On-Site Interviewing

If you have made the "first cut" following a virtual or on-campus interview, you might be invited to attend an on-site interview.

The purpose of an on-site interview is to give both you and the employer a chance to see whether or not you are the right fit for the position. The interviewer(s) can learn more about you and observe how you interact with potential colleagues and supervisors. You have the opportunity to see the work environment and culture firsthand and evaluate the people you might be working for and with.

On-site interviews for industry positions are either a half day (usually morning) or a full day in length. On-site interviews for academic positions may be several days long.

Travel and Hotel Arrangements

The employer should provide you with information about any necessary travel arrangements. Most employers will arrange and pay directly for airfare, rental car fees or taxis, hotels, and associated expenses. However, some employers will ask you to pay for these items and reimburse you later; if this is the case, keep all receipts and ask about reimbursement procedures to expedite the process.

If you are expected to make your own arrangements, ask your contact for details like which airport is recommended for arrival, which hotels are recommended, and whether there are airport shuttles to those hotels or whether you need to take a taxi or rent a car. Notify your contact of the arrangements.

Pre-Departure Preparations

  • Research both the company or organization and the specific position for which you are interviewing (including responsibilities, required skills, and salary range). Review the different interview types and tips for preparation.
  • Request an interview schedule, including the names and titles of the people with whom you will be meeting.
  • Make at least 10–15 copies of your résumé to take with you, along with copies of your reference list.
  • Make sure your interview attire is clean and presentable.

The Night Before Your Interview

  • If you are scheduled to arrive the day or evening before your interview, your contact may arrange for one or more employees to take you out for dinner after your arrival to help you relax and feel comfortable prior to the interview. Although the occasion is meant to be social, remember that you are still being evaluated!
  • Dress in business casual attire and be professional in your interactions with your dinner companions.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour so you are well-rested for your interview, and don't forget to set an alarm (and/or request a wake-up call if you are staying in a hotel).

Interview Day

  • Get up in time to eat breakfast and get yourself ready.
  • Leave home or your hotel early enough to arrive in plenty of time for the interview, factoring in driving time, potential traffic, and other possible delays. You will feel more anxious if time runs short and you have to rush.
  • Aim to arrive on site by 15-20 minutes before the interview so you can review any notes you have prepared and questions you want to ask during your meeting(s).
  • Your day will be planned according to the employer's needs and preferences. Depending upon the type of employer, you may have:
    • One-on-one meetings with numerous individuals, including potential managers and colleagues
    • Group meetings with employees and/or other candidates
    • A building, lab, or plant tour
    • Lunch with one or more employees
    • Pre-employment testing, including drug/alcohol testing, personality, and/or aptitude testing—any of which may be required before an offer can be made
    • Background screening, including a criminal background check, credit check, academic credentials verification, and reference checks
    • A wrap-up meeting with a human resources representative
  • Keep in mind that, with so many different meetings with different people, you are very likely to be asked the same questions over and over; it's important to respond to the question as enthusiastically the third or fourth time it is asked as you did the first time. Similarly, it's perfectly acceptable to ask the same questions of different people in different meetings if you want a variety of perspectives. Ask for business cards from all the people you meet with.
  • Your last meeting of the day will likely be either with a human resources representative or with your potential supervisor, who will answer any final questions you may have, perhaps talk about salary/benefits, and discuss follow-up and next steps (e.g., when an offer may be made). Try to get all your last-minute questions answered at this meeting and get contact information for the person in case you think of any other questions later.
  • Follow up with a thank-you email message to each person with whom you met within 24 hours of the end of your last meeting. It's also a good idea to send special thanks to the person who arranged your on-site interview.

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032