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I went to a campus info session held by the organization and chatted with a few people. Later, I sent my contact my career materials and was offered a phone interview. The phone interview lasted about an hour and a half and at the conclusion my potential employer invited me to visit their office.

I know normally you will have a face-to-face interview after a phone interview, if you pass the screening; however, he did not mention anything about an on-site interview. He did say that I can meet with the team and see what the company is like.

Due to my lack of experience, I don't know what I should be expecting on the visit. Should I be expecting a series of interviews with different company personnel or just a casual show-around? Is it even okay to ask about this of my potential employer or to directly clarify what to expect?

For more information, the company is a rapidly growing tech startup with around fifty employees, and it is in the web/user experience industry. The company describes itself as having a very casual culture and working under agile methodology.

UPDATE:
Thanks for everyone who shared their ideas and advices, the visit turned out to be a office-show-around and a couple on site interviews with different teams :)

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Is it the situation you are talking about? workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/3653/… –  bytebuster Nov 15 '12 at 0:09
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@bytebuster thanks you for the reference but that was not my situation. I have been to their info session and talked with several company personnel, also went through a phone interview. I'm sure this is not a scam of any kind... –  Xavier_Ex Nov 15 '12 at 4:17

9 Answers 9

up vote 18 down vote accepted

It's an interview. Ask them what the itinerary will be. They want you to meet your potential team mates and vice versa. Both parties need to get a feel of what the other person is like in a civil gathering. They'll be watching for behavioural cues that'll tell them how you'll fit into their team (everybody recruiting is an amateur psychologist these days. le sigh). Expect a showing to most of the people you might be working with and at least a discussion with the 2 most senior people on the team. It's not unusual to start talking money at this point too, especially if you're meeting with decision-makers on the team. Just don't be the one to bring it up

While you're there, don't get carried away in the pageantry of it all. You should also be trying to assimilate as much they're trying to glean from you. Do you like the office environment? Are they all perched on stools in cramped, noisy environments? Are they all a group of backburned geriatrics or a gang of yobs or a mix of both? Make your own assessment of the shop while you're there, they certainly will be making theirs of you.

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@Xavier_Ex, aye, any chance to learn more about you, you can safely tag as an interview –  kolossus Nov 15 '12 at 9:02
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And rememeber you are being evaluated every minute you are there not just in any formal interview session. So how you treat the receptionist may be taken into account, whether you made an off-color joke in the restroom may be taken into account, etc. Assume you are being interviewed the entire time you are there. –  HLGEM Nov 15 '12 at 15:45
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Great point on "everything counts". Was the phone screen fairly technical? If so, this may be more about culture fit. Keep in mind that you are interviewing them as well. Have some great questions prepared. You want to come out of this interview prepared to accept (or reject) any offer they make, or give them a timeline until you can accept or reject an offer (if you have other interviews scheduled, for example). –  Ethel Evans Nov 15 '12 at 19:35

Considering

The company culture is very casual and agile as they described

you should be just fine to ask what format the visit will be.

There is no "point deduction" for asking this.

(If there is, you don't want to work there!)

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This happened to me. It was described as a "meet and greet," but it was really an interview. Not that it was all that hard, but I'd come prepared for an interview no matter what they tell you. Also, if they tell you who you're meeting, check them out on linkedin.

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Generally speaking, any meeting with a prospective employer should be considered an interview -- if they know who you are, can report positive or negative impressions to the hiring manager, it's an interview. Whether that is at their office, on the street, or at your current employer.

An interview is nothing more than an opportunity to favorably impress them (and vice-versa). There are structured interviews, where they have a detailed plan of how they expect it to go, there are freeform interviews where they are just seeing what happens. But any and all interactions between you (even indirectly), can and probably will factor into their decision -- whether that is bumping into each other at the grocery store or a two week "BUDs"-style training/evalation.

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The company that I currently work for did 1 phone interview, 4 face-to-face office interviews, 1 psychiatric evaluation, 1 criminal background check, 1 blood and urine sample testing, and the final leg of the interview process was a meet-and-greet with my department. The company is housed in 5 separate buildings across the city so I was able to explore all the company grounds as well as meet and get a feel for how the team was going to be.

