Second job interview: 5 tips to up your game and get hired

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May 28, 2021

So you've been invited back for a second job interview. How are you going to up your game and prove you are the one they should hire?

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Waiting to hear back after an interview is stressful.

You can’t help playing back in your head what you said and what you did, and keep asking yourself “did I do enough” and “could I have done better?”

So when you get that call from HR or a recruiter inviting you back for a second job interview it’s such a relief.

But almost as soon as you have finished patting yourself on the back you realise that you have to do it all over again and, if possible, be even more impressive.

The question is, if you gave everything you had in the first interview, what’s left to give?

In this post we are going to look at 5 ways you can up your game for the second interview that will leave them in no doubt that you are the perfect candidate they should hire.

Before we get into the 5 ways you can impress the interviewers, it’s worth taking some time to consider the difference between first and second interviews.

Typically first interviews are conducted by a hiring manager or HR staff who will be tasked with determining a candidate’s hard skills and competencies, then grading them according to how closely they match the criteria of the job.

Second interviews often involve different and/or multiple interviewers which could be the new hire’s manager, executive leaders, department heads, and other team members that would be working with the new recruit. The aim of a second stage interview is to gain a full picture of what a candidate has to offer and assess whether they are a good fit culturally with the organisation.

Depending on the level of the position, the type of organisation, and the sector they operate in,  second interviews may also require candidates to do things such as a presentation or undergo psychometric assessments.

So essentially, the first interview concentrates on screening and shortlisting and the second is all about exploring and digging deeper to see if you are the one they should hire.

The first interview concentrates on screening and shortlisting and the second is all about exploring and digging deeper to see if you are the one they should hire.

When it comes to your interview preparation, the second interview is not really tactically that different from the first interview.

In both instances you need to research the company and your interviewers, prepare for common interview questions, be ready for behavioural questions, and compile a list of questions you will ask them.

However, there is a huge tactical difference when it comes to the depth of your preparation for the second interview because it is all about building a deeper connection and getting them to imagine you as part of the team.

So how do you do that?

How do you go from being just someone on a shortlist to being their chosen one?

The 5 tips that get you hired

A huge mistake many people make is to work hard preparing for their first interview, do well, and then wing it on their second interview.

After all, they liked you enough to invite you back so you just need to do more of the same right?

This is in some way true in that yes, you have done well and whatever you said or did worked.

But remember, they have invited you back to see more of you, so that is what you need to give them.

More.

This means more preparation, more research, and more effort on your part.

If you do the exactly the same as before you will get exactly the same as before – and stay stuck on the shortlist rather than get the job offer.

To go from being a good candidate to the best candidate for a job, here are 5 things you can do to shine in your second job interview.

Get the full details

Knowledge is power. The last thing you want to happen is to be thrown of guard and not be prepared.

Find out in advance exactly what will be required from you and with whom you can expect to interview.

If you aren't given this information when the interview is arranged, contact the assistant of the main person with whom you'll be meeting to see what you can find out.

If they say they are not sure just say “what usually happens in second interviews?’”

Armed with this knowledge you can then proceed to the next step.

Update your research

Yes, I know you have already done this prior to your first interview, but this time it is different.

Check out your new interviewers on Google, the company website, and LinkedIn because the more you know about them the easier it will be to build rapport with them.

Perhaps you have mutual contacts, or went to the same university, or previously worked for the same company?

Even if you don’t find any common ground their background will be useful. For example, if most of their time has been spent in a particular industry you can gear your answers more favourably in that direction.

Don’t forget to also update your research on the company. You will already have a good understanding of their origin, sector, products and services from your previous research but what is happening right now with them?

Again, check out Google, their website and their company LinkedIn page for any news since you last met with them.

Review your performance at your first interview

They have invited you back for a second interview so that means they are happy you can perform the role in question.

Now they will either be comparing you to a couple of others that showed the same potential, they want to question you further on some key areas, or check that others in the organisation feel the same about you – or perhaps all three.

Cast your mind back and run through the first interview in your head. What areas did they question you on the most? Where do you feel you excelled and were there any areas where you may have performed weaker? What information did you glean that gave you clues as to the specific direction this role will be going in?

Make notes on all of these points to help guide you with the next stage.

Prepare new questions and answers

Whatever the reason for calling you back, there is one thing you need to do and that is to dig deeper and build a relationship with them.

The first way to do this is to prepare questions and answers based on your first interview.

First, think about the questions they asked you.

If you did well and you spent some time on an area, include a question such as this.

“The last time I was here you mentioned x and it really resonated with me. Could you elaborate on … [pick an aspect to expand].”

Having a deeper conversation about something that is important to both of you builds a deeper relationship. It also gives you the opportunity to show that you understand the both role and the general company culture.

Conversely, if there were any areas where you feel you struggled first time round, prepare an answer that will convey more confidence and clarity should they decide to revisit it again with you.

