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 sometimes known as screening interviews, first-cut job interviews, or pre-interviews, they're often the first of multiple interviews. Those who have never experienced one will want to keep these tips in mind to help the process go smoothly.

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 Skype or phone interviews are less important. However, it's 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 look into the history of the company. It will help you answer questions about how you're a match for the job and the company, and will demonstrate that you're 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 they remember you.

Types of First Interviews

Usually, a screener (often a company employee or outside recruiter) will interview many applicants and will 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.

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.

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.

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.