How to Perform Well in a Second Interview

by Matt Kirkman

Second Interview

If your first meeting with a prospective employer has gone well, they are likely to invite you back for a second interview. Second interviews can differ hugely in terms of what the employer is looking to get out of them, so you need to make sure you’re ready for anything. The good news is that, what you said and did in the first meeting has obviously impressed the employer enough that they want to speak to you again, and it has significantly increased your chances of getting the job. So whatever the recruiter has planned for your second interview, here are some tips to help make sure you are fully prepared, and give a performance that shows you're the right person for the job.

Basic Information You Need to Find Out

When you’re invited to a second interview you want guarantee that you make the right impression, so there are a few things you need to ask before you start your preparation to make sure you have the right focus:

Find out if this will be the last stage - While the second interview is usually the final stage in a typical interview process, it’s always best to be sure. You should always aim to give 100% in every meeting with a potential employer, so finding this out shouldn’t change the way you approach a second interview, but it's always good to know if the recruiter is likely to make their decision after this meeting.

Find out the format for your meeting - If your first meeting with your potential new employer was quite brief, you can expect the second interview to be a lot more rigorous. It may even be a series of interviews and exercises, so the recruiter can put all the candidates through their paces to make sure they end up hiring the best one. However, if your initial interview was quite in-depth, the second meeting may actually be a lot more informal and laid back, particularly if you impressed them so much in the first meeting that the second interview is more about them trying to convince you to join the company. Either way, it’s important that you find out the format for the meeting, so you know what to expect, and if there's a presentation or anything else you'll need to prepare.
Find out who you'll be meeting - If you haven’t been told already, you should ask who you will be meeting in your second interview. This is useful to understand so you can get an idea of the kind of questions you’re likely to face, and what you need to think about when you’re preparing. For example, a senior executive is likely to probe your understanding of the role and the organization, and exactly what value you can add to the business. But an HR manager will probably be much more interested in examining your competencies, and comparing them to those that have been identified as essential for this particular role. If you find out you are meeting senior personnel within the organization, knowing who they are will also give you the opportunity to do a little bit of research on them before the meeting, to see if there is any useful information you can uncover.

There’s No Such Thing as Being Over-Prepared

Once you know what you’re going to be facing, it’s time to start getting prepared. You might think that you did all your preparation when you were getting ready for your first meeting, but second interviews usually mean more detailed questions, and lots of them, so it’s time for some more research.

  • Research the company in greater detail - In your initial meeting, knowing a bit about what the company does, their turnover and their share price, might have been enough to show them that you had done some research. But in order to be successful in a second interview, it’s likely that you’ll have to demonstrate a much more detailed understanding of their business. As well as what they do, look into the market they’re in, what their major challenges are, and which companies are their biggest competitors. Setting up Google News Alerts to get all this information automatically delivered to your inbox is a great way to find out all the details you need to impress the recruiters and make sure that this is an organization you want to join.

  • Review your first interview performance - A second interview is often a chance for the recruiter to further examine the skills and abilities they need to see in the ideal candidate, as well as address any weaknesses that might have ben identified in the first meeting. Were there any particular areas of your experience the interviewer seemed very interested in? Did they give the impression that you might be lacking any particular skills? Was there anything else you wished you’d mentioned? Looking back at your performance in the first meeting can help you to understand what skills you need to provide more evidence of, and any weaknesses the interviewer might focus on in this next meeting that you will need to address.

  • What do you need to know? The final meeting isn’t just about you convincing the employer that you’re the right person for the job, it’s also about you making sure that the job and the employer are right for you. In the first meeting, you should have asked some questions about the organization, to show that you’re interested and to also get some more details about the business you might be joining. In a second interview, this could be the last chance you get to have any questions answered before you have to decide whether to accept the job or not.

The Interview Itself

Whether your second interview is quite relaxed and informal, or fairly rigorous and in-depth, you need to remember that you wouldn’t be there unless the company thought that you had something to offer. Whatever direction the meeting takes, make sure you maintain your professionalism and composure. Don’t be complacent and too laid back because all the signs look good, and don’t lose confidence under the pressure of more demanding questions.

Second interviews could be the last chance you have to show the recruiter that you’re the best candidate for the job, so make sure you don’t leave the meeting wishing you’d said something that could have strengthened your case, or with any of the interviewers' concerns left unanswered. It’s usually a good idea to ask if the recruiter has any reservations about your ability to do the job. If they don’t, it helps to reinforce in their mind that you are a strong candidate. If they do, it gives you the chance to address these concerns by providing additional information to help them realize they won’t be an issue.

If your second interview is the final stage of the recruitment process, there’s a good chance that the subject of salary will come up at some point. The interviewer should hopefully know what salary you're on and after two meetings with you, they should have a good idea of the value they would place on your experience and expertise, but they will want to know what you think you’re worth. If the salary question comes up, the best thing to do is deal with it confidently - there’s nothing worse than coming across as a professional and capable candidate, and then falling apart as soon as the conversation turns to money. It’s always a good idea to have a figure in mind before you go into the meeting. A reasonable increase will be in the region of 10-20%, but what you will accept may depend on how well the meeting goes, and how much you want the job. Whatever the figure, if asked about salary, explain what you’re looking for, but be prepared to justify any increase based on what you can offer the company.

Finally, one of the most important things you should do in any second interview, which is often overlooked, is ask for the job. A lot of candidates assume that it will be obvious to the employer that they want the position, because they have shown up to the interview. However, reinforcing why you feel you are right for this job, and why it's a role that you want, sends a strong message to the recruiter that can significantly improve your chances of being offered the position.

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