On-Site Interviewing

If you have made the "first cut" following a phone 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 and the company or organization. The interviewer(s) can learn about your personality and motivations through a series of meetings and see how you interact with potential co-workers and supervisors. You can see the work environment and culture firsthand and evaluate the people you might be working for and with.

Travel and Hotel Arrangements

Most on-site interviews are either a half day (usually morning) or a full day in length. Generally, this means you will need to arrive the night before the interview and stay near the company location.

After you have been invited for an on-site interview, your contact at the company will provide you with information about travel arrangements. Most employers will arrange and pay directly for all the necessary travel, including 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 find out who you should be sending them to in order to expedite your reimbursement after the visit. If you are expected to make your own arrangements, ask your contact for details like which airport is recommended to fly into, 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.

Once your travel has been arranged, send an email to your contact confirming the arrangements.

Prior to Departure

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.

Ask your contact what you should wear. Most interviews call for business professional attire.

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.


Once you have arrived at your hotel and checked in, ask whether or not there are any messages for you (e.g., from the employer). If your hotel room has not been pre-paid, you may be asked to provide a credit card number.

The Evening Before the Interview

The employer 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 (and, often, quite casual), remember that you are still being evaluated by the employees who invite you! Dress in business casual attire. Be professional in your interactions with your dinner companions—avoid controversial topics, don't choose the most expensive item on the menu, and don't have more than one alcoholic beverage.

Get 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.

Interview Day

Before the interview, review any notes you have prepared about the employer and any questions you intend to ask during your meetings.  Leave the hotel early enough to arrive in plenty of time for your interview.  You will feel more anxious if you have to rush.

Your day will be planned according to the employer's needs and preferences. 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 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 keep your interest level up and 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.


Send a thank-you note or 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.

Most employers make decisions about candidates and offers within about two weeks after the end of their interviews. If you haven't heard anything from the employer within this timeframe, it's appropriate to check with your contact on when a decision is anticipated.


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032