How To Ace A Second Interview (Questions & Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Ahh, the first interview. Such a magical moment in time.

You, terrified, trying so hard to be everything you know you need to be. You’re on time (which is actually a touch early!), you’re prepared, you’re dressed to impress and you’re ready to answer any question they throw at you. You walk out, shoulders back, heart racing, adrenaline putting an extra spring in your step.

Congratulations, you’ve survived!

You get home and take a deep breath. It’s time to relax and bask in the golden glow of your success. But then the unexpected happens…you get a phone call…and not just ANY phone call! It’s the hiring manager and he wants to know if you’re available for a second interview! Of course you are!

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You quickly stutter your acceptance and set the date and time, then hang up and stand in stunned silence.

Oh crap. Now what? Take a deep breath, turbo! This isn’t good news…it’s great news and we’re gonna tell you how to knock this one out of the ball park too! So, don’t toss that tie quite yet…or put those high heels away for good…it’s time to go back to work turning you into the perfect candidate…again!

What Exactly Is A Second Interview?

First off, let’s start with what a second interview really is.

Yes, it’s what it sounds like…a second chance for the hiring manager to take a good look at you and decide if you’re a good fit…but it’s also so much more than just that!

HANG ON! Before we get into this too deeply, we have to issue this brief disclaimer:

For the purposes of this article, we are going to assume that this is your second IN PERSON interview, not a phone screening interview… If your only prior interview was via the phone and this is your first IN PERSON interview…then for all intents and purposes you need to consider this to be a FIRST INTERVIEW and should check out our other articles that tackle this subject including Job Interview Questions and Answers 101.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

So what does a second interview mean?

Well, we can tell you it ISN’T a guarantee of employment. This isn’t the time to get cocky and let everything you’ve worked so hard on slide.

Not by a long shot.

It IS, however, another opportunity for you to really show them that you’re the best person for the job…you are the perfect candidate!

The first interview was the warm up.

Odds are in your first interview you met with someone from human resources or a hiring manager and was probably more of a broad screening to weed out the last of the unsuitable candidates.

The second is the “big leagues” which means your second interview will probably be conducted by someone a little higher up…or even a LOT higher up.

You can almost guarantee that this interview will be much more in depth and very well might include introductions to other key members within the business including superiors, senior managers, and even possibly fellow teammates.

Think of the first interview as a first date. Everyone was on their best behavior and really trying to see if there was any chemistry.

A second interview is a bit more serious…think of it as a second date…on steroids.

Odds are you’re going to be talking long term commitment and possibly meeting the parents…er, I mean higher ups!

No pressure!

So how do you prepare for this new level of scrutiny, intensity and yes, even fear?

By taking everything you’ve done so far and kicking it up another notch!

The Invitation For a Second Interview

Let’s start by going back in time and the phone call that started this all…the call for a second interview.

Don’t just stutter and stammer through it. Take the time to make even this brief interaction work for you in the best possible way.

As you set up the interview, ask a few questions starting with getting a list of the name and role of the individual (or names and roles if it’s to be a panel or group interview).

This is also a great time to really make sure that you know EXACTLY what job you are going in for.

Even if you think you already know, take the time to ask again…it’s far better to ask twice than find out too late that you’re wrong.

If you’re going in for a position with a large department (let’s say IT), get the exact title of the position you are now interviewing for. Not only will it help clear up any confusion on either end, it’ll give you a laser tight focus to your prep!

But I didn’t get a phone call…I got an email!

Even better!

Take the time drafting your response and make sure you hit the tasks we outlined above in your reply. Don’t feel self-conscious about these steps…your goal is to be as prepared as possible and a good hiring manager will recognize this.

Plan Your Strategy

Okay, the date and time are set.

You know exactly what you’re interviewing with and who is doing the interviewing.

Congratulations, you’ve got everything you need to start really prepping!

Start with who is interviewing you. Time to do a little digging!

No, this isn’t the time to hire a Private Detective or go all crazy stalker on them.

You want to impress them with your knowledge, not scare them!

A little personal information (gleaned through the company website or LinkedIn) is good for small talk, but don’t go overboard.

Now is not the time to friend them on Facebook and send them Candy Crush requests. More than anything, focus on their role within the company and how you will fit into that puzzle as well.

To bring it back to the second date scenario, don’t forget that this is a partnership which means you’re going to want to make sure that not only are the company needs met, but yours are as well!

Now is the time to figure out beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right fit for you too.

Sit down and really figure out what matters to you in a job. While you’re doing this, use the time to also come up with a NEW list of questions to ask your potential future employer. We’ve gathered a list of good ones below for you to augment your own list with.

This would be a great time to read our article How To Discuss Salary During the Job Interview Process” as well if it’s a subject you haven’t yet discussed.

While you’re digging around gathering information on your potential interviewers, don’t forget to brush up on the company information as well.

You should be able to articulate clearly not only what you know about the company but also how you would be a good fit with them.

You want to demonstrate genuine interest in the company and the best way to do that is to figure it out yourself first.

MIKE'S TIP

The most important thing to remember while doing your research is that you need to tailor the entire second interview to the company you are interviewing with (and the position you are interviewing for).  The best way to do this is to infuse your answers to the interview questions with Qualities that you have discovered through your research.  For a detailed explanation on how our Tailoring Method works, check out Job Interview Questions and Answers 101.

If you have contacts within the company or know of any past or current employees, now is the time to reach out.   Ask them about the climate within the industry.

Ask them what they liked about working there and what they didn’t like.

Go ahead, you can even ask them about the people who are going to be conducting your interview…but be careful how you use this information!

If you’re asking a former employee, make sure to keep in mind why they’re a former employee (good and bad) and don’t let personal opinions dictate your own ability to form impressions on your own.

Double and triple check that resume and print out multiple copies. If you’re going in for a group interview, make sure to bring enough copies for everyone…and a few extras (just in case!)

Types of Second Interviews

As I mentioned above, there is a good chance that your second interview looks a lot different than your first interview.

While the introductory interview is usually just a one-on-one with a person from HR or a hiring manager, the second interview can follow a lot of different formats (and could possibly be a collection of a few different “mini interviews”).

Here are some of the different interview formats you could see on your second interview:

One on One

Okay so you already know this one.  But it is worth mentioning that your second interview could be similar to your first in that it is with only one person, only this time it could be with a different person with a different (and more influential) role with the company.  This might include a department head, Director, Vice President or possibly even the owner.

Panel Interview

Ahhh, the dreaded panel interview.  In this case, you literally “face the firing squad” as you are interviewed by multiple people at the same time.  Fasten your seat belt and be prepared to answer a barrage of questions, but more importantly, try and keep your cool.  After all, they like you!  They wouldn’t have brought you in for a second interview if it wasn’t the case.

Group Interview

Depending on the type of person you are, this type of interview can either be a blessing or a curse.  In the group interview, you are put in a group of other candidates (i.e. your competition!) and everyone is interviewed at the same time.  Quite often, the hiring manager (or panel) will ask you to do exercises that force interaction between the candidates in order to get a feel for how you will work with others if hired.

MIKE'S TIP

Extroverts tend to love this dynamic, and introverts tend to dislike it passionately.  If you fall into the latter grouping, spend some extra time brushing up on your communication skills.  Grab a group of friends and colleagues and run through a mock group interview.  The best way to do it is to come up with a few relevant scenarios and choose a person to be the interviewer.  The interviewer will have you and your colleagues act out the scenarios as if you were in a real interview.  Once finished, get everyone together to sit down and have a debrief and see where improvements can be made.

Great Questions To Ask During a Second Interview

We can’t stress this enough…the interview process is a TWO WAY STREET which means you NEED to ask questions! Sure you might be the perfect fit for the job, but what if the company isn’t the right fit for you???

Here are a few to get you started on your own list.

WHEN SPEAKING TO HIRING MANAGER/HUMAN RESOURCES

  • Is there an orientation process for new hires?
  • What are my long range possibilities with this job? What is the advancement process?
  • Is there potential for professional growth with the company?
  • Does the company encourage employees to further their education and improve their skills through classes or conventions?

WHEN SPEAKING TO A MANAGER/SUPERVISOR

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • How is the department structured? (chain of command)
  • What are the daily duties and responsibilities of the position? (A good one to get in writing!)
  • What are your expectations for this position? What are the company’s expectations?

WHEN SPEAKING TO CO-WORKERS/TEAMMATES

  • What is a typical work day like?
  • What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced in the job?
  • Do you feel there is potential for professional growth?

We have more example answers as well as an in depth explanation of each in our article top 14 questions to ask in an interview.

Top 5 Tips

As we stated above, odds are your first interview was conducted by one individual. Second interviews can be a bit different and you might face any number of individuals…all the way up to a panel interview.

Some interviews might start with the hiring manager, then transition into a meeting with your potential boss and then end up with other managers, co-workers, and supervisors. Others might jump straight into a panel or group interview with you meeting with more than one person at one time.

    • R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Regardless of the type of interview you are going into (individual, group or otherwise), treat each person with respect. Shake hands firmly, look them directly in the eye, and repeat their names as they are introduced. It’s also appropriate to ask for business cards. Not only does this make remembering who interviewed you easier, but it’ll make sending thank you notes at the end a snap (sneaky sneaky super smart move!)
    • ASSESS AND ANALYZE: This is also a great opportunity to assess each individual that you’ll be potentially working with as well. Remember, this is a two way street and you’re not just making a first impression…so are they! As you go through the interview, evaluate not only your own performance, but what impressions you get from your potential co-workers. If offered a job, you’ll be working with these people every day…keep that in mind! Are you comfortable with them or are there red flags popping up already? Is this an environment you’ll feel good working in or are you put off by something? How do you feel about your colleagues? What about your supervisors?
    • COME PREPARED!: Be prepared for the interview questions to be more specific this round. They are going to focus more on the details of the job and how your skills and knowledge fit what they’re looking for. It’s also a chance for the company to really find out how much you know about them and the industry overall. Again, this is why you do your research!
    • DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH!: Don’t forget to breathe! Don’t rush through your answers and think before you speak! Take a moment to really think (but don’t take too long!) We’ve compiled a list of potential second interview questions down below for you to practice on. Figure out what you’re going to say before you go in and keep your answers short and sweet. Remember to be brief in your answers…but not terse. Don’t ramble on endlessly or talk for so long that you lose your train of thought or forget what the initial question was…and try not to go off topic.
    • HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: I know we told you to be honest in the first round interview, but now more than ever that is true. BE HONEST! At this point you’re not just trying to make a good impression, you’re potentially making a life impacting decision about your future career. Don’t say what you think they want to hear for the short-term. The last thing you want is to be offered a job you don’t really want…or can’t really do. BE HONEST!

Ultimately your goal is to build on the stellar job you did in your first interview (hey, it’s why they called you in for round two, right?!) and really show them just why you are the ideal candidate for the job!

Second interviews are when companies really drill down and get to know candidates.

They want to make sure you’re a good fit and that the skills and knowledge you bring are also a good fit… and that means they’re hyper-evaluating everything!

Potential Second Interview Questions

The biggest difference between first interview questions and second interview questions really lies in the type of question that you are asked.

Generally speaking, in the first interview the company will want to get a feel for the type of person you are, and the questions they ask will emulate that desire.

But in the second interview, you can expect there to be more specificity regarding the position itself as well as a bit more prodding to determine how well you will fit the culture of your potential new team.

Having said that, this is not set in stone.

Every company goes about the questions a little bit differently, so you really need to be prepared for any type of question in both the first and second interview.

Having fun yet? 😉

One thing is for sure at this point in the game… employers are really trying to make sure you’re a good fit, so expect that these are going to be tougher than the first round.

Read through these questions and come up with your answers. We’ve given an example answer for the first two to get you started.  If you need some more help learning how exactly to formulate a perfect interview answer, head over to our blog post Job Interview Questions and Answers 101.

  • “What is it about this job that interests you?”
    • Don’t answer “The salary.” They probably already know that. This is a question that hiring managers ask because they want to know just how interested you are in the position! What you say here isn’t as important as how you say it. Yes, use the information you gathered about the position and use specific examples…but at the same time, be genuinely enthusiastic about the position. Do you want the job? Why? What about it interests you? Are you ready to do it for a long period of time? Are you excited by the idea of getting this position???
    • Remember to tailor your answer by infusing the skills and abilities they value into the answer itself (ex. if through your research you discover that they value “elite-level organization”, you must work this into your answer.  Demonstrate you have a passion for organization and this is what is really drawing you to the position.)
    • Example Answer: “I think the thing that really attracts me to this position is the opportunity to do work that best suits my skill-set, namely, my ability to curate and maintain large spreadsheets.  I’m a nerd at heart and have always appreciated the idea that well maintained data can help influence decisions on such a large scale for a company like yours.  Knowing that I have the opportunity to play such a huge role in influencing these decisions is a very attractive idea to me.”
  • “What do you want from your career and how does this job fit into that?”
    • This is a landmine question! Hiring managers usually don’t want to bring someone in and spend the time training them if they think this is just a temporary situation. If you’re applying for a job with the idea that you’ll be bailing out within mere months, that could be a potential red flag for an employer. Before they ask you this question, ask it of yourself! If the job you’re applying for is something you see yourself doing long term and leveraging into professional growth with the company, tell them that. If it’s just a quick way to make some cash and earn an employee discount…perhaps it’s time to rethink a whole multitude of things.
    • Example Answer (using the same example from above): “My main goal is to come into your organization and do the job I was hired to do to the highest level.  I understand that you are in need of some refinement and advancement in the quality of your data recording, and my hope is that I can come in and utilize my high-end organizational skills to have an immediate impact on your data collection.  If that all goes according to plan, I could see myself growing within the company, using my skills and this data to help make larger more impactful decisions at a senior management level.”
  • Can you give an example of your problem-solving abilities?
    • Employers are looking for competence and evaluating not only what you’re bringing to the team, but how you bring it! Before you go into the interview make sure you prepare for this question! Find a solid example from your past that demonstrates your skills at problem solving. Don’t just tell them that you solved a problem, tell them how you solved it and what you learned from the experience. Don’t overstate your role in the situation…again, be honest. If you have physical examples (ie, sales pitches, patents, designs, press releases, etc.) bring those along!
  • Can you give us what you think are your three most important qualifications for this position? (or why do you think you are qualified for this position?)
    • Again, this is a good one to ask yourself before the interview. Good examples include education, skills, past work, self-discipline, teamwork, attitude, etc. Figure out what you think are the three most important qualifications for the position and how you personally bring those to the table.
  • Why should we hire you?
    • (Ooh! We already answered this one for you! Check out our blog post!)

Wrapping Up

Once you’re done with your second interview it’s time to again assess where you are and what you want. Before you say goodbye, try to find out what the next step in the hiring process is.

Is there a third interview? If not, when should you expect a decision to be made and how do they let candidates know?

If everything goes so well that you’re offered the job on the spot (congrats you lucky duck!!) it’s perfectly ok to tell them you need to think before you accept.

If you’re not offered the job on the spot, don’t take it personally…rather take it as an opportunity to really think about the job.

Take into consideration how you felt about the people you met and the vibe you got from the company overall.

Now is the time to really evaluate how you feel about the company and the people who work there and how you’d feel working there as well.

Finally, don’t forget to send everyone who interviewed you a thank you note (good thing you got those business cards!) Even if you ultimately decide not to take the job, or it’s not offered to you, it’s always better to leave on a positive note.

Besides, you never know when another opportunity will open up with the same company!

Okay, okay, we threw a ton at you here…so let’s go back to the very beginning and say again…congratulations on making it to the second interview! You’re one step closer to showing them that you’re the ideal candidate and securing that job you’ve always wanted.

Remember, above everything else, be honest and be yourself.

Good luck!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are common second interview questions?

Here are some interview questions that often come up during a second interview and that you should be ready for (you can find example answers to these in our article):
1. “What is it about this job that interests you?”
2. “What do you want from your career and how does this job fit into that?”
3. “Can you give an example of your problem-solving abilities?
4. “Can you give us what you think are your three most important qualifications for this position?
5. “Why should we hire you?”

Is a second interview a good sign? Will I get the job?

First of all, getting a second interview is always a good sign. Obviously not all candidates get a second interview so clearly the company is showing interest in you.

Having said that, it depends on what exact stage of the interview process you’re in and what kind of position you’re interviewing for.

For example, getting a second “in person” interview is more impactful than getting an in person interview after a phone interview (despite it also being a second interview just like in the first example.)

Whether you’ll get the job after the second interview really depends on the position and company you’re interviewing with. For important roles in large companies you could have a series of interviews.

What are different types of second interviews?

Keep in mind that a second interview isn’t always going to be a simple one-on-one type interview. Here are the three types you’ll most often face:
1. One-on-one interview
2. Panel interview
3. Group interview

What are some good questions I can ask during a second interview?

Asking your own questions is even more important than during an initial interview. Here a re a few good ones you can use. (NOTE: Obviously the questions you ask will depend on the position and context of your own specific interview situation.)
1. Is there potential for professional growth with the company?
2. How is the department structured?
3. What are the daily duties and responsibilities of the position?

We go through more good questions to ask in our article!

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.