So you aced the first interview… and they asked you back.
Great. You’ve made it to the second interview stage. Unfortunately, you’re not 100% how this will differ from your first interview, so your approach is simply to repeat the same things you said before, only slightly clearer and/or louder. Not so great.
While some interview preparations remain the same, there can be key differences when it comes to the types of questions asked by employers, and the answers expected of you.
What is the difference between the first and the second interview?
Whereas a first interview is generally used to test your personality and basic abilities, the competition intensifies when it comes to the second stage.
What an employer really wants to know now is what separates you from the other candidates, what your technical abilities are, and the logistics involved when it comes to a firm offer. This way they can more easily make a direct comparison between remaining candidates.
In addition, second interviews are often an opportunity for other key members of staff at a prospective employer to meet and question a shortlist of the best candidates.
Here are six questions which may come up at a second interview:
What are the main attributes you think are needed for this role?
Translation: It’s time to sell yourself.
Whilst this is obviously the case at all interviews you attend, with greater competition and higher expectations, the need to shine more brightly than the other candidates takes on added importance.
What attributes are absolutely necessary to be able to do the job well? We’ll give you a clue: check the job description.
You will usually see at least a few skills highlighted as absolutely essential: indicate why you feel these may be important and think of one or two examples of how you can demonstrate them.
Right answer: ‘I think that X, Y and Z are the most important skills necessary for this role. I think these are all things I can actively bring to the role, which I demonstrated when…’
Wrong answer: ‘Turning up on time mainly’
Why don’t you want this job?
See what they did there?
This question turns the quintessential interview question on its head, making you work slightly harder at selling yourself (not to mention testing your desire for the position).
By the second interview, it’s perfectly natural to have some reservations about the role. Use this question to ask the interviewer anything you may need clarification on. Whether it’s salary or asking about opportunities for career progression, try and prepare any questions you have after the first round.
(N.B. compliments always work well here for intros e.g. ‘From what I’ve seen so far, this looks like a really great environment to work in. However…’, or similar)
Right answer: ‘This company has built a reputation for providing its staff with excellent prospects to progress. However, my only reservation at the moment is that I’ve only seen limited opportunities for training and development. I’ve been thinking of taking X course to improve my skills and would be keen to understand whether this is something you would consider offering as part of the role?’
Wrong answer: ‘Because, if anything, I’ll be too good at it. And that scares me.’
What would you change about the company?
A particular favorite for more technical or design-based roles, this question has the potential to come up whatever the position.
It’s time to show your research skills. So whether it’s a part of the website you don’t feel is particularly user-friendly or a window display which you feel brings nothing to the store, have a few things prepared before the interview.
Whatever you suggest, remember to back up why you’ve said it and what value you feel this change could bring to the business.
Right answer: ‘I found the sign-up process on your website to be very long and I imagine a lot of users may be put off by this. If you made the form slightly shorter, I think you could increase registration numbers’
Wrong answer: ‘Where do I start…?’
What are your career goals?
Similar to the ever-popular ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ time’, what the interviewer really wants to know in this instance is that you’ve thought about your future. And perhaps, more to the point, that you’re in it for the long haul.
Think of it this way: two candidates are neck and neck in an employer’s estimations and one says they’re looking to move through the company and head up a team; the other says they’ve always wanted to travel. Who would you offer the position to?
Be passionate about the industry, demonstrate your ambition and play to your strengths. More importantly, don’t make this position seem like a stop-gap for you. You’ll just be wasting everyone’s time.
Right answer: Something along the lines of ‘I’d like to be heading up my own team within the department, which would make the most of my analytical skills and previous managerial experience’ (only much more specific).
Wrong answer: ‘To have a job’ (see also: ‘to have your job’)
What salary are you looking for?
They may not have covered salary in the initial interview, but expectations when it comes to money are often discussed at the second stage.
Be honest. Give an indication of an income that you feel is realistic to the role and its responsibilities. Make sure to factor your previous experience into any answer you give. Once you’ve come up with a figure, be prepared to explain why you’ve reached it.
Remember: be realistic, but don’t undervalue yourself. Otherwise you might just come out with less than what you’re worth. To find out what everyone else is on, take a look at salary checker.
Right answer: A realistic, but non-specific salary range, e.g. ‘I‘m looking for a starting salary somewhere between £25,000 and £30,000’.
Wrong answer: ‘Ideally I’d like £million pounds, so it depends what you’re offering really’/’how much do you think I’m worth?’
What’s your notice period?
It’s time to get down to the real business. What an employer wants to know here is the logistics involved should you actually be offered the role. And by logistics, we mean admin.
Make sure you’ve looked up how much notice you need to give to your current employer before your interview. If you have any holiday booked or if you know of any other impediments which may affect you starting the job, now is the time to let them know.
Be careful not to get ahead of yourself, though. They’re not actually offering you a job. Yet. They just want to know what would happen if they did.
Right answer: ‘I need to provide at least four weeks’ notice if I were to find another job’
Wrong answer: ‘I don’t think I need to give them any notice. I just won’t bother going back in’
Remember, these are just a few examples of the types of questions which may come up. Many of the questions you encounter may be industry specific and some companies have their own methods of finding the right candidates.
Be prepared for every eventuality and for as many questions as you can. That way, you’re unlikely to feel as if you’ve been put on the spot. If you really want the role, the extra effort will be well worth it.
Also, consider that your interviewer may change from the first time you were questioned. For more technical roles, you may have someone less accustomed to interview situations brought in specifically to ask you more detailed questions. For sales roles, you may need to be prepared for the possibility of a good cop/bad cop set-up, with one particularly difficult interviewer trying to test your knowledge or the conviction of your answers throughout proceedings.
Whoever your interviewer, don’t take it personally – even if you don’t feel the same connection as you did first time around. Keep calm and maintain your confidence and conviction. Remember: no matter how harshly they critique your answers, this is usually no reflection on you. They simply want to see if you really believe what you say.
Finally, don’t forget to think of your own questions you can ask at the end of the interview. What you ask can be just as telling as what you answer. Because ending the second interview with an awkward silence is definitely not the last impression you want to leave.