So you nailed your first job interview. You prepared ahead of time by doing research on the company, the role, and the hiring manager. You gave a compelling account of your skills and experience, relating each to the hiring manager’s most pressing challenges. You walked out feeling confident that they’d call you in for a second-round interview.
And so they have. Now what?
The first-round interview is a fast, nerve-wracking examination of your personality and ability. The second-round job interview, however, is a different creature altogether. The rules have changed and there are new expectations and challenges. Before you freak out about the next interview (“But I already told my best stories!”), take a deep breath and study up on our handy how-to for acing a second-round interview.
Bring New Ideas. By now, you’ve had time to think about it what you learned during the first round. You have a firmer understanding of the hiring manager’s needs and challenges, and company culture. Prepare for the second round by building on what you learned and offering new ideas and insights.
Dig Deeper. Now that you’ve passed the “getting to know you” phase, it’s time to ask more specific questions about the role, the company, the team, and your hiring manager. Prepare several informed questions for your interviewers, and don’t shy away from asking the hard questions. Now is the time to figure out if the role is actually right for you.
Expand On Your Experience. OK, maybe you actually did tell your best stories in the first round. But did you give details? Did you discuss the overall company strategy, the challenge at hand, and all of the steps and initiative you took to solve it? Add complexity and nuance to your story, and show just how much of a hero you really are.
Keep it Formal. The second-round interview is a still a formal business event, so treat it accordingly. Be on time. Often, you’ll be meeting with members of your new team, so bring extra copies of your resume. Depending on the company, you may or may not need to suit up again. If you don’t, you should still keep it professional. And even if you’re interviewer says, “Oh, just come in jeans,” don’t.
Radiate Confidence. If you’ve gotten to the second round, you obviously did something right. So keep doing what what you are doing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Start Making Demands. The second round is not the time to start negotiating salary, vacation, title, or flexible schedules. In fact, it’s not the time to negotiate anything. You’re just not there yet, and making this common mistake will turn an interested interviewer into someone looking to get you out the door ASAP. You can use this interview to find out what the company’s viewpoints are on these matters, but consider it a fact-finding mission only. Save any negotiation for the offer phase.
Flake Out. It’s common — and completely acceptable — to have reservations about a job after the first round of interviews. After all, every gig you interview for won’t be right for you. But now is not the time to assume, or to play hard-to-get. Consider your reservations and prepare questions that address them. If the answers you get in the second round confirm your hesitations, then politely let the hiring manager know that you appreciate their interest and their time, but the role just isn’t right for you.
Burn Bridges. If the job isn’t right for you, or if you’re not right for the job, don’t take it personally. Maintain a positive attitude and — as I mentioned above — thank the interviewer for their time and interest, and ask to be considered for any future roles that might suit your skills and experience. Remember: they liked you enough to bring you in again, so the potential is definitely there. You never know what might happen down the road.
The second round is when your hiring manager really starts to think about just whether or not you’re right for the job. Expect a longer, more in-depth discussion with a deeper focus on your skills and experience. If you’re poised, confident, and brimming with ideas during the second round, you might just find yourself preparing for the third.