What is a First Interview?

Learn about the types of first job interviews

Job interview
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Typically, the initial step in the hiring process is a first interview. You may also hear them referred to as screening interviews, first-cut job interviews, or pre-interviews. Often, they're the first of multiple interviews. 

Your first interview may be your only interview for a job, followed by a job offer or a rejection. Or, it may be the first step in a sequence of interviews. How many interviews you'll need to participate in will depend on the job and the employer.

The type of interview may vary too. You could be asked to interview in person, on the phone, or via video, and you may be asked to complete a pre-interview screening questionnaire as part of the interview process.

Review advice on the different types of first interviews, and if you haven't experienced a screening interview before, keep these tips in mind to help the process go smoothly.

Types of First Interviews

Screening Interview

Usually, a screener (often a company employee or outside recruiter) will interview many applicants and decide which ones are the best fit. They'll then give a smaller list of candidates to the employer, who will conduct the next round of interviews with this smaller pool of applicants.

First-Round Interview

Unlike screening interviews, some companies only hold one round of interviews when hiring, or the employer might lead all interview rounds, rather than hiring a recruiter. In this case, the first interview might be prolonged and more intensive.

Phone Interview

First interviews take place in many different places, and in many forms. Some may be phone interviews, during which a recruiter or hiring manager will ask the job candidate a series of questions over the phone.

Video Interview

An employer may also conduct the first interview over video or Skype. Because interviewing can be expensive, and the first round of interviews may include many people, phone and video interviews allow employers to save money.

In-Person Interview

Other first interviews are conducted in person. These interviews typically take place at the worksite or office, but they may also occur at an independent employment services office, a college career office, or a job fair.

Talent Assessments

Some first interviews also include a skills-based test to confirm that you have the required skills for the job. These are called talent assessments or pre-employment tests. You may be asked to complete one of these tests online or in person.

5 Tips for Acing a First Interview

1. Take It Seriously

Some people don't worry much about the first interview—especially if it's a screening interview—because they think it will be quick and very easy. Sometimes people also believe video or phone interviews are less important. 

However, it's always essential to put your best foot forward. 

Prepare for every interview, and always be professional.

After all, if you do not perform well in the initial conversation, it's unlikely you'll continue further in the interviewing process. 

2. Research the Company

To prepare for the interview, review the job listing and look into the history of the company. 

Researching the company will help you answer questions about how you're a match for the job and the company and will demonstrate that you're prepared.

3. Practice Your Answers

Along with studying the company, practice answering common interview questions. Whether it is a phone, in-person, or video interview, you always want to come off as polished and professional.

4. Show Your Enthusiasm

Even this early in the interview process, you want to emphasize your enthusiasm for the company and the job. At this point, the employer is likely looking at a number of candidates, and you want to do what you can to make yourself stand out. 

Demonstrating passion and interest in the job is a great way to get noticed.

5. Follow Up After the Interview

Even for a first interview, you should send a thank-you letter to the interviewer for taking the time to meet or speak with you. 

Mention something specific about your interview in the letter so that they remember you.

Key Takeaways

  • From quick screening phone calls to more in-depth interviews to skills tests, there are a variety of first interviews. 
  • Prepare for a first interview as seriously as you would for any other interview. 
  • Practicing ahead of time, along with having a strong understanding of the company and role, will help you do well during the interview.