The job interview is going as you’d hoped. You meet the required qualifications, you have a rapport with the interviewers, and those practice sessions you and a friend ran through helped you present smoothly and confidently. You have a real shot at landing this job.
Then you hear that awkward question: “What’s your expected salary?”
Many job candidates dread this question about salary requirements. There’s the worry that, if you lowball a figure, you’re leaving money on the table. But if you give a number that’s too high, you might price yourself out of consideration for the role. No matter where you are in your career, that’s a tough calculation.
The good news is, when discussing compensation expectations, there are strategies to giving figures that will be fair to you and within the employer’s budget. Timing, tact and research are all key to your success when discussing money with a potential employer.
Here’s what to do:
1. Research the market and salary trends
No matter what type of position you are seeking, or at what level, the job interview is your opportunity to convince the hiring manager that you deserve top dollar. At the close of the interview, you want the prospective employer to be thinking, “That’s who I want to hire. Now, how to convince them to join our team?”
Compensation expectations might well come up during the first formal interview — or even during the initial phone vetting. That’s why you should start preparing your “expected salary” answer the moment you apply for the job. And that means you need to do your homework.
Check out reputable sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for federal data on wages in your industry. Also, review the 2021 Robert Half Salary Guides to get the average national salary for the position you’re seeking, then use our Salary Calculator to customize the figure for your market. Glassdoor is another great source: Go there to see if current or former employees of the company you’re interviewing with have shared paycheck details. (Just keep in mind that salary figures posted anonymously on review sites are not verified).
This is a critical first step. Never, never discuss salary expectations before researching the market.
2. Give a range, not a number
Job seekers shouldn’t ask about salary when submitting their application materials or during the phone vetting. Raising the topic of money too early sends the message that you’re more interested in the paycheck than the position.
But that doesn’t mean the employer won’t ask about salary requirements during the initial contact.
If a job post asks applicants to state their expected salary when applying for the position, then give a range — not a specific figure — you’re comfortable with. Answers like “Negotiable” might work, but they can also make you look evasive. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know what a fair salary range will look like.
Should the question of compensation come up during the initial phone call, you can still give a range — and hedge it even a bit more:
“From what I know about the position, I think somewhere in the area of $XX – $XX.”
That kind of phrasing shows flexibility, which employers appreciate. It also leaves room to adjust the figures, if you think it’s necessary, once you’ve learned more about the job and the employer’s expectations for the new hire.
3. Turn the question around
When it’s still early in the hiring process, there’s nothing coy about hedging with a salary range, as discussed above. An employer who asks about an expected salary before discussing the job in detail can’t demand a more definite answer.
But at this early stage, you also have an opportunity to turn the question around. Whether salary requirements come up during a phone vetting or at the start of your first video interview with the employer, you can smile and say:
“I’d like to learn more about the position and the duties, and what the team’s like, before discussing money. But may I ask what salary range you’re considering for this position?”
Delivered politely, you’ll demonstrate that your priority is learning whether the role is really what you’re looking for — which every employer will respect. And your deft invitation to share the budgeted salary range will be difficult to resist.
If the employer’s salary range is in the area you were considering, or even higher, thank them for sharing the information and confirm that the figure’s in your ballpark. If it’s a little less, say it’s at the lower end of what you were hoping for, but you’d still like to talk about the job.
Why do that? Even in this challenging job market, you’ll find some companies are prepared to offer better pay to hire top talent. According to a new Robert Half survey of 2,800 managers in the U.S., 28 percent of employers said they have increased starting salaries for new hires since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Demonstrate you have just what the employer is looking for, and you’ll likely be able to negotiate a salary figure to your liking as you hammer out the details of the job offer.
If the employer is starting at a much lower range than your desired compensation, then say so and ask whether the figures would be adjusted for the right hire. Don’t waste your time or the employer’s if it’s clear from the start that you won’t reach an agreement on salary.
4. Now it’s time to give a number, not a range
At some point, you have to commit. By the second interview (or certainly the third, if the process lasts that long), you’ve likely learned what you need to know about the job and how success will be measured, you’ve met team members, and you’ve already shared the salary range you were considering — or the employer has shared the figure they’ve budgeted for the position. The candidate’s compensation expectations, and whether the employer can meet them, remain the only major unsettled questions. So when an employer now asks you to give your expected salary, you have to be ready to give a number, not a range.
Factor in all you’ve learned during your research and the interview process. Are the responsibilities and the stress level about what you expected when you applied for the position? Will you manage people or processes the original job posting didn’t mention? Perhaps most importantly, what employee benefits, perks and bonus opportunities will be included in the compensation package?
Any and all of that information should help you arrive at a salary figure that you think is fair and will be acceptable to the employer. You may have had to tip your hand when salary requirements first came up, but that doesn’t mean you’re committed to the range you originally gave. Phrase your answer by citing, briefly, the points you think are salient to compensation expectations. Even better if you can frame it in a positive manner. For example:
- “Given the responsibilities of the position and the number of people I’d be managing, I think $XX is a fair figure. It’s an exciting opportunity, and I truly believe I’m the person for the job.”
