Things to Expect From a Second Interview

By Robert Half March 14, 2018 at 1:00pm

Congratulations! You’ve been asked back for a second interview. At this point, you're being seriously considered for the position based on your success in the first interview. You were well-prepared for the initial meeting, but what should you expect now, and what second interview questions should you anticipate?

Once you pass the screening interview, the second round can be much more involved. For one thing, you can expect new faces. Follow-up interviews give you the chance to meet different people than those you talked to before. Some businesses conduct a panel interview so a mix of senior executives, managers and potential coworkers can get to know you at the same time.

From new interviewers, salary talk, oddball (but meaningful) questions and more, here are seven things to anticipate during your second interview, along with tips for keeping yourself in the running:

How can you prepare for a second interview?

1. Expect to discuss specifics — Be ready to talk more specifically about your recent work history. Also do some company research to ensure you know your potential employer inside and out. Expect targeted queries like, “If you got the job, what would you do in your first year to establish yourself?” And answer each one honestly.

2. Expect to tie up loose ends — Was there a question from the first interview that you didn’t answer completely? Or did the interviewer mention that he wanted to cover a topic but ran out of time? Remember those loose ends from the initial interview. Prepare for them so you can respond more fully during the second interview.

3. Expect off-the-wall questions — “If you were stranded on an island, what’s the one item you would want to have with you? And why?” Some employers enjoy asking tricky questions to see how well you think on your feet. Plus, these questions test your problem-solving skills and reveal a bit of your personality.

4. Expect to ask lots of questions — During your second interview, you’ll be free to ask more questions than you did during your first interview. That’s good because you’ll probably think of additional questions as you learn more about the company, employees and the job itself. Write down your queries as you think of them to prepare you for the second interview.

5. Expect to talk money — While it’s not always the case, compensation and benefits may come up during the second interview. Let your potential employer mention it first, but be prepared. Find out what salary level your skills, experience and location can help you earn by consulting resources like the Robert Half Salary Guides. Consider all aspects of the job and what they’re worth to you in this next stage of your career. Show the interviewer your value. And if you agree on terms, get it in writing.

6. Expect to tour the facility — After the Q&A portion of the interview, your potential employer may give you a tour of the facility. You’ll probably be introduced to potential colleagues and see how the firm is set up and where your office may be. This is your chance to express as much interest as possible in the company’s operations. Candidates have fallen out of the running at this stage by appearing bored or inattentive.

7. Expect to discuss next steps — At the end of the second interview, the interviewer will likely tell you what happens next — possibly a third interview — and when you will hear from them. Or they could offer you the position on the spot. If they do, you don’t typically have to decide right then — unless you’re certain you want the job. Otherwise, let them know you want time to decide and when they will hear back from you. If they don’t mention next steps, be sure to ask when they will be in touch or if you should follow up. And remember, as with the first interview, be sure to send a thank-you note to each person you interview with.

Second interview questions to anticipate

First-round interview questions typically focus on the applicant’s skills and experience. Second interview questions are aimed at helping the interviewer or panel visualize you in the role. Here are potential questions you could hear, along with some savvy answers:

  • “Tell me again what interests you about this job and what skills and strengths you plan to bring to it.” Note that the question is not “What are your skills and strengths?” but “What skills and strengths can you bring to the job?” Answer in the context of contributions you can make to the company.
  • “Do you have anything you want to revisit from your first interview?” This is one where you’ll need to be prepared. A bad answer is “Not really.” Make a list beforehand of things that occurred to you after you left the company premises last time.
  • “What is your greatest weakness?” Yes, some managers still ask this, even on the second interview. Be honest about an actual negative trait, but follow up immediately with how you’re working on overcoming it. Some examples of “acceptable” weaknesses include impatience, fear of public speaking and wanting to do things your own way.
  • “Can you tell me a little more about your current/most recent job?” Note that the interviewer is asking for more than what’s on your resume. You should be able to give a short and precise summary of duties and responsibilities at your most recent position. Be careful not to sound negative about the job or your employer.
  • “Describe a professional achievement you’re especially proud of.” This request is not only evaluating your career priorities but also testing your ability to explain what you do in terms anyone can understand. Instead of using jargon and acronyms, explain the significance of your accomplishment in plain English. One idea is to highlight an anecdote that shows you can work with people in other departments outside of your field, a key characteristic of a good team player.
  • “How did you change your current/most recent job?” A convincing answer here shows adaptability and a willingness to take the bull by the horns, if necessary. Talking about times you chose to do a job differently from other people highlights your creativity and resourcefulness.
  • “What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make on the job?” This one tests your integrity and decision-making style. Make sure your answer fits the company culture.
  • “Looking back, what could you have done to make a bad workplace relationship better?” This interview question is attempting to find out whether you’re capable of rising above an unpleasant situation or learning from past mistakes, both highly desirable qualities. A bitter, critical answer may indicate someone who holds grudges or simply can’t get along with certain kinds of people. A reflective, positive answer will show that you try to minimize personality conflicts — and don’t use them as excuses for failing to move forward. The company is looking for a candidate who tries to be tactful and diplomatic but nonetheless stands up for what’s right.
  • “Do you prefer to work alone or with other people?” The ideal answer here is “Both.” People who say they like working with information are obviously a good choice for technical positions, but it may be a red flag if the interviewer perceives you don’t also enjoy communicating or lack collaboration skills — increasingly a function of even highly technical jobs.
  • “What sorts of things do you think your current/past company could do to be more successful?” This one is a great big-picture question. They’re probing to find out whether you have a clear understanding of your current or past employer’s missions and goals and whether you’ve worked with those objectives in mind.
  • “Can you describe a typical day at work in your last job?” They want to see how your current (or most recent) routine compares with the requirements of the job in question. If what you did on a day-to-day basis in your last job is vastly different from what you’ll be expected to do with the new position, it could be a concern for the employer.
  • “What sort of work environment do you prefer?" Plain and simple, the interviewer wants to find out whether you’re going to be a good fit with the company as expressed in your own words. Weave your answer around what you’ve perceived is the corporate style there — as long as it’s truly what you’re looking for.
  • “Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked to do something you felt was unethical?" This is another case where you should give specifics, if possible. The interviewer knows no rational job candidate is going to say sometimes it’s okay to be unethical. But how you approach answering and any anecdotes you can share can increase the company’s comfort level with hiring you.
  • "What would you consider an acceptable salary for this position?" There are numerous ways this could be asked, depending on whether compensation has been discussed previously. Still, the last thing you want is to be caught off guard by a salary-related question. As noted above, be ready to discuss what you feel you should be earning as soon as the interviewer raises the subject. During negotiations, don’t forget other perks important to you, such as telecommuting options, flexible work hours and opportunities for professional development.

Take some time to review the starting salaries in your geographic area for the position you're seeking.

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