Interview Rounds: Key Expectations for Each Stage

Kellie Hanna, CPRW
By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: April 11, 2024

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Most hiring managers have three specific goals in mind when they begin the search for a candidate: they want to find someone who can handle the work at hand, someone who will get along with others in the workplace, and someone who they can afford. (In other words, they want someone who will happily accept their salary offer, step onboard, and stay.)

A resume can help employers determine if a candidate meets these requirements. But once dozens of resumes have been narrowed down to a few final contenders, the interview process can help managers close the deal. So if you want to get in the door, you’ll need a great resume. But you’ll also need to navigate the interview process and allow your potential employers to confirm their positive hunches about you. Here’s what to expect.

What are the 3 rounds of interviews?

Interview processes often consist of three key stages, each designed to evaluate candidates from different perspectives:

First Round: Initial Screening

The first round of interviews typically serves as a preliminary screening to narrow down the pool of candidates. This round is often conducted over the phone or via video call. Interviewers assess general qualifications, availability, and salary expectations. It’s a chance for candidates to make a first impression and for employers to verify the details provided in the resume.

Second Round: In-Depth Assessment

In the second round, interviews become more detailed and rigorous. This stage usually involves meeting different team members and may include technical tests, assessments, or task-based simulations. The aim is to gauge the candidate’s skills, problem-solving abilities, and cultural fit within the company.

Third Round: Final Decision

The third and usually final round of interviews is where top candidates meet with higher management or key decision-makers. This round might involve more in-depth discussions about the role, expectations, and how the candidate’s goals align with the company’s vision. It’s an opportunity for deeper mutual evaluation and often ends with negotiation discussions about salary and benefits.

First round interview questions

First-round interviews are often called “screenings” and they’re designed to narrow down a large pool of applicants using simple red flags. These screenings usually happen by phone or video, since they’re fairly short. During this round, an employer may contact you to ask a brief list of specific yes or no questions. These may include:

  1. “We noticed on your resume that your address is in another city. How will you get here every day if we hire you? Will you commute, or will you move? Will you want us to cover your moving expenses?”
  2. “We noticed that you’ve held a position as a mid-level manager. This is a junior-level position. Will you be willing to take a step down to accept this job?”
  3. “We noticed that you have most of the requirements for this job, but you don’t have a master’s degree. Are you planning to earn one soon? What do you have to offer in lieu of this credential?”

Second round interview questions

Second-round interviews are usually longer, more detailed, and more open ended. Since most of these interviews happen face-to-face, they’ll give you an opportunity to make a great first impression with your appearance, your words, and your non-verbal gestures. This round will require significant preparation beforehand. Get ready to answer questions like these:

  1. “What can you bring to this company that can help us reach our goals?”
  2. “How would you describe your experience in your own words?”
  3. “How would you describe your personality, your approach to problem solving, your leadership skills, etc., in your own words?”

Third round interview questions

For most positions, the third round of interviews should be the last. If you’re called for a third session, it usually means that these employers like you—but they like at least one other person just as much. At this point, you’ll need to gain an edge by explaining what you have to offer that this other person (or people) may not have.

Before the day of your session, think carefully about the specific skills, credentials, and personality traits that set you apart. Research the company carefully to determine how these special traits can help these employers succeed. Expect questions like these:

  1. “We know that you’re an experienced (fill in the blank), but what else do you have?”
  2. “What can you do to prove that you’d be an asset to us?”
  3. “We have three other highly qualified contenders for this job. Give us a reason to choose you.”

How many rounds of interviews is normal?

The number of interview rounds can vary widely depending on the industry, the company, and the level of the position to which you are applying.

  • For high-level or specialized roles, there might be additional rounds of interviews that focus on technical skills, cultural fit, or other key areas.
  • In some fast-paced or smaller work environments, the process could be shorter, with maybe just one or two interviews in total.
  • In the tech industry, for example, candidates often go through a technical interview that includes coding challenges, while jobs in academia might require a series of interviews and a presentation or lecture.

So while there isn’t a strict “normal” number of interview rounds, you can generally expect at least a couple of rounds in most hiring processes.

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