- “I’m really excited by the challenges you described! $XX seems like the right starting salary. There’s a lot to take on, and I’m confident I’d succeed in the role.”
- “I’m thinking $XX. This is a big job — one I’m well familiar with and well suited for. I led a similar team at my past employer, and we hit all the goals we were charged with. I’d be very excited to take on another challenge like this!”
- “I remember the salary range you gave me earlier, and I respect the fact that you have to work within a budget. But I’d like to suggest $XX as the starting salary. The responsibilities of this role are quite demanding, and as we’ve both said, I have all the necessary skills and training. I believe I can deliver the results you said you’re looking for.”
Keep it positive and friendly. Be confident and polite. And above all …
5. Always be truthful
Never misrepresent your experience, your training or the impact you’ve had at your current or previous job. Don’t do it on your resume or in your cover letter, during interviews, or when discussing salary requirements. The truth is bound to come out — maybe during your reference checks, maybe during a skills test, or maybe once the employer sees how you perform at the new job. At some point, it will come out.
The same is true about your current or past salary. It’s best to always direct the conversation to your skills and the value you’d bring to the role, not what you’ve been paid at other jobs. However, if you are asked about your current salary, be honest. Discovery that you inflated the numbers might lead to the loss of the job offer.
What to do after you’ve settled on salary
The employer made the offer, and the salary meets or comes close to your compensation expectations. What now? Thank the hiring manager and ask for a day or two to mull things over, if you feel you need the time.
If you decide to take the job, express your enthusiasm and talk about the start date. Then ask for a formal, written offer so you can make sure everything that you’ve discussed, from job description and pay to perks and benefits, is correct. Don’t risk any misunderstandings about your agreement. And don’t give notice at your current job until you’ve signed and returned that written offer.
Given the impact of COVID-19 and the current calls for social distancing, it’s likely your next interview could be a video interview. Make sure you’re ready to get in front of the camera by following these video interview tips.
If you’ve never been asked to participate in a video interview during your job hunt, you will be soon. The way we work, and the way we compete for work, is radically changing. So is the hiring process for an ever-growing number of employees.
Whether you’re an old hand with years of traditional interviewing experience, or this is your first time on the job market, video interviews don’t have to be a stressor. Yes, there are distinct nuances to understand. But with some practice and the right mindset, you can put yourself in a position to shine as easily as you would in a face-to-face interview.
Here are eight video interviewing tips that will help you advance to the next round.
1. Test your technology
A few days before the interview, do a technical trial run to make sure your equipment is working correctly. Download any apps or plugins you’ll need. Whether you’re using Skype for Business or another video platform, make sure you have a username that’s professional, just as you would with your email address or social media handle. Check that your computer’s camera, microphone and internet connection are working. Do a trial run with a friend or family member, if possible, so you have ample time to adjust if any of your equipment or software is malfunctioning.
2. Charge it up
If you’re using a laptop or tablet, make sure it’s fully charged on the day of the interview. And pick a spot that has strong Wi-Fi. If you’re using a tablet, find a way to keep it stationary. Otherwise, the screen may appear shaky if you’re holding the device. Avoid using a smartphone for video interviews if possible.
3. Dress for success
Dress as you would for an in-person interview from head to toe. Doing so will make you feel more confident. Don’t try the old newscaster trick of wearing a blazer with sweatpants assuming you’ll only be seen from the waist up. Also, avoid wearing bright, flashy colors and choose something that looks neatly pressed while you’re sitting down. Wear your video interview outfit during your trial run so you can get feedback from your friend or family member about how it looks on screen.
4. Set the stage for a distraction-free video interview
Choose a location that’s free from the distractions of children, roommates or pets. Hang a sign on the door asking mail carriers and package deliverers not to ring the doorbell.
Make sure the background is free from clutter and embarrassing items like laundry piles. Set up lighting that’s bright but not glaring, illuminating your face from the front. Natural light is best.
Turn off email, text and social media alerts, software updates and other notifications that may show up on the screen during the interview. Turn off programs that might interfere with the webcam, and close browser tabs.
5. Be a well-prepared early bird
Log in five or 10 minutes early so you can be calm and centered when the video interview begins. Print out your resume and have it nearby, along with the job description and any speaking points you want to hit or notes you’ve taken about the company or position. You won’t want to read from the pages, but having them handy can take away some stress.
Expect to field some common interview questions, including:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What’s your expected salary?
6. Maintain good eye contact and body language
It’s easier for your eyes to wander when the person you’re talking to isn’t in the room. Maintain “eye contact” by looking directly into the camera instead of at the screen or at your own photo. Make sure your face is centered and try not to move around. Keep good posture, sitting with your back straight, feet on the ground and arms resting in your lap or on the desk.
7. Project and pause
Project your voice. Check your volume controls and speak clearly so the microphone picks up your voice and the interviewer doesn’t have to strain to hear you. And remember that digital connections can sometimes be delayed. To avoid talking over the interviewer or having your first few words cut out, let the interviewer finish the question and then pause for a few seconds before delivering your answer.