Not only is this an interview process from the company's standpoint, but this is an interview process with a positive reinforcement for you. You'll get to, hopefully, see your office and where you'll be working - the people around you and get a feel for their general attitude towards the company and yourself, and how your management presents you to other people. This could make or break your decision as to whether you would want to work at this company, so please make sure you take just as much of this opportunity for you to assess the company as the company is going to assess you.

You also shouldn't hesitate to ask your human resources contact at the company as to what to expect, as it could prepare you for some events that may otherwise come as a surprise.

You'll find, especially if you stay in the corporate world, that the higher your wages are and the more responsibility the position is the more "perks" and longer the interview process will be. The 1 interview and your hired the next day is no more, welcome to the better parts of the Corporate World.

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Wow your experience sounds like they are hiring you as an CEO or at least a department head haha... Thanks for sharing your experience, as an entry level job seeker I don't expect that kind of long-winded process yet. :) –  Xavier_Ex Nov 16 '12 at 8:10

You can certainly ask if there is a traditional interview involved in the visit, but don't kid yourself; even if you don't sit down with a hiring manager you are being interviewed and evaluated.

I've often used this approach to see how a candidate interacts with his/her potential peers. It also allows the team to meet the candidate face to face. Sure there will be the casual conversation but I can almost guarantee that you'll be thrown a few technical questions within that casual conversation. Even thou they may not seem like it at the time.

You are being observed and notes are being taken. At the end of the day the manager is going to talk with every team member that you met or interacted with to get their impressions, comments, and feedback.

Be yourself and treat it like a gathering of your professional peers.

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Ask if there is any overall plan about the visit or if you need to prepare any relevant material for the (informal?) meeting. This should give you enough information on how to prepare yourself.

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As others say, approach it as if it's an interview.

  • Dress nice (Suit & Tie? Slacks and a collared shirt?)
  • Bring copies of your resume
  • Be 15 minutes early
  • Be Polite
  • Be Honest (I don't know the answer to that question, but I can get the answer...)
  • Practice if you can:
  • Sell Yourself. Most important. The better you sell yourself, the better your chance of not just getting the job, but getting a good paycheck to go with it.

I haven't interviewed in awhile, but those basic rules generally lead me right. I haven't had a chance to use either of the books, but I would cram given an impending interview.

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Cultural point on dress . . . casual and agile, in tech, suggests caution that you don't overdress. The advice that you can't overdress for an interview isn't true for casual, agile tech companies. You don't want them to think you are "a suit". Business casual, if you want to play it safe (slacks and collared shirt). You may want to ask the recruiter for specifics. –  Ethel Evans Nov 15 '12 at 19:46
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@EthelEvans thanks I actually asked them what the dress code is, and they said "just come as yourself". –  Xavier_Ex Nov 16 '12 at 8:07

The dynamics of this interview are different from the earlier stages.

In the first company I worked for, something like 25 out of 100 applicants got to where you are now, five of the 25 got job offers, and one out of those five accepted. The numbers will vary from situation to situation, but you get the idea.

You've basically been "qualified." They've weeded out the people who are unqualified and/or have "bad attitudes" (from the company's point of view).

Having finished the weeding out process, the company now wants to see how you "fit in" on their home ground. Of course, you want to continue observing the dress code and courtesies, but the fact that you made it this far suggests that you have. At this point, you should be thinking about "interviewing" them, as well as having them interview you.

That is, you should find out as much as possible about the company, and ask intelligent questions. Some of them will be "unspoken;" when you get there, you will observe how people dress, act, and go about their day, without asking. But do ask them about their challenges, what they expect from new hires, and "how things are done around here." They, in turn, will draw conclusions about your level of interest (and fit), from your questions.

At this stage, there are two ways to interview; to maximize the chances of being hired, and to maximize the chances of finding a good fit. If you need the job, say what you think they want to hear.

If you most want to find a good fit, be the most "yourself." If you honestly feel there is a misfit, ask one or two questions about what bothers you, and then tell them of your concerns. That won't get you the job, but at least they'll appreciate your honesty.

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