Handling second interviews

Handling second interviews


You sailed through the first interview. Now you've been invited back to attend a second. How do you achieve success at the second interview and ensure that the desired job becomes yours?


Relief vs fear

Those first few moments after you've heard that you've secured a second interview can be filled with an extraordinary array of conflicting emotions. The first wave of happiness, relief and general self-congratulation slowly ebbs away to produce the realisation that another - bigger - hurdle must now be faced. Ultimately, you might find the news completely daunting, especially if the interview is with a prestigious company for a role that you would love to do.


We all know there is steep competition for jobs in the current market. However, do remember that if you have got this far, you are now being seriously considered. The odds are starting to swing in your favour, so a repeat performance is required, but what else can you do? The key issue is thorough preparation. Focusing on even the smallest details will help to put you ahead of the competition as even at this stage a whole series of factors may swing the decision your way!


First vs second: what is the difference?

Human Resources normally conduct the first interview. They are checking out your academic background, skills base and experience to see that they tie in with your CV. Find out beforehand the format for the second interview, as there are several possibilities. You may be meeting with one person, perhaps your prospective senior, or with several staff members in a panel interview or a series of one to one interviews. Whatever the format, the questions being asked are exploring two particular areas:


• Are you competent to do the job? This question focuses on examining your skills and experience, perhaps probing for knowledge learnt during your degree

• Are you going to fit in with the company and work well with others? Your personality and the personal impact you make is what will really land you the job; this is far more important than any qualifications. So be yourself and let your personality shine through. Be enthusiastic, positive and honest.


Generally, the questions are more searching than in first interviews, so you'll need to be able to give fuller answers to a variety of questions.


Practical aspects

Walking into an interview knowing you've done your homework will give you confidence, as you'll know there is less chance for any surprises! So, how can you prepare? Your preparation should concentrate on all the practical and intellectual aspects of the interview.


  • Find out the names and titles of the interviewers beforehand
  • Check when and where the interview is and plan your route accordingly
  • Allow extra time for your journey in case of delays. Remember to take the phone numbers of those meeting you in case your plans change unexpectedly
  • First impressions count for so much so ensure that you look clean and well groomed and always wear a suit unless the environment is particularly informal
  • Take with you a copy of your CV, a pen and paper - it's by no means certain the interviewer will have a copy from your first visit
  • Make sure you pick up business cards of those interviewing you so that you can send thank you emails
  • Contact the employer for clarification on expenses as most employers pay all reasonable expenses incurred on visits. Keep records for transportation, lodging and food


Intellectual aspects

Build on the information you researched first time around about the industry, the company and your potential role. Look at industry publications, news articles about recent happenings, the company's website and annual report, get to know the business including its missions, goals, business philosophy and management style. Learn the employer's needs for your potential role so you can relate your skills, interests and experiences in a way that meets those needs.


Speak to anyone you know working in the same industry or who is familiar with the company. Dropping the name of a contact into conversation could impress employers.


General interview tips

Think back to your first interview.

  • What main areas did they concentrate on? Be prepared for the focus on these areas to be even more intensive this time
  • Look at the information given to you - brochures, presentations - and be prepared to answer questions from them
  • What questions were asked? Which ones did you find difficult? Be prepared to answer the same questions again. Advanced preparation produces stronger responses, even to the traditional questions like 'Why should we give you the job?' and 'What can you offer us?' This helps you to show off your communication skills
  • Think about what the interviewer is trying to glean from asking a particular question and formulate your answer accordingly. However, do remember to answer the questions in the same way as last time as the interviewer will have made notes!
  • To let the interviewer know more about you, this interview gives you the chance to express your ideas rather than simply talking about your skills and experience as you did in the first interview. Also, be fresh - think of new examples and information when talking about your achievements
  • Do not let yourself become distracted. Focus and listen carefully to the interviewer
  • Have confidence, remain calm, be brief and to the point, positive and enthusiastic, know your skills and strengths and express them with confidence


Questions to ask

Asking questions shows initiative, enthusiasm and that you are interested in the position. Some that you might ask include:

  • What am I expected to accomplish in my first six months?
  • How would you define your company culture?
  • What support will I receive for my professional development?


Also, have some questions prepared that relate directly to information you were given at the first interview. If you're able to ask, say, 'When I met Mr X last week, he mentioned such-and-such-a project - what would my team's involvement be in that area?' it not only shows enthusiasm but also that you're capable of listening. Be sure also to clarify any of your doubts about the organisation, their training, salary or location.


Remember this is a two way process. They may like you, but what's your opinion of them? Your goal is to find out! Use this opportunity to meet individuals, view facilities, review company philosophies and ask any additional questions. Do the employees seem happy, bored, overworked? Essentially, do you like them? These are people you will have to spend much of your time with so it is best to find out now.

Second interviews are often occasions for you to be introduced to other potential colleagues as well as the manager - and just as much as it's their mission to find out if they really like you, it's yours to determine if you can happily share an office or desk with them! If you are lucky enough to be introduced to people who would effectively be your peer group, don't be afraid of asking what it's like to work there. You could ask what the office atmosphere is like, how social they are (if this is an important consideration), even certain aspects of what it's like to work in that area if appropriate - is there a nearby gym, decent shops, good transport links and so on.


Follow-up actions

After the second interview, remember to give immediate feedback to your recruitment consultant, who will be waiting to find out how you got on. This needs to include any areas you felt you may have fallen down on - perhaps you have a nagging doubt about a specific answer you gave, or forgot to press home a certain point about a special skill or experience you have. Your consultant can cover this for you in his or her call to the employer.


If you've been interviewed directly, sending a thank you note, expressing enthusiasm and keenness to join to the person who interviewed you, can be a deciding factor as to whether you receive a job offer.


There is a possibility you will be offered the job on the spot, at the end of the interview - if you are, and are unsure, be confident enough to ask for time to think about it. It is normal practice, however, to find out several days later.

Second interviews can be daunting – but if you put in the preparation, you're halfway there.