Your Top Questions About the Follow-Up Interview Answered

Illustration of an interviewee walking a toward a question mark.

Job seekers frequently have questions about how to get ready for interviews. But the concerns aren’t confined to making a good first impression. Two of our all-time most popular blog posts involve planning for a second interview or third interview. The follow-up interview can indeed be a tricky one.

While candidates would no doubt prefer a quick and straightforward hiring process, the bottom line is that the path to a new job can often be a meandering one that requires skill and patience. Employers today are simply more cautious and exacting when bringing aboard new team members.

Since our posts on second and third interviews were published, a number of readers have reached out to our blog editors and recruiting specialists with more specific questions. Following is a sampling of the types of queries we’ve fielded. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to some of these follow-up interview scenarios, here are some thoughts on what you might do if you find yourself in a similar situation:

Phone interview fatigue

Question: I am interviewing for a position at a fairly big company. I did the first and second interviews by phone and was just called for a third phone interview. I have interviewed with different people on each occasion. I don't know what to expect from my third interview. Any tips?

Answer: Phone interviews are typically used to narrow down the candidate pool. While having three phone interviews is less common, you’ve obviously impressed the employer enough that they want to keep the conversation going. Don’t succumb to phone interview fatigue just yet. Go into the third interview with the same level of preparation and optimism as you did the first two. Remember: You are getting closer to reaching your ultimate goal. You might email the HR representative or one of the previous interviewers to find out who will be on this next call.

During this follow-up interview, reiterate your most relevant skills but also try to weave in some details you’ve learned about the company through your research and previous interviews. That will show that you’ve been engaged and remain extremely interested. Before the call wraps up, ask about next steps in the hiring process.

“You should interview for this job instead!”

Q: I applied for a position and went through four interviews. In the end, they chose the other finalist. The employer then said they had another open position they’d like me to apply for, as I had made a great impression on everyone. I did a Skype interview with that hiring manager and it went well. After three weeks I got a call saying that — again — they really liked me, but had offered the job to someone else.

But with that bad news, I was also told there was yet another position and that another hiring manager was interested in me. Now I have an opportunity to interview for this third job opening. I'm confused. It seems that they like me, but not enough to offer me a job. Do you have any advice on keeping positive for this new opportunity?

A: The first order of business is deciding whether or not you’re interested in this particular job. Sure, you’ve invested a lot of time with this employer, but does the role truly appeal to you?

If the answer is yes, the next step is to stop thinking about the previous interviews and focus strictly on nailing this one. View the situation as a fresh opportunity instead of some epic, uphill battle. You’re far more likely to impress this new hiring manager if you adopt a mindset of “The company likes me so much they keep looking for ways to hire me!” instead of “Ugh, why do I keep coming in second place?” The bottom line: Don’t psych yourself out. Keep doing what you’ve been doing in the interviews. They clearly think highly of you.

Now if they suggest you apply for a fourth job, well, it might be time to consider cutting bait.

Is the follow-up interview a mere formality?

Q: I was first interviewed for a job by my potential boss. I had a follow-up interview with that person’s boss and the leader of the department. Now I have a third interview with the CFO. What can I expect from this type of interview? Do you think it might be a formality and that the CFO wants to briefly meet with me just to make sure I’m a good fit?

A: Make no assumptions. While it’s helpful to display a quiet confidence, being too self-assured can be a killer. Maybe you have the job offer locked up and the meeting will be a perfunctory get-to-know-you session. Or maybe not. You’re meeting with a top executive, who could either nix your chances or influence your career for years to come if you do get the job. In short, prepare diligently.

The waiting game

Q: I recently did a follow-up interview. The recruiter told me that the final decision would be made today and that I’d be receiving a call either way, but I did not hear from him. What does this mean?

A: What does it mean? The possibilities are endless. Trying to read into a situation when you have zero information is frustrating — and futile. Key stakeholders might still be deciding. An internal candidate might have popped up at the last second. The recruiter could be out sick.

Instead of playing the what-if game, give it a day and then send the recruiter a friendly and succinct email. Politely ask if there is any update and briefly mention your strong interest in the job. Thank the recruiter for his time and make it known when you’d be available to talk.

On the fly

Q: I’ve had two video interviews for the position I’m seeking. The first was with a regional manager. The second interview was with all managers from different regions as well as the VP of operations. The company contacted me today and they want to fly me out to meet everyone face to face and tour the facility. Should I expect a tough and in-depth interview, or does the fact they are paying to fly me in mean I’m in the home stretch of the process?

A: Video interviews and phone interviews are cost-effective ways for employers to narrow the field. So, yes, it’s a promising sign that the employer is willing to invest time and money in further discussions with you, but it’s always safer to be ready for a grilling than a cakewalk. Prepare for “tough and in-depth” and let yourself be presently surprised if you fly through this follow-up interview. Best of luck!

Looking for more tips? Check out our job interview resource page now!

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Tags: Interviewing