What are second interviews really all about?

Joy! Your recruitment process is at second interview stage. For job seekers, this means you’re a big step closer to landing the position. If you’re a manager, you’ll soon have a new team member on board and your team working at full strength again. It’s time to celebrate, and also to take a deep breath and look at what the second interview is really all about.

Somewhere around 20% to 50% of candidates who are interviewed are offered a second interview. The second round is a chance for the line manager and senior staff to meet candidates and to ask further questions. Candidates may meet those who’ll be supervising them and working closely with them, and should be able to see where they would be working and meet prospective colleagues.

A word of warning: the person who gets a second interview has not got the job yet. Job seekers should not be complacent, and interviewers should be careful of giving the impression that the second interview is a mere formality.

Jonathan Foxley, Recruitment Manager at Challenge Consulting, explains: ‘Quite often people get ahead of themselves thinking they have it in the bag and that they made a good impression first time round, and that is why they’ve been called back.’ This is particularly the case with those with less experience at interviewing, he says. ‘Often they have impressed, and are eighty per cent of the way there. But then they throw it away by being too sure of themselves and leaving a bad impression second time around.’

If you’re a line manager, you may not have been at the first interview.  You may have been called in to give a second opinion, and feel apprehensive if you are not an experienced interviewer. Preparing yourself and knowing how the interview will be structured will help your decision making. This is your chance to meet and engage with the person you might work closely with.

  • Find out who else will be present. Will there be one or two interviewers, or a panel? What will the role of each interviewer be?
  • If you are new to interviewing, read our Interviewer tips for success.
  • Make sure you are briefed in depth about how candidates went at the first interview. Find out what issues should be followed up, such as any apparent skills weaknesses or lack of knowledge. As the person who knows the job best, do you have specific questions or concerns for each candidate to address?
  • Ask questions that address realistic scenarios in your team. If you ask a competency-based question, you may want to base it on an actual scenario in your team. Make it closely related to the work the person will be expected to do. Ask technical questions if you have concerns about skill levels.
  • Ask strengths-based questions that will highlight what aspects of the work the candidate loves, as this will give you insight into how the person might fit into your team. Strengths-based questions are a good way to get around candidates giving prepared, formulaic responses, and give you better insight into how the person might perform in your team.
  • Find out if there will be psychometric testing of candidates and make sure you are given the results.

If you’ve been called in for a second interview, here are some things you should know.

  • Ask who will be in the interview, what their roles are, and what the format of the interview will be. Remember that some of the people in this round might not be experienced interviewers.
  • You are likely to be interviewed by a person you will actually be working for, and the questions will be more closely related to the work you will be expected to do.
  • You may also be interviewed by more senior employees: your manager’s manger, for example, or even the head of the company in a smaller business.
  • The first interviewer will have briefed the second on any points from your first interview that should be followed up, particularly any areas they are concerned about. Think about parts of the interview than didn’t go so well, and prepare to be asked further questions about them.
  • Think about how the interviewer seemed to respond to you in the first interview. If anything made them look uneasy, you can be sure it will come up again in this interview, so be prepared.
  • The second interview is your chance to ask really good, probing questions. Think about new information you can bring or issues you did not have the chance to raise in the first interview.
  • Research the company even more thoroughly before going in for the second time. Find the interviewer’s profile on LinkedIn and take a look at the company’s profile on Glassdoor. Research the industry if you haven’t already been working in the area.
  • You may be invited on a tour of the organisation’s premises If you’re not, it’s okay to ask to be shown around and to meet employees.
  • You may be asked to take psychometric tests or other assessment tests at this stage. Again, ask if this is the case before you go to the interview, and allow enough time so that you are not stressed about how long the interview and testing may run for.