How Companies Hire Employees

A woman shakes hands with another person after an interview.

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How do companies hire employees? Hiring, from the job applicant perspective, includes several stages. From the time you apply for a job until the moment you accept a job offer, you will progress through a series of steps in the recruiting and hiring process

Here's information on all the steps in the hiring process, including applying for jobs, interviewing, employment testingbackground checks, and job offers, along with tips and advice for each.

Key Takeaways

  • The hiring process can vary but there are typically some common elements among each company's procedures.
  • After your application is turned in, it will likely go through an applicant tracking system. If your resume is deemed a match, you may have to take an assessment test or do a screening call.
  • The next step is to interview and if the company's representatives like you, they will ask you to do a drug test, consent to a background and credit check, and provide references.
  • If you clear all those hurdles, you'll likely be offered the job.

Job Applications

The first step in the hiring process is, of course, to apply for jobs and to get your application into contention for the jobs you are interested in.

Depending on the organization and the job, you may apply online, email a resume and cover letter, or apply in-person.

Here's a step-by-step guide for applying for a job, including how to apply for a job online, how to fill out a job application, how to write job application letters, and tips and advice for applying for jobs.

Applicant Tracking Systems

Once your application is submitted, many employers will use applicant tracking systems to process job applications and manage the hiring process.


If you are applying for a job online, it's very likely that the company is using an applicant tracking system. To give yourself the best chance, it's a good idea to use keywords in your resume. 

Applicant tracking systems provide an automated way for companies to manage the entire recruiting process, from receiving applications to hiring employees. These computer systems also screen applications to help employers determine which applicants they will interview for a job.

Applicant Talent Assessments

Some companies test applicants for employment to determine if the candidate is a good match for the jobs they are hiring for. Companies that conduct pre-employment tests (talent assessments) are seeking applicants that match their hiring criteria.

Interview Process

Many companies have an involved interview process starting with screening interviews, which are typically done via telephone and sometimes done by a recruiter or HR representative. If the screening call goes well, it will usually be followed by in-person interviews, which may go on tosecond, and even third rounds.


Read more about each step in the interview process here, along with advice on the best way to handle each type of interview as you progress up the interview ladder towards a job offer.

Some one-on-one interviews may be conducted over a video call, depending on the position and type of company you're applying to.

Interview Follow Up

Even though it may seem like a lot of work, especially when you have gone to multiple interviews, it's important to follow up after each step in the interview process. In fact, the most important thing you can do is to follow up and reiterate your interest in the position and to thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you.

Whether it's an email or a phone call, reiterating your interest in the position and the company is always a good idea.

Applicant Drug Testing

There are several types of drugs tests that candidates for employment may be asked to take. The types of drug tests which show the presence of drugs or alcohol include a urine drug screen, hair drug or alcohol testing, saliva drug screen, and sweat drug screen.


Federal law does not require drug tests but state law typically dictates how the tests are conducted.

Tests typically screen for amphetamines, cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine.

Background Checks

You may receive a job offer contingent on a background check and/or a credit check. Or, a background check may be conducted prior to a company offering a job. What the company learns during the background check could result in you not getting a job offer or in the job offer being withdrawn.

Credit Checks

Companies are running credit checks on job applicants more often and then using that credit information as part of the process when making hiring decisions. An employment credit report includes identifying information, including name, address, previous addresses, and social security number.


In 2019, a bill that would have banned the use of credit checks in the job application process stalled in Congress.

A credit check also shows the debt you have incurred in your payment history, including late payments. Do keep in mind that some states and local municipalities have regulated the use of credit reports and placed restrictions on how the information can be utilized by employers.

Reference Checks

At some point during your job search, a potential employer will request references. Typically, it will be when the company is seriously interested in you as a potential hire.

It's important to be prepared to provide a list of employment references who can attest to the skills and qualifications that you have for the job you are applying for.


Always ask your references before including them on a list. 

Job Offers

When you have made it through the challenging hiring process, the final step will be a job offer. Before you accept, it's important to evaluate the compensation and benefits package, consider whether you want to make a counteroffer or negotiate salary, and then accept (or reject) the job offer.

Hiring Paperwork

The final step in the hiring process is completing the paperwork you will need to come on board as an employee of the company. The forms you will need to complete include eligibility to work forms, tax withholding forms, and company-specific paperwork.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does the hiring process last?

It varies. You may be contacted right away, interview almost immediately, and get a job offer quickly. In other cases, the hiring process can be lengthy and time-consuming. 

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Society for Human Resource Management. "Screening and Evaluating Candidates."

  2. Society for Human Resource Management. "Interviewing Candidates for Employment."

  3. ACLU. “State-by-State Drug Testing Laws.”

  4. Mobile Health. “What Drug Panel Should I Choose?

  5. Congress.Gov. "H.R.3614 - Restricting Credit Checks for Employment Decisions Act."

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