Ultimate Guide To A Successful On-Site Job Interview

Jay Mava / Published December 3, 2019

Professional Woman on an on-site interview

It’s the big day.


You’ve received an invitation for an interview. Now it’s time to show the employer exactly why they should hire you.


Despite the fact that so many people go through the interview process making so many errors, luckily these errors are easily avoidable. With proper preparation, the job can ultimately be yours. Follow these steps to increase your chances of having the most successful on-site job interview possible:


Arrive a Little Early

Always plan ahead the night before and arrive a little early for your interview. Unless you are familiar with the business, your route should be planned out. Even if you know where you’re going, a quick check of Google Maps can help you avoid any heavy traffic before you leave. Make sure you have a little extra time allotted in case of traffic or alternate route situations. The last thing you would want is to show up late.


Of course, you’ve heard it all before. But nonetheless, hiring managers still get people keeping them around waiting. It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in traffic or even if you call to warn them ahead of time – they very likely have other candidates waiting to be interviewed as well. Even if you show up late and the meeting itself goes well, you’ve still cut into the employer’s day. If you’re late for the interview, they may be left wondering if you’ll do the same upon being hired.


On the other hand, arriving too early can come across as over-eager. Knowing this, what is the best time to show up for the interview?


Interview experts recommend showing up about 15 minutes early. You can have a few moments to go over your resume, run to the restroom or just get in a good, relaxed mindset before the meeting.


Bring These Items to Show You’re Prepared

Have you ever gone to an important meeting, only to realize you’ve forgotten a pen and paper to take notes? Imagine an employer asking you for your references in an interview and you don’t have them on hand. Showing the hiring manager that you’re fully prepared is crucial for your success.


1. Extra copies of your resume

Bringing a hard copy of your resume to the on-site interview is necessary – but don’t forget the extra copies! No matter how great your application was, the employer will not likely remember anything about you off the top of their head. Remember that they’re looking through a ton of resumes each day to find the best candidate. You may not even need to give them a copy, but it’s best to avoid that awkward situation if they do ask for it.

Are you interviewing with one individual or will you be meeting with several managers during the interview? Bring hardcopies for everyone who may be joining you.


2. Portfolio if possible

If you’re not interviewing for a position that requires a portfolio, then you can skip this step. However, if you’re a web designer, writer, photographer or other creative professional, the employer may ask to see your work. Even if it hasn’t been requested, it’s a good idea to have your portfolio on hand.

Especially if you are a new graduate or have little work experience, showing samples of your work can land you the job. It’s always better to show them what you can do, rather than just talking about it.


3. List of references given upon request

Always be sure to have a few printed copies of your references with you. You should already have their permission before ever using their name, since a surprise phone call may not work in your favor.

Also keep in mind that the employer may not actually need to see the references at this point. Sometimes references are only required once they have narrowed it down to the last few candidates. It’s not necessary to hand them out with the copy of your resume unless they mention them. If you’re not asked for the references in the interview, they can always call or email you later to request a copy. They’ll likely want to finish interviewing the other candidates before they start calling references.


4. Water

You never know if you will be kept waiting before or how long the interview will go. Keeping a bottle of water with you will help you stay hydrated and ready to go. There’s nothing like a little interview anxiety that can dry your mouth right out! Of course, you also want to avoid things like a coughing fit in the interview if you can. Anything you can do to make yourself feel more comfortable and at ease is a good thing at this time.


5. Pen and paper


Don’t forget your pen and paper to take notes during the interview process. If you’re meeting with multiple managers or human resource personnel, you may wish to jot down their names so you don’t forget. The employer might tell you some important information in the meeting as well. For any questions that come up in the meeting, write them down to save for the end of the interview. Ultimately, even if you don’t take many notes, showing up with this will make you look prepared.


6. Your ID


Some companies require identification to even enter the building. It would be the worst-case scenario to arrive without this and not be allowed inside. The employer will likely not bring you back for a second interview.


Most of these items sound obvious, but a surprising amount of people show up without them. Remember that red flags will show up for hiring managers when you walk in the door ill-prepared. It’s better to put in the time and show up ready to go.


