But pump the brakes just a little and remind yourself that this is the intended next step in your job search. You want to be as strategic about this part of the process as you were about defining your target role(s) and submitting applications.
It’s important to realize that evaluation of your candidacy begins with first contact and continues all the way to accepting the eventual job offer. Similar to a company’s brand, you are representing yourself personally as a qualified job candidate. Regardless of whom you are engaging with throughout the process, you want to consistently exhibit professionalism.
Here are some tips to help you navigate handling interview requests.
What should you consider before you reply to an interview request?
To respond intelligently to the interview request and set the correct tone, you’ll want to determine whether you’re being asked for a pre-interview/screening or an actual job interview. As such, before responding to an interview request, you need to know who you’re talking to.
Identify the role of your interview request contact
There are clues to help identify your interview request contact that take only minimal research. Here are a few examples:
External recruiters may be independent or part of an agency not affiliated with the hiring employer. They commonly include their title and name of their agency in their email signature or voicemail message.
Here’s an example of how an external recruiter would sign off (note that the identifying feature is their company is different than the employer you’re targeting):
Internal recruiters are part of the hiring company and may be contacting you to set up a phone screen with human resources, or an interview between you and the hiring manager.Here’s a sample of how an internal recruiter might sign off:
Technical Recruiter | Dataslots Systems
Hiring managers are individuals seeking to fill open roles within the company. They may contact you directly to set up an interview.Here’s a sample of how a hiring manager might sign off:
Product Manager, SaaS
Be prepared to share your availability
A question you will have to answer repeatedly during the interviewing process is, “What is your availability?” Prepare for this question in advance by keeping your calendar up to date, including personal appointments, professional commitments, and other scheduled interviews. You should be able to respond promptly to a request for alternative times if what you originally proposed doesn’t work for the interviewer’s schedule.
How and when do you reply to an interview request?
Because an interview request is an invitation, you will want to respond to it promptly, as though it was an RSVP. Your potential employer is expressing interest in you and a prompt response suggests you share their enthusiasm. The employer is likely also maintaining an interview schedule with a limited amount of time slots meaning, if you hesitate, you may miss out on the opportunity due to time constraints.
What to include in your request-to-interview response
Look at your interview response as a chance to make a good first impression—before the actual interview. Your first direct communication is no time to be abrupt, or in too big of a hurry to spell check or review your reply. Before sending, make sure you have included the correct salutation, the interviewer’s name, and your contact information—including phone number and other pertinent details—all without typos. Simple typing and spelling errors can be costly deal-breakers to some hiring persons.
Here’s a brief checklist to guide you in drafting your request-to-interview response:
Salutation- This refers to how you greet your contact. If you’ve had no previous engagement with the person, your greeting will, of course, be more formal, such as “Dear” or “Greetings”. If you know your contact, a more informal greeting might be “Hi”, along with the person’s name (spelled correctly!) Middle-of-the-road options that will work for both scenarios, include “Hello” or “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening”.
Thanks - Thank the recruiter or hiring person for inviting you to interview. Though this is a standard best practice, your approach doesn’t have to be common. It should be authentic, however. If you would say, “I appreciate your interest” or, “I’m so pleased to hear from you” feel free to also write it. You are a unique personality, and your communications should tastefully reflect that.
Availability - Generally, a request to interview will include the next step of asking you to provide days/times of availability for the next week. Alternatively, you may be asked to schedule time on the interviewer’s calendar. In both scenarios, be sure to identify what time zone you are using in case the hiring person is seated in a different location.
Closing - As with the greeting, your closing should be professional but something you are comfortable saying/writing. Examples include, “Respectfully”, “Sincerely”, “Cordially”, “Best regards”, “Appreciatively”, “Regards”, and “Best”.
Signature - This refers to your email signature. Your professional closing should be followed by your full name, phone number, and LinkedIn profile hyperlink, or online portfolio, if you have one.
Below is an example of a decent way to sign off your email response:
Confirming and calendaring your interview
The main first steps after receiving your interview request are going to be confirmation and scheduling. How you go about them will depend on the interview type and the number of rounds you expect to take place.
How the interview type drives your next steps
The interview format will vary by type, urgency, convenience, or a number of other factors. The requestor will typically indicate the format in the actual meeting invitation. Generally speaking, prescreens are conducted as a phone interview, and second interviews are video interviews using tools like Zoom, Skype, and WebEx, or in-person interviews at the job location.
The counterpart to the interview type and format is the number of rounds or participants included in the employer’s hiring process. There are many variations of this, depending on the role and company, and you will need to determine whether the number of interviews impacts the timing of other offers, is too many or is a reasonable amount, making it worthwhile to continue.
Here is a common step-by-step interview process:
Human resources or recruiter screening
Interview with hiring manager
Panel or 1:1 interviews with department heads, group leads, or team members
The complete process would include between two to four, or more, interviews.
Why and how to confirm and calendar your interview date and time
Once your job contact has coordinated the interview time and date, s/he will send you an interview confirmation email. You may be asked to confirm receipt of the email but, even if you aren’t, you should still send an email response, thanking the organizer, in addition to confirming your intention to attend within the actual meeting invitation. You can also update the subject line of your email response to clearly indicate you’ve received the interview request. A best practice is to folder or save the communication as well so, in the event of a scheduling conflict, you can easily reconnect with the organizer.
Getting organized for your interview
Preparing for a single interview is mostly simple but, keeping track of three or more can become confusing and overwhelming. And, let’s be real, being organized matters. You can appear to lack attention to detail when you repeat questions already answered or (perish the thought), call the interviewer by the wrong name, or reference a different company.
Tracking your interview communications can be as simple as updating this spreadsheet template that includes the job title; job interview details of date, time, format, length, and location of the interview; the company name; the interviewer’s full name, and formal title, and columns for any other relevant additional information such as salary expectations and benefits.
Preparing for the day of your interview
The period between your interview request and the actual interview date should be considered interview prep time. By the day of the interview, you should have prepared your answers to common interview questions and inquiries about your career path; studied the job description, and formulated examples of how you’ve met its requirements in previous roles; decided on follow-up questions; and reviewed the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile to better understand their focus, style, or professional philosophy.
Here are some things to remember as we finish up our guide:
Companies often want to know why you chose to apply to them. Sometimes, this question can be intended to screen out those looking for any job, versus a job specifically with their organization.
This is but one good reason to study the company website, its values, mission, and any pages related to the type of work you will be doing.
Researching who your contact is, the interview type, and the number of interview rounds is also very important.
Be organized and prompt with your response and scheduling.
Remember, responding to the interview request is only one step in securing your chosen job opportunity, but these tips will help you establish a practical process for managing this, and other career-related conversations, professionally.