What to expect in a second interview: advice to help you stand out

You’ve impressed the hiring manager in your first job interview and now you’ve been invited back to meet the employer again. But you’re left wondering what you should expect in a second interview. A second interview is your chance to really stand out from the crowd and convince an employer to offer you the job.

It’s clear that you’re in the running – the employer thinks you are capable of doing the job, but perhaps there are other candidates the employer is still considering. So, it’s crucial to be well prepared for the second interview, just as you did ahead of your first interview.

If you know what to expect in a second interview, you can plan accordingly. This puts you in a stronger position to impress the employer and secure a job offer ahead of any other candidates. But the reality is, you should be prepared for anything in this follow-up exercise.

An employer needs to choose between a number of skilled professionals and this means they may ask a number of interview questions or even have different interviewers on the hiring panel.

Here’s what you should expect in a second interview:

1.    Greater focus on the detail
The employer may work through your resume, focusing on the qualifications and skills required to succeed in the role. This means it is important to know the specifications of the role and company, and how you experience is transferrable. You should be able to talk fluently about your achievements – particularly those related to your current job – and how they position you as an ideal hire.

2.    A different format
If your first interview consisted of an assessment, case study or presentation, you can expect the second meeting to be a more conventional Q&A exercise. This could be in front of a panel or it may take the form of a one-on-one interview. If your first interview was a one-on-one, it’s likely the second interview will be a different format, other stakeholders in the business may want to assess potential new recruits.

3.    A different interviewer
In many cases, the second interview will be conducted by a different interviewer. You could face questions from senior colleagues or managers, as various people within the organisation may contribute to the hiring decision. This means you won’t be able to fall back on the relationship you developed with the interviewer last time.

4.    Challenging questions
Occasionally during second interviews, employers test candidates with difficult questions, some of which appear slightly bizarre and unrelated to the job. This is to see how quickly you can think on your feet, and to allow your personality to shine through. Candidates who can cope with off-the-wall questions are often the most creative and adaptable – qualities employers value in potential hires. Employers are wanting to assess your fit for the company and the team you will be working with.

5.    Two-way street: Asking questions
As a candidate, you should have questions of your own. This is something to bear in mind when you are preparing for the interview; you should form a list of queries that weren’t answered in the first interview. These questions allow you to learn more about the opportunity and decide whether it is really the job for you. But they also give you the chance to impress the employer with your insight and professionalism.

6.    To tie up loose ends
If any of your answers in the original interview were incomplete, slightly muddled or of concern to the employer, you can expect them to be revisited. Similarly, if you ran out of time in the first interview and couldn’t give a complete response, the same topic may reappear. It’s important to think about what you could have done better in your initial meeting and ensure you prepare solid answers should similar questions or topics come up again.

7.    A tour of the workplace
During a second interview, it’s likely that the employer will offer to give you a tour of their office or work facility. You may be introduced to potential colleagues and see where you would be based. This is another opportunity for you to assess whether the job and workplace is the right fit for you.

8.    Discussion about salary
The employer may not offer a discussion on remuneration, however if it is raised during the second interview, it’s important to have done some research to establish how much you are worth. If you are able to show the added value you could provide to the employer by providing case studies and examples of how you have generated revenue or created efficiencies for your employer you will be better placed to negotiate your starting rate. In the case that they don’t bring up salaries during the interview, it is best not to bring up this topic up yourself, especially if you are working with a recruitment consultant who can negotiate on your behalf.

9.    What happens next?
At the end of a second interview, you should be informed on the next steps in the process and when a decision is likely to be made. In some circumstances, the employer may feel ready to make you a job offer on the spot. If they do, and you feel like you have to respond there and then, just politely ask the interview if you could have some time to fully consider the offer and be sure to provide the interviewer a timeframe in which you will respond. If the interviewer doesn’t mention next steps, ask them when they are likely to be in touch. You don’t want to set off for home without some indication as to when a decision will be made.

This article first appeared at Robert Half.