But what if you are being interviewed by new people so you can’t revisit your previous answers?

What’s the difference between interview questions and answers for first and second interviews?

Common second job interview questions

Most first interviews will include a set of common questions such as the following, or variants of them:

Tell me about yourself

Why do you want to work for us?

Why are you looking for a new opportunity?

What is your greatest strength/weakness?

Describe your current or most recent role

Why are you the best candidate for the job?

Have you got any questions for us?

Use this post if you want to go deeper into each of these.

When it comes to the second job interview, you must ensure two things – consistency and relevance.

Be consistent

Take care to say something similar to your response in your first interview.

You may be facing a different interviewer but the first one will have made notes.

If you offer a wildly different answer to the first interview you will lose your credibility.

Add Relevance

This is the secret sauce for a great response to a second interview question.

Whatever you said in the first round, twist it to fit what you found out about the job and the company in the first interview.

For example, if they ask you why you are the best person for the job, you can now cite achievements that directly align with what was discussed with the other interviewer.

Bonus tip: check with your referees to see if the company has already contacted them. It is quite common for this to happen prior to a second interview. Knowing what they asked will help you prepare for what they may probe in your second interview.

Behavioural second job interview questions

These questions are usually mixed in with the other common questions and typically start with the following or similar.

Tell me about a time when …

Give me an example when …

When have you had to …

Describe a situation in which...

These are a popular choice because they provide a really powerful tool for interviewers, revealing character traits and deeper information about candidates that other questions just don’t provide.

As this is the main aim of a second interview, you should definitely prepare for them.

Again, apply what you learnt form that first interview and think of all the scenarios they may throw at you.

In particular, work on your weak areas because they may well use this type of question to dig deeper on any red flags they found at your first meeting.

Unusual second job interview questions

They are a little trickier to handle because you can be sitting there, feeling great about your performance so far, even thinking that you might have this one in the bag and then…

“if you found a penguin in your freezer, what would you do?”

The question is so strange, irrelevant and off-putting, that you are jolted out of your comfort zone into a prolonged silence where you know that you have to respond but you don’t even know where to begin.

It is more common for these oddball, weird questions to happen at a second interview because they may want to assess your creativity, spontaneity and ability to remain focused and positive when faced with a challenge.


So how do you handle these?

First, expect that they may happen. They are a lot easier to deal with this way because you will recognise it for what it is rather than panicking because you don’t understand what is happening.

Next, think to yourself, what are they looking for.

For example, Whole Foods Market used to asked this question at interviews

“Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck, or 100 duck sized horses.”

Obviously they don’t want to know your specific preference but what they really want to know is do you prefer to tackle one large problem rather than several small ones at the same time.

And finally, rest assured that there is no right or wrong with these sort of questions.

Just think about the demands of the job you are being interviewed for and give the best response you can.

The most important thing is to justify your decision. Your thought processes are the bit they are interested in.

When you give your answer, ensure that you tap into the qualities which are in line with the job requirements being discussed.

Be ready for the salary interview question

Directly answering questions about salary is a huge mistake to make in a first interview because you need to make them want you first. Further, at such an early stage you might aim too high or too low.

However, it can be a little harder to avoid in a second interview. Answering directly at this stage is less harmful because you've had the chance to prove your worth but this could still trip you up if it comes out the wrong way.

It’s best to try to deflect with a response like these.

“Based on my research and experience, similar positions are currently paying between $x and $y. Is this also the range for which you’ve budgeted for this position?”

Or

“If I’m the candidate you’d prefer for the position, I’m sure we’ll be able to reach agreement on the salary, as I’m willing to be flexible. What is the budgeted salary range?”

Act like part of their team

So, first you are going to prepare questions that prove you understand the job and the company, to deepen your relationship with them.

The second way to build that connection is to act inclusively the same way you would as if you were already working there.

Whether you are being interviewed by the same person or someone else, think about conversations from your first interview and say things such as  “I spoke with x about x the other day and she mentioned this [explain topic]. I thought that was great. I would love to get your thoughts on this too.”

Take care though to assess where they are in relation to this person in terms of whether they are their boss, a colleague, or a subordinate and aim the question to the appropriate level.

Not only will you be showing them that you truly listened and enjoyed talking with the other person in their company but you also want to know their opinion – in other words you are acting like you are part of the team.

If you show them how great you will be to work with guess what? The will want to work with you and offer you the job.

Key takeaways

The key word is more.

Preparing for a second interview is much the same as for a first interview but with one main difference – depth.

They have asked you back to see more of you so you need to give them more than the first interview.

You can also expect more grilling about your ability to do the job and more direct questions about what you intend to do in the role as they make their final assessment of whether you’re the right person for the job.

But just remember that if you go in prepared, you are far more likely to come out with a job offer.

Amanda Datchens

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About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, and entrepreneur, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and the Hi Vis Hub.

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