8. Close the video interview by sharing your appreciation
Just as you would with any interview, thank the interviewer for the opportunity. And follow up with a post-interview thank-you note within 24 hours. In your note, briefly reinforce why you’re interested in the job and why you’d be a great match for the role and company. Think about adding something that you and the employer discussed while getting to know each other that will make the thank-you message more personal.
Looking for more job interview tips? Here’s how to shine in a second interview.
Along with answering common interview questions about your weaknesses or why you want the job, “What’s your reason for leaving your current job?” is one of those challenging questions that require you to prepare an answer beforehand.
In fact, giving sound reasons for wanting to change roles can actually strengthen your chances of securing a new opportunity. On the other hand, not having a solid answer can negatively impact your odds of getting the job.
Here are some tips for how to discuss your reasons for leaving a job, an explanation of why employers ask the question and how not to answer it.
Why do employers ask, ‘What’s your reason for leaving a job?’
This question isn’t designed to trick you into making yourself look bad. By exploring the reasons behind a job move, a potential employer is attempting to learn about your career goals and whether or not you’re leaving on good terms.
Giving your reasons for leaving a job helps interviewers determine what satisfaction and engagement at work looks like to you. It can show what your long-term career plan is and what you want to get out of a new role.
What is a good reason for leaving a job?
There are obviously many acceptable reasons for leaving your current job. Rather than planning an overly contrived response, try viewing the question as an opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic and desire to grow. Here are five examples you might consider:
1. More responsibility and better career growth — If you aren’t being given the appropriate resources to grow and learn in your current role, it’s important to bring this to the attention of a possible new employer when sharing your reasons for leaving your job. Wanting to develop your skills is a sign of employee engagement and adds extra value to a company, making it an admirable quality rather than a liability. Remember to give examples of the kinds of skills you wanted to build on and tangible ways you’d like to go about doing it.
2. A career change — Wanting to change careers doesn’t make you fickle. It can serve as an indicator that you’re dedicated to finding interesting and meaningful work. By explaining your career development plan and outlining your ultimate end goal, you can demonstrate your drive and commitment.
3. Company reorganization — Company restructuring can often lead to cutbacks or new team dynamics, which can cause employee dissatisfaction. If this is your reason for leaving a job, it’s helpful to give some examples as to why the new structure isn’t working for you, what you’ve done to try and improve things and what you’d change. This shows your level of investment, your problem-solving skills and how you gave a serious effort to being a team player in the face of a challenge.
4. Better work–life balance — On the face of it, this may feel like a negative answer. However, most employers know that offering staff a good work-life balance leads to better performance and increased job satisfaction. Indeed, employees can easily become burned out at work if they’re consistently logging 12-hour days or working every weekend. When discussing work-life balance, avoid blaming your previous employer and instead focus on what you’re seeking, whether it’s a four-day workweek or flexible hours.
5. Relocation — Sometimes a good answer to why you’re leaving your current job is as simple as the desire or need to relocate. If this is the case, explain why you’re making the move, what skills you can offer the company and what you feel are the benefits of a new job and location.
What does a bad answer look like?
It’s all too easy to stray into dangerous territory when answering a question like “What’s your reason for leaving your job?” Here are a few examples of what not to do when answering this question.
- Complaining — Avoid launching into a barrage of complaints about your former workplace or colleagues. Doing so is more likely to make you look bitter or negative, and these are not qualities hiring managers are seeking. Instead, emphasize the positives, such as what you learned and the opportunities you enjoyed at your previous job.
- Criticizing a manager — Even if managerial conflict was your reason for leaving a job, try to approach the subject in a tactful, positive way. If your boss had a tendency to micromanage your projects, you can mention that fact but also explain how you created daily or weekly updates on all your assignments so your manager was up to date. Ultimately, speaking badly of a previous employer may come across as being unprofessional.
Taking the time to formulate a positive answer to why you’re leaving your job will help you approach an upcoming job interview with confidence.
Why do you want to work here? It’s a common interview question, but also one that can be challenging to answer, especially when you try to wing it. Not preparing a solid response to this question is risky because it could make all the difference in whether a potential employer extends a job offer to you — or not.
Why is this interview question so important? Think of it from the employer’s perspective: The business wants to hire someone who believes strongly in the company’s mission and wants to make a positive impact on the organization and its clients or customers. Also, searching for a candidate who is a strong fit for the position and the company can be a costly and time-consuming process. So, hiring managers want to help their employer realize a good return on their investment.
When might you hear the “Why do you want to work here?” question? At any point in the job interview, really. However, you’re most likely to encounter it early in the meeting, when the interviewer may use it to set the tone for the conversation. It can also come up toward the end of the interview, as the hiring manager seeks to confirm your interest and enthusiasm for the opportunity now that you’ve learned more about it.
Be on the lookout for other forms of the question, such as, “Why do you want to work with us?” and “Why are you interested in this position?” Combined, these are among the questions most commonly asked when you interview for jobs.
Examples of what not to say
Exactly how you should respond to the question of “Why do you want to work here?” depends on the job and the organization — and, of course, you and how you want to express yourself. Knowing how to formulate a meaningful response to suit most any interview situation begins with understanding what employers probably don’t want to hear. Some examples include:
- “Honestly