5 Tips for Handling a First Interview

A picture of business people waiting for a media job interview

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A first interview is typically the first step in the hiring process. Also known as a first-round interview, a first interview is a way for the employer to find only the most qualified applicants for the job.

Many first interviews are far less thorough than second or third interviews. It is because they typically serve to screen initial applicants. These first interviews, known as screening interviews or first-cut job interviews, are often the first of multiple interviews. Usually, a screener (often a company employee or outside recruiter) will interview many applicants and will decide which candidates are the best fit. He or she will then give a smaller list of candidates to the employer, who will conduct interviews with this smaller pool of applicants.

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 or employee. In this case, the first interview might be prolonged and more intensive.

Types of First Interviews

First interviews take place in many different places, and in many forms. Some may be phone interviews. In a phone interview, a recruiter or hiring manager will ask the job candidate a series of questions over the phone. 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 Skype interviews allow employers to save money.

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

Some first interviews also include a skill-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.

Tips for First Interviews

  • Take it seriously. Some people do not worry much about the first interviews, especially if they are screening interviews. It is because they think the first interview will be quick and very easy. Sometimes people also believe Skype or phone interviews are less important. However, it is always important to put your best foot forward. Prepare for every interview, and always be professional.
  • Research, the company. To prepare for the interview, review the job listing and the history of the company. It will help you answer questions about the job and the company, and will demonstrate that you are prepared.
  • Practice your answers. Along with studying the company, practice answering common interview questions. Whether it is a phone, in-person, or webcam interview, you always want to come off as polished and professional.
  • 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.
  • Follow up. 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 he or she remembers you.

Second Round Interviews

Often, your first interview will not be your last. Many companies interview candidates at least twice. Sometimes the first interview is on the phone, and the second is in person. The second round of interviews will be with only the most qualified candidates from the first round of interviews.