How to conduct a second interview that isn’t just like the first

by Pete Roythorne

Second interviews are an important part of the recruitment process as they enable you to take a much closer look at any prospective employee. You get to see how the candidate adapts to preparing in a very different way compared to the first interview. Here we present a guide to help you through the second interview process and reach a successful hire.

Recruiters may think that every interview is the same; but once they’ve interviewed the first round of candidates in the early stages of a recruitment process, the second round of the interviews requires a very different approach.

Although not every recruiter will feel they need the second interview stage, for most people they do form an important part of the recruitment schedule. Second interviews give companies a range of opportunities, from getting a ‘second opinion’ on candidates to assessing them by more thorough and accurate methods than the traditional one-to-one interview.

The second interview may also be the point at which you negotiate the terms of an offer, allowing you to move forward with your final selection, so they are more often than not the place where the actual hiring decision takes place. It’s these factors that set the second interview apart from the first and why they require a different set of skills and considerations.

Here we set out the process that recruiters need to consider to have a successful second interview.

Unlike the first interview, you need to narrow your selection down to a maximum of two or three candidates for the second interview. Any more than that and you’re likely to need another layer of interviews, making the process too unwieldy.

Ideally interviews should be set up so that each of the candidates is interviewed as close to each other, time wise, as possible. If you leave too long between the interviews, the chances are you will have forgotten something about previous interviewees and so will be unable to make a clear decision. The ideal scenario would be for candidates to be interviewed on consecutive days.

When you are arranging the interviews make sure you explain to the candidates what the second interview will entail and who’ll be participating. Make sure you remind them to bring any necessary portfolios etc in order to demonstrate their expertise and competencies to other interviewers whom may be present. 

Get more people involved
It is often best to make sure that you have another colleague involved in any second interview so as to be able to get a broader spread of opinion about a candidate’s suitability. These people should be other managers and people that are likely to come into day-to-day contact with the future employee.

Make sure you review all the notes from your first interviews before the second round begins. You’ll also need to share these with any other interviewers and explain any findings and thoughts from the interview. Of course, while other interviewers should be informed about what has gone on before, you should also stress they need to come to their own conclusions.

It’s a good idea to begin the second interview process by asking a series of predetermined questions you have chosen between you to highlight the core competencies of the interviewee. These questions should be more in-depth than basic job-related questions, as you are trying to find out what makes each candidate tick. This may seem like an obvious point, but make sure that you ask all the interviewees the same questions.

Put your candidate at ease
The main purpose of a second interview is to get a better impression of a potential candidate’s personality and skills. For this reason, you need to try and make the interviewee as comfortable and relaxed as possible. This will make them feel at ease which will allow them to give the best account of themselves. Simple things like enquiring about their journey or offering them a drink can help create a more relaxed feel. Diving straight into an interview can seem more like an interrogation, and this gives off all the wrong signals.

Make sure you go over your impressions from the first interview with the candidate and state the areas you really want to explore with them this time round. It’s important to remember that more often than not, the purpose of a second interview is to narrow the focus to the candidate’s specific qualifications or re-examine areas of particular interest to the company.

Get down to basics
As the second interview will more than likely be the point at which you make your hiring decisions, you need to make sure you cover all the bases properly. Check when the candidate would be able to start the job, for example. And make sure that salary expectations are not askew with what you are offering, you really need to leave no stone unturned at this point. Understanding these important pieces of information will allow you to move forward as quickly as possible.

Question time
it’s not all about you. The second interview also represents the best opportunity for any candidate to really get to grips with your company, so you need to give them the opportunity to ask questions. Make sure you answer these questions in as much depth as possible, especially if you’re selling the position and want to give the impression that the company embraces the concept of full disclosure.

Tie up loose ends
Don’t leave your candidate hanging; make sure they know where they stand. Sometimes you may want to make a conditional offer at the end of the interview, however it is more likely that you will want to see other people first.

Make sure the candidate is aware of the process. Tell them if you are still seeing other people and how long it will be before you are back in touch with them. Also, it is always helpful to invite the candidate to email you with any other questions in the coming days before you make your decision. Make sure you conclude the interview by restating your company’s interest in them and thanking them for their time. 

And finally… Walk the walk
At this stage it is more important than ever to make sure you follow through on what you have promised. For example, if you said you will make a decision by the following Tuesday then keep them in the picture. If the process is delayed for any reason, tell them. This will leave them with a feeling that your company is organised and professional.

Following these simple steps will ensure you really get the most out of your second interview process.

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