11 Tips For A Successful Onsite Interview

By Maddie Lloyd - Feb. 7, 2021

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onsite interview tips

It’s the moment every job-seeker eagerly awaits and equally dreads — the invitation for an onsite interview.

It’s the time to really show off your strengths, experience, and background knowledge you have of the company. Sometimes an in-person interview happens after an initial phone interview or a meeting at a job fair, and sometimes your resume and qualifications are just that good.

Here’s the deal:

The purpose of an onsite interview is for both you and the interviewer to learn more about each other so you can both decide if you would be a good fit for the company. The interviewer gets to determine if you would succeed in the position, and you get a firsthand look into the company’s culture and work environment.

Here are 11 tips to help you prepare for the most successful onsite interview possible.

Plan Your Travel Arrangements Ahead of Time

Before heading off for your onsite interview, it’s a good idea to plan ahead of time how you’re going to get there. Whether you’re traveling across the country or just driving a town over, it’s best to already have your travel arrangements all figured out.

You may have to deal with airlines, taxis, god-awful traffic, or just an unplanned bump in the road, so you want to give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your employer’s office safely and on time. Showing up to your interview a late, frazzled mess won’t leave a good impression on anyone.

It’s proper interview etiquette to arrive 15 minutes early. This extra time will also give you a moment to review your materials and just take a breath. Use a GPS device to get directions and monitor traffic the day of your interview.

Prepare for Common Job Interview Questions

If you thought you had to know a lot about the company for your initial phone interview, it’s time to buckle up. Before you go into your onsite interview, you’ll want to prepare answers to the most common interview questions.

Be prepared with a professional introduction you can use in response to “tell me about yourself.” Get ready for behavioral interview questions and answers by preparing a couple of stories using the STAR method.

You can always expect to hear questions during the interview process like “what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” or “what sets you apart from other candidates?” But you should also prepare to answer questions about the company.

What’s a common interview question and would you prepare to answer it?

Krista Morris

There is no way to anticipate what the questions will be, so I advise clients to not bother. Instead, they should spend time thinking about what their biggest accomplishments are and bring notes covering a variety of examples (conflict management, exceeding goals, a challenge, etc.). All the candidate needs to do then is find the best example for the question. They will walk in feeling 100% prepared for anything the interviewer throws at them!

Learn About the Company and Your Interviewers

It’s not the best idea to walk into an interview without knowing diddly squat about the company. This is a surefire way to make yourself out to be a clueless candidate.

Expect the question “what do you know about our company?” to come up. When researching the company’s background, look specifically for information about:

  • The current CEO and management team

  • The company’s history and growth

  • The mission and core values

  • The products and services they offer

  • Their target audience

  • Their competitors

Before your onsite interview, reach out to your company contact and ask for any available information on the people you’re going to be interviewing with. Make sure you get their names and job titles and learn about their professional accomplishments by doing some casual stalking of the company’s website or their LinkedIn page.

Read the Job Description

Your strategy for each interview should be tailored to the job posting, so read the job description carefully as you prepare for your interview. Pay special attention to the required qualifications and skills so that you can emphasize those points during the interview.

As an interviewee, it’s important to show the hiring manager or recruiter that you know what the job entails. Showcasing our knowledge involves using the same keywords from the job description. The more examples you can think of that highlight your past capability to handle the job’s responsibilities, the better.

Additionally, if you can have the interviewer address the job’s duties early on in the interview, you can tailor your responses even further based on how they present the role.

Dress for Success so You Can Impress

The words “dress,” “success,” and “impress” were put together in hauntingly annoying rhyming phrases for a reason.

If you’re unsure about the dress code, wearing business casual attire is usually a good bet. Or you can call the employer and find out what to wear. Make sure your clothes are wrinkle and stain-free and on the conservative side.

When going to a job interview, you want to dress in professional business attire to give off a good impression and look like you’re at least somewhat qualified for the job — even if you have no idea what you’re doing!

Bring All the Necessary Interview Materials

Never show up to a job interview empty-handed. That doesn’t mean you have to show up with flowers and chocolates — this isn’t a date! Bring all of the essential materials you need for an interview — you don’t want to be caught unprepared.

Bring an ID, pens, a padfolio with a notepad so you can jot down notes, copies of your resume, examples of your work, business cards, a list of references, and your smile! Seriously though — if you’re all frowny, your interviewers might think you have a bad attitude, and that’s something you should definitely leave at home.

Be Prepared With Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

Along with the other materials you should bring to an interview, you don’t want to forget a list of questions for when your interviewer inevitably asks “Do you have any questions for me?”

Doing research into the company before the interview will help you come up with specific questions, but you can always ask questions like

  • “What are the typical challenges for this position?”

  • “Tell me more about your management style.”

  • “What is a typical day look like for someone in this position?”

Easy peasy. Just make sure to leave out questions about salary and benefits. Save those questions for when the company sends you a job offer.

Get a Good Night’s Rest

It’s hard to make a good impression on potential employers when you’re yawning, rubbing your eyes, or even worse — still wearing your pajamas.

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before your interview. No drinking the night before — you don’t want to show up hungover and complaining of a headache.

During an onsite interview, you might meet with different groups of people, from potential coworkers to managers and supervisors. It’s important to be sharp and focused during every interaction so you can clearly talk about why they should hire you.

Be Respectful, Positive, and Enthusiastic

During the interview, always project confidence and enthusiasm. Greet the hiring manager or recruiter by name, smile a lot, and maintain eye contact. Wait to be offered a chair before you sit down to show respect.

Ensure that you always look interested in what’s being said, stay alert, and listen carefully so you can answer appropriately when asked a question. If you feel your energy levels depleting or you’re offered a break, take some time to rehydrate and breathe.

At the end of the interview, show enthusiasm for the role and ask questions about the next steps in the hiring process. Get business cards from everyone you meet, so you can send out thank-you emails after.

What’s a good tip to help prepare for an interview?

Joe Mangum
Promoted Resume

The key to becoming a great interviewer is to be comfortable hearing your own voice. Think about it … once you’ve said something it takes less energy to say it again.The second time you can focus on delivery as opposed to content.

Practicing for a few minutes with another person will make a world of difference. If you don’t have a friend or family member to practice with … try recording your voice on your phone and then listening to it again. Listen to your energy, your clarity, and the way you engage.

You will find that your mind is much more at ease in an interview if you’ve practices hearing your own voice.

Avoid the Common Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes you should look out for during your on-site interview:

  • Don’t answer with only “yes” or “no” – most of the time, your interviewer wants a little more information than this, so always aim to answer with at least one full sentence.

  • Don’t talk about salary, benefits, or any other questions that are best left to HR.

  • Don’t say anything negative about your former, current, or potential future employer(s). Positivity reigns supreme during the interview.

  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t try to fake it. Either say you need more time to think about it or ask follow-up questions.

  • Don’t talk too much — interview answers should be relatively short, so don’t ramble on for more than a minute or two, unless the conversation is happening naturally.

  • Don’t repeat your resume and cover letter — the hiring manager or recruiter is looking for new information during the interview. This is your chance to contextualize the content of your resume and cover letter.

Send a Thank-You Letter After the Interview

Once your onsite interview is (finally) over, it’s time to send out that professional follow-up thank-you letter!

It’s important to send out a note to your interviewer thanking them for their time. Not sending a thank-you letter basically says “I’m an ungrateful jerk who has no manners and was raised by wolves.” Do you want to be that person? No, probably not.

In your follow-up email, you can thank the company and your interviewer for their consideration for the opportunity, as well as ask for information about the next steps in the process and the company’s timetable for filling the position. Sending out a thank-you letter is a great way to get an edge over other applicants.

Final Thoughts

Onsite or in-person interviews can seem intimidating, but they don’t have to be scary. With a little preparation, you can have all the tools you need to impress any employer you interview with.

Now it’s time to read a little bedtime story about the history of the company, get to bed early, and wake up with enough time to get to your interview 15 minutes ahead of time. Good luck!

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Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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