Remember to Focus on You and Your Skills

The interview should be about your skills and what you can bring to the company. How can you provide the employer with tangible evidence that you’re best for the job? Relate your experience back to what they are looking for in the position.


It’s important to note that interviews aren’t just about your previous training and hard skills either. Employers can easily look at your resume for that. Although it will be discussed, they also really want to know how you’ll fit into their company culture. This is why you’ll need to find a way to demonstrate your soft skills as well. Since an employer isn’t going to ask specifically about your soft skills, you should understand how to weave them into your interview question answers. Forbes suggests ‘explaining your answers with a “how” statement rather than just a result.’


For example, if the hiring manager asks you about one of your past accomplishments, you should explain the steps it took to get there instead of just stating what you did. Show them your problem-solving skills by showing what you did to reach the solution. If you wish to demonstrate your adaptability strengths, then tell them about that new role you stepped into on such short notice and did so well in.


In other words, any time you can back up what you’re saying with proof, this will work in your favor. Don’t just say ‘I’m very dependable’ and leave it at that. Tell them about the times you stepped in to cover shifts or put in extra hours on the weekend. Show the employer what a great communicator you are by letting them see that in the interview. This will make a world of difference compared to just listing off all of your strengths.


Know How to Pitch Yourself

Now that you’re in the interview room, it’s important to know how to pitch yourself. Now is not the time to be shy about what makes you so great. You need to help the employer understand what makes you different from the other candidates.


CEO and founder of advertising agency Partners + Napier, suggests pitching yourself like you’re a brand. She states:

"As marketers, we're selling brands to consumers, hoping the brand we've built, the way we've positioned it, and what we've said about it will convince consumers to throw it in their shopping cart, ask a friend about it, or engage with it online," she explains. "As a job applicant, you're selling your personal brand to an employer, hoping they'll entrust you with the role." - Sharon Napier


If you don’t believe you’re the right one for the job, then the employer won’t either. So, first know what makes you stand out and sell the employer on that. Genuinely express your enthusiasm and excitement about the company as well. It will get you a long way.


Relax and Stay Positive

No matter how many interviews you’ve gone to, it’s still easy to feel nervous. Take deep breaths to calm those nerves down and relax a little. You’ll be much more present in the meeting when you’re calm and focused on the task at hand.


Regardless of how you feel in the moment, always stay positive. Employers will pick up on your positive (or negative) energy! They’re looking for a person with a positive, upbeat attitude for their team – most definitely not a pessimist. Try to keep negative thoughts out of your head and keep a smile on your face throughout the process.


Have confidence in yourself and trust your own abilities. Remember that you’ve come this far, so you’ve got this! Trust that the employer scheduled the interview with you because they thought your resume was good enough. Now all you need to do is show them they were right in bringing you in.


The Final Questions

At the end of the interview, you’ll want to ask a couple questions to find out what the next steps are in the process. Although some will, not every employer will volunteer the information.


Asking “what is the next step in your process?” is completely acceptable. The employer could be checking references or bringing a few select candidates back for another round of interviews. This is always good to know to help you prepare for what’s to come.


Finding out about their timeline is equally as important, so you know when you can expect to hear from them. They may be making their decision tomorrow, in one week or even in a month. It’s going to save you the time of following up too early before the employer is ready. Knowing this information can also help gauge if it fits with your own timeline for work as well. Simply ask “when can I expect to hear from you?”


Thank the Interviewer and Ask for a Business Card

Confidently thank the interviewer and ask for a business card. This is so you can send a follow up email following the meeting. Not only is this a great way to bring the interview to a close, but it makes you look enthusiastic about working with the company. Keep this on hand to follow up if you haven’t heard from them by the time suggested.


Now the Waiting Game

Congratulations! You’ve successfully completed the on-site interview and now you can take it easy. Being fully prepared for the interview should give you peace of mind while you wait to hear back from the employer.



Remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing. This means going out for interviews whenever you can. Many job seekers even like creating a mock interview for themselves before each interview. The more you do it, the better you will be at it. Never go into an interview anything less than prepared.


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