Onsite Interview: What Is It, Preparation, Questions To Ask

“What’s an onsite interview? I got asked to attend one and I’m not sure what to do.” This is a question we see often and it’s usually for those who are new to the job market. Meaning, maybe you recently graduated from a university or college and are hitting the interview portion of your job application process. Not to worry, we’re here to help prepare for you for your onsite interview.

What is an onsite interview?

An onsite interview is essentially what it sounds like, it is when an employee has decided that they would like for you to come to their offices and interview further. Most commonly, this will happen after you’ve made it past the first rounds of interviews, which usually take place by phone. If you have been invited to this round of interviews, consider it “the second round.” And also consider it a very good sign that the employer has intentions on potentially hiring you.

The onsite interview can vary. You might speak with one person or you might speak with five, it depends on the company size and what industry they are in. More often than not, a hiring manager will let you know in advance of your onsite interview who you will be speaking with. They don’t want to scare you or surprise you, that’s not their goal. Normally, they let you know that you might be speaking to up to five employees who currently work at the company, usually with varying roles and then give you enough time to prepare.

Since your onsite interview is one that is going to happen face-to-face, it’s important that you take the following steps to get prepared to do so. Some of the steps are more obvious than others. You want to be presentable, prepared and ready to have co-worker chemistry. But first, let’s answer why companies have onsite interviews.

Why do they have onsite interviews

This is most obvious, but it’s because they want to meet you! This is a good sign. But there are some simple things that let them know you are ready for the job. For instance, they want to know that you can make it to their office. Meaning that you are being honest about your current living situation. They want to see that you can be presentable in the workplace and can conduct yourself professionally. And then they generally want to see if you could get along with your other coworkers by having some face-to-face time with them as well.

There are some other additional benefits to having the onsite interview for the employer. They can walk you around the facilities, show you where you might be working, show you some of the employee benefits that they have. And get you prepared for what your future work-life might look like. This makes the process a little more personal and ensures that both you and the employer are generally interested in moving forward.

What should I prepare for at the onsite interview

In order to really ace your onsite interview, you should come prepared to the interview much as you might have for the phone interview. You’ll want to follow these steps:

Being early to the onsite interview is most important. You don’t want to risk not making it on time. See our article about how early you should arrive to an interview to get a better sense of when you should depart.

In order to prepare yourself for who you will be meeting with, spend some time looking into who they are. If they have LinkedIn profiles, be sure you go through that. Find out as much as you can about what they might be interested in and what work they might be actively involved in. Also, spend time preparing some questions for those employee’s so that you can have better rapport with them and use the allotted time to your advantage. Your goal should be to gain the trust and chemistry of the other coworker while being able to answer any question that they might have for you.

When you attend an onsite interview, the impression your future colleagues will have on you will be important. So when preparing your wardrobe, make sure that you dress in a manner that fits with the company. As more companies are casual these days, you may find yourself wanting to wear darker clothing, long sleeves and look as though you are going out for a nice dinner. If you are a woman, you may want to consider wearing something that is not too revealing as that can be off-putting to a potential employer. But be sure you also pick something that you are going to feel comfortable and confident in, as that can show in body language and will help you feel less stressed during the interview.

When deciding what to bring to an interview, it will be up to you based on your interview session. But what is recommended is to always bring a working pen, notebook, chewing gum, potentially a small gift for those you are interviewing with, questions that you have for those you are interviewing with and a book bag in case they provide you with material to take home. Think of this as all of the items that you would bring with you to a university class. It is also wise to bring with you a stain pen or anything else of that nature which might be able to help you prevent any urgent matters from stopping your desire to interview. If something dramatic happens and you need to reschedule, you can follow these steps in order to do so professionally.

Lastly, it’s vital that you plan out your transportation before you attend the onsite interview. The last thing you want to do is arrive late and start your onsite interviews with a negative impression. When you are late to an interview it shows that you might not be able to self-manage or take responsibility. And that can be quite off-putting to a future employer. It’s recommended that you plan your travel, especially if you are using public transit or have potential traffic concerns, far in advance. If you need to, take the trip a day before and ensure that what Google Maps or other transit tools are telling you, is absolutely true. Always consider the chance that there could be road construction or some other type of emergency event which could close down public transportation and force you to use alternative routes.

Questions to ask during the onsite interview

If you're looking for some questions to ask during your onsite interview, stick to questions that are related to the company or questions that are related to the job function itself. Here are some questions to get you started.

After the interview (write a thank you email)

After your onsite interview, you should wait until you are back home and then send each one of the people that you spent time with, a personalized thank you note. This will show that you are genuinely very interested in moving forward. If you feel like the interview might not have gone so well, consider reading up on how to determine if what you think happened is signs that the interview didn't go well. In general, most people leave onsite interviews feeling as though they could have done better, this is quite common. Know that if you were honest, did your best and followed the steps above, you gave it your best effort and the employer will let you know if they decide to move forward or not, usually within a week.

If you're looking to follow up with the interviewer or thank them for the interview (a thank you email), be sure to read our full guide here to help you craft the perfect thank you email.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams.

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