Here's how to be the last candidate standing.

The process of applying for jobs and eventually getting an offer is an exciting, sometimes long, sometimes tedious process. On average, 250 people apply to each job listing, but only one person will receive the offer. Ever wonder how the applicant pool gets whittled down? Every applicant travels through what some call the “interview funnel” with the hopes of emerging victorious as the last candidate standing. Here are essential tips you need to know if you want to defeat each phase of the funnel.

Infographic: The Interview Funnel Explained and how to be the last candidate standing


Typically, only 25 percent of applicants make it past the employer's hiring software. While that's not the most encouraging statistic, whoever said you're a statistic?! Not us. It's time you sailed through this first phase of the funnel with these tips:

  • Be resume ready. Have your resume updated, optimized to beat the hiring bots, and ready to go when the right opportunity comes your way. Better yet, save your resume and cover letter to the cloud so you can easily access them when you're on the go.

  • Apply ASAP. Your chances of getting a call back plummet 72 hours after a job listing is published online. If you find a job that you're truly interested in and a good fit for, it's incredibly important to submit that application as soon as possible.

  • Stay in the know. Set up job alerts for your favorite employers or companies and download your favorite job board apps so that you're always looking at the newest jobs.


Approximately 10 candidates from the initial pool of 250 will be contacted for a phone screen interview. These days, most organizations conduct phone screens as the first step in the hiring process to determine if you're a strong enough candidate to come in and meet the team. Show them you are! These tips will help:

  • Do an online dig. Before the phone screen, research the company. Be sure to check its website, social media accounts, and their reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Vault. If you have any connections at the company, talk to them to learn more about the hiring process and what it's like to work there. Be ready to answer, “What do you know about us?”

  • Get questions in a queue. Prepare thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer! This will show them that you're a serious candidate … no, that you're the best candidate for the job. 

  • Know the basics. There are some common questions you'll most likely be asked during a phone screen. Do you know the answers? Here are the ones to prepare for.

  • Let your voice do the talking. During the screen, the good news is the interviewer can't see you — you can have your notes right in front of you! Just make sure you sound professional and do not, we repeat, do not sound like you're reading answers verbatim off a piece of paper. Let the conversation flow naturally and sound confident in your answers.

  • Have supporting evidence. Be sure to have your resume handy so you can reference your relevant experience and accomplishments. 

  • Go zen. Choose a comfortable, quiet area to have the call. That way, you won't have to worry about being interrupted or having pesky background noises during the call. Also, it's better if this is not done where you work — for obvious reasons.

  • Juice up. Calling from your cell phone? Make sure it's charged and ready to go.

  • Go wireless. Use headphones or a wireless headset to improve the sound quality and to keep your hands free for note-taking. Not to mention, your neck and shoulder could get tired holding up a phone for an entire interview.


Four to five candidates will typically be picked to meet with the employer. This is your chance to shine! You're going to pick out the perfect interview outfit. You're going to show off that firm handshake. You're going to make great eye contact, smile, and, of course, articulate your skills and experience perfectly. Here are some more tips for the initial in-person meeting:

  • Become one with the company. Research is your ally. The company, its history, the people, the culture, reviews ... it's all at your fingertips, so learn it! Here's a pre-interview research checklist to get you going.

  • Bring your A-game. An interview is nerve-wracking enough, but forgetting an essential item at home could throw you off your game. Here's everything you'll want to pack to bring to the job interview the night before.

  • Ask and you shall receive. You asked questions during the phone screen, but there's still more to learn! Plan a list of questions ahead of time. These questions should not only demonstrate your interest in the role, but also help you decide whether it's the right opportunity for you. Interviewing is a two-way street, so take advantage of it. Here are the best questions to ask an interviewer.

  • Be the missing puzzle piece. Feel that the job and company are perfect for you? Show them it's a good culture fit during the interview

  • Say thanks. Do you have to send a thank-you note? Yes. Do you have to send one to each interviewer? If you want to make the best impression possible, yes. Here's how to craft a job-winning one.


On average, only two to three candidates will impress the interviewers and be asked back for subsequent interview rounds. If this is you, take a moment to pat yourself on the back — you're killing it! Now, it's time to prepare for the next round — or rounds — of interviews, which are going to go a level deeper. You can expect more in-depth questions, clarifying questions, and situational questions. You've already dazzled; you just have to keep that momentum going with these tips:

  • Clarify and improve. Review the questions asked in your first interview. There's a good chance you'll meet some new people in a second-round interview who will ask similar questions or dig deeper to get more clarity on the topic. 

  • Show you're a STAR. Prepare for behavioral questions and other common second-round interview questions that are designed to help your interviewers get to know you better. Practice delivering your interview answers using the STAR method.

  • Go green. If they haven't already drilled you for your salary requirements, assume the topic will come up during this phase of the interview funnel. Do your due diligence online ahead of time so you're prepared to discuss numbers. 

  • Look ahead. Ask about next steps! This will help you set expectations and get a better sense of the company's timeline.

  • Express gratitude. Follow up by sending a meaningful thank-you note to each of your interviewers.


When all is said and done, only one candidate will receive the job offer … and that individual accepts it 95 percent of the time. Yes, sometimes the candidate doesn't accept the job offer — maybe the salary isn't right, or there's no room for growth, or the potential manager seems like a nightmare. If you see these red flags during the interview process, don't ignore them! The objective is to find the right job, not just any old job. If you get the offer and have been feeling good vibes, use these tips to navigate this last and final phase — you're almost there!

  • Patience is a virtue. You got the offer, YES! Congrats! But don't jump to sign on the dotted line just yet. First, ask yourself some very important questions, like “Will this job will bring me closer to achieving my career goals?” and “Do I feel like I'll fit in at the company?” to make sure this job is the right move for you. 

  • Get what you deserve. You're in! You've navigated your way through the interview funnel and come out the other side victorious. They want you to join their team and they know you'll be an asset, but now it's time to look out for yourself. Is it worth negotiating for more? Here are six salary negotiation tips you need to know. 

  • Keep bridges intact. Celebration time is so close, we promise! But until you've signed, sealed, and delivered the contract for your new gig, assume nothing is a done deal. Don't hand in your resignation or your two weeks' notice until everything is in writing. 

Want to be the one out of 250 candidates to get the coveted job offer? You need to be ready to ace every part of the interview. Luckily, we can help. Click here to learn more about working with a TopInterview coach

Recommended Reading:

Related Articles: