Updated 29 May 2020
The interviewing process can be a tough one, especially at a time when the job market is limited. Getting a first interview is a challenge in itself; fighting the opposition to acquire a second interview can feel even more daunting.
While most people attending a first interview recognise the importance of preparation, putting in the work before a second interview and ensuring that you give it your all is just as important. Read on for how to approach second interviews.
The first interview you attend is usually focused on finding out more about the skills and experience you have that are relevant to the job you are applying for – for example, what makes you qualified to work within the company or business.
Some employers will make a job offer after the first round of interviews, but it's rare. Most will invite a small selection of candidates back for a second interview before making their decision.
At the second interview, the recruiter will want to closely compare you to the other remaining candidates. At this point, your potential new employer will be asking you more in-depth questions about the technicalities of your experience, or elaborating on points made during your first interview.
You may even find that you are interviewed by another member of staff, giving a different person the opportunity to determine if you are the ideal candidate.
Your preparations will be similar to those necessary for a first interview, but there are a few new things to think about:
Interviews come in various shapes and sizes, so be prepared for the second interview to be completely different from the first. Here are a few different ways that second interviews can be conducted:
As is the case with a first interview, there is no script to follow and no rules about what you should or shouldn’t be asked.
Second interviews may initially focus on the logistics of the role – things like start dates, notice periods and pay expectations – but will quickly move on to in-depth questions about your suitability for the role.
With this in mind, a few sample questions you could be asked include:
At this point, you need to revert back to what you did in the first interview and sell yourself. But now you’re selling yourself and then being compared to the previous candidate who did the same 30 minutes ago.
What you say here will be closely scrutinised and compared – are you a better fit than the previous interviewee?
This is a difficult question to answer. You don’t want to come across as arrogant, suggesting changes outside of your control, but at the same time, you do need to answer the question.
This is your time to mention what you can do to add value to the business, rather than a time to criticise.
Use your researching skills to your advantage here. Perhaps you are going for an IT position and you spotted something a little untoward on the website that isn’t user-friendly.
You may also be aware of new developments in technology that might benefit the company or its customers, eg developing digital content when being interviewed by an educational publisher.
Answer this question diplomatically and ensure that anything you do say carries value.
You may well be asked about your career goals – this gives employers an idea about your level of ambition.
Show off your passion for the industry and highlight your strengths and your desire to build on them; never give the impression that you are only applying for the position to help pay the bills.
If an employer is deciding between two candidates, equal in most ways, then they’re going to want to take on the person who has the most ambition to work their way up the company ladder, not the person who wants the job for financial reasons.
It is inevitable that towards the end of an interview you’re going to be faced with the dreaded “Do you have any questions?”, so make sure you're prepared.
Finding out more about the job and the company is important. Take the opportunity to formulate any questions before the interview itself, to avoid the awkward silence that comes when you are thinking of a question on the spot.
Questions you could ask include:
Whenever you start a new job, there’s always the risk that the position you take on will be misaligned with your expectations.
Finding out about the working environment of a particular company, or the types of people that the company deals with, could help you make the decision to take or refuse the job – and will show the interviewer that you are serious about the position.
Be careful that you word your question in such a way that information you already know isn't repeated – you don’t want the people interviewing you to think that you haven’t been paying attention to what they’ve been saying.
This question is useful because it can lead to a much wider discussion that could reveal the company’s overall expectations for the position.
If it’s an established role, you can use this question to discuss the types of responsibilities that you will be dealing with. You can also use this question to find out who you are replacing, why they are leaving and whether you have big shoes to fill.
If the position has been newly created then take the time to ask why – what about the role is essential to the business and, based on this, how will you be measured in terms of your performance.
If you’ve talked during your interview about being a strong team player, then finding out about the aforementioned team is probably a good idea.
Find out whether your role is a smaller part of a larger team – how do the roles of the other people in your team relate to the position you will be taking on? Demonstrate how you will work well with these potential colleagues.
Asking this question not only allows you to show off your own skills; it can also give you a feel for the dynamics of the group and whether it will align with how you work on a personal level.
Asking about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role might be a discreet way of establishing whether the role is right for you.
Make sure that there are no surprises if you take on the position – ask your interviewer what they will be expecting of you on a typical day and exactly what the role entails.
Job specifications can be filled with technical jargon or be a little vague, so ensure that the reality of the role matches up with how you have understood it.
Nobody wants to take on a new role, work hard within it for years and years and then discover that, actually, they can’t progress any further up the ladder.
Ask how the position you are applying for fits into the company’s long-term plans – this is a discrete way of asking whether there is a particular career path for someone in your position to follow and, if so, where it will lead you. This also gives the interviewers a sense of your ambition and desire to progress.
If there is no opportunity for progression and this is something you don't mind, then you will be able to make an informed decision on whether to accept the job, and both your time and the company’s time will not be wasted.
Getting second interview questions and answers right can be tough – ensure that you are prepared, have researched the company well, and know your own skills and experience even better.
Prepare as much as possible but try to relax. Remember you made it through the first interview for a reason – be confident, ask the right questions, sell yourself in the best possible way and, importantly, make sure the position is right for you.
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