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Winning the

Winning the "second" interview

Kate Southam, Editor of

You have been selected for second interview. What now? First interview versus second interview: what is the difference? In a nutshell, the people attending each interview could change, questions should deepen and claims you made in the first interview will probably be tested.

If an HR person or a recruitment consultant conducts the first interview they will focus on checking out your academic background, skills base and experience to see if what you say ties with your resume. A second interview is likely to include your future direct report and even that person's manager. You should do additional research before the second interview and prepare to answer both the same questions again, and new questions. Plus, you should have new questions to ask.

Jacky Carter, Director of recruitment firm Hays, provides the following advise on preparing for a second interview.

Practical tips

  • Check names - including spellings - and titles of the interviewers.
  • Check the date, time and location of the interview and suss out how to get there - so you can be a little early.
  • Remember to take all relevant phone numbers in case your plans change unexpectedly.
  • Again, pick out what you will wear ahead of time to make sure everything is clean and in tact. First impressions are crucial and so are second impressions. Dress in corporate style - even if the office is informal.
  • Take copies of your resume and a pen and paper. Don't assume the interviewer/s will have a copy of your resume from your first visit.
  • Make sure you pick up business cards of those interviewing you so that you can write thank you letters.

Research tips

Build on the information you researched first time around about the industry, the company and your potential role. You can do this by reading industry publications, news articles, the company's web site and annual report. Get to know the company by reading about its mission statement, goals, business philosophy and management style. Learning about your potential employer will help you understand the importance of the role on offer to the company's success and how to talk about your skills, interests and experiences in a way that meets those needs. Try to find someone who works for the organisation. This is probably the most valuable research method available. The knowledge you glean from such conversations and the fact you have gone to this trouble often impresses employers.

Lines of questioning

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 around. Look at the information given to you - brochures, presentations - and be prepared to answer questions based on what you have absorbed from them. Reflect on what questions were asked during the first interview and which ones you found 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.

General interview tips

Think about what the interviewer is trying to find out from asking a particular question and how you might formulate your answer. Remember to answer the questions consistently as the interviewer will be making notes. Also, the "behavioural interviewing" technique will probably be used so click on the links to the relevant CareerOne story. A second 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 rather than just providing the same ones again. Do not let yourself become distracted. Focus and listen carefully to the interviewer at all times.

Other second interview tips include:

  • Remain calm. It's okay to take a moment or two to think about a question.
  • Be brief and to the point but avoid 'yes' and 'no' answers;
    Be positive and enthusiastic; and
  • Know your skills and strengths and express them in a confident way.

Question time

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 prepare some questions that relate directly to information you were given at the first interview. For example, "When I met Mr X last week, he mentioned such-and-such-a project - what would my team's involvement be in that area?" This not only shows enthusiasm but shows that you're capable of listening.

Use the second interview to clarify any of your doubts about the organisation including its training program, salary or location. And use the second visit to work out if you like the people you may be working with. Remember this is a two way process. They may like you, but what's your opinion of them? Use this opportunity to meet individuals, view facilities, review company philosophies and ask any additional questions. Do the employees seem happy, bored, overworked? 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 to ask them 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.


After the second interview, remember to give immediate feedback to your recruitment consultant if you landed the second interview through one. 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, send a thank you note. Expressing enthusiasm and a keenness to join a company immediately and directly to the person who interviewed you can be a deciding factor as to whether you are offered the job.

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

Good luck.

For more useful tips read the other stories in the Job Hunting Strategy section.

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