the candidate! Both sides should get the information they need to make a good decision.


John@PGISelfDirected May 7, 2012 at 8:31 am

Your parting shot about the candidate interviewing the candidate as much as the company is interviewing him or her is definitely a rocking way to end a very insightful post. Keep the good stuff coming!

Corey Feldman May 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

Ok I am not a big fan of Google stalking your interviews. But if you are going to do it, makes sure you don’t actually let something slip that shows you did, it can make them uncomfortable. I had a meeting with a field employee who in the course of the conversation, mentioned my last place of employment. It made me a bit uncomfortable. Now if something like that is stated on the company/website bio, sure OK, but you never know how someone is going to react to knowing you google/linkedin stalked them.
Corey Feldman recently posted..Egret and Sam go for a swim

Sharlyn Lauby May 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

@John – Thanks for the comment!

@Corey – I can see your point. Personally, it doesn’t bother me. It’s on the internet, so I figure the whole world knows. Thanks for sharing your POV!

RMSmithJr May 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Insightful. Online research is a two-way street. A recent candidate that I have been coaching had many questions answered via LinkedIn. Their final second round interview was today.

Hopefully entering the offer/counter- offer stage soon. Caveat #1 – the first offer is not the final offer
RMSmithJr recently posted..Reflections on Daniel Pinks 7 Rules for Writing

Sharlyn Lauby May 8, 2012 at 9:05 am

Thanks for the comment. It would be interesting to talk about negotiations…hmmm…

Tina Shapiro May 8, 2012 at 10:35 am

As a long time sourcer and recruiter…the only thing I can when there are many interviews it is difficult to build a general consensus…for this reason my company has put a cap on 5 interviewers…
Tina Shapiro recently posted..A Fate Worse than Death!

Sharlyn Lauby May 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm

@Tina – Thanks for sharing. I’ve found sometimes when multiple interviews are suggested, the latter ones aren’t interviews at all. More like “getting to know you” conversations. The candidate is meeting with people they will have close working relationships with.

Priya Kamble May 9, 2012 at 1:17 am

Nice post…Thank you for sharing this awesome information..

Sean May 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Another trend in interviews that I have seen in skills/critical thinking tests. Recently I have noticed that many jobs in my field (Aviation) require a written exam prior to the first interview. This may just be a way to narrow down the massive amount of candidates but it certainly is a change.
Sean recently posted..How to Handle Behavioral Based Interview Questions

joeltr May 14, 2012 at 9:17 am

It is funny to think that multiple interviews can annoy the candidates but I think, for some companies who do so, it is necessary to put candidates through series of interviews. In that way, company can really filter the deserving candidate for the job. Another factor is the endurance of the candidate/s. To see how long they could manage themselves in stressful situations especially on the hands-on itself or the job.

Joel Rigo for Career Confidential
joeltr recently posted..5 Tips to Look and Be Confident in Job Interviews

Sharlyn Lauby May 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for the comments. Sean brings up another aspect to the interview process – assessments. I might have to add that to my list of things to write about. 😉

Charles June 14, 2012 at 5:21 am

I agree with Chris’s response regarding the different interviewing habits of different companies, and I hasten to add that they may even vary according to the type of post being filled. It’s important to research these things well before the interview comes around!

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