How To Prepare For A Second Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

I received a question from a candidate about second interviews. It seems she hadn’t been having much luck getting beyond first interviews and this was the first time in a long time she had been invited back for a second round. Naturally, she was a bit nervous and wondered how she should best prepare for this next interview.

In many ways, the second interview is more important than the first interview – which is primarily a screening interview often conducted by someone from human resources to determine if you meet the broad requirements of the job. In the second interview, you should expect to be interviewed by the hiring manager, who has more knowledge of the job and who has final decision-making authority. Other senior managers may be invited to join in and you might be asked meet with some of your potential co-workers. These individuals are usually not directly involved in the final hiring decision but their opinions and impressions will be sought.

Many of the things you will do to prepare for the second interview are the same as you did for the first:

1. Find out who you are meeting and do online research to get an idea of what they do, including their personal interests.

2. Anticipate questions you might be asked and role play your answers. In particular, practise questions you may not have answered well (or fully) in the first interview.

3. Think about what you are going to wear. You should dress as well as you did the first time, but wear something different.

There are, however, a few differences and here are some things you should think about.

Get ready for deeper questions about your skills and experience. The first interview – especially if done by human resources – will have covered the basics but the HR staff may not have been knowledgeable enough to probe in great detail about your background. Be prepared for more rigorous questions in the second round where the hiring manager will want to get at the core of your skills and experience. They may also want to talk in depth about the job and how you match their requirements, so be prepared with plenty of examples of past job accomplishments.

Come armed with really good questions of your own. In the first interview, the interviewer probably asked most of the questions. The second interview is your chance to shine with deep, insightful questions about the job, the company and the people. Show how much you have researched the organization and have projected yourself into the job. Remember, many employers say that the quality of questions that candidates ask of them are as important in the selection process as candidates’ answers to their questions.

Remember, they are assessing you for fit also. The second interview is when the employer tries to determine if you are the right fit for the company and the team. Much of this assessment is based on gut feeling of the interviewer so make sure that your real personality comes through. Listen well, be personable and use your best communication skills. And make sure that you watch them too. This is your opportunity to determine whether the company is the right fit for you. 

Don’t worry if you are asked the same questions as in the first interview. It’s inevitable that you will cover at least some of the same ground as you did in the first round, as there will likely be new people in the room. Even if you are asked the same questions, answer them in as much detail as you did the first time and don’t worry about boring people you might have already met.

Question: Think about instances when you reached the second interview stage but did not get a job offer. Was there anything you could have done differently in the interview process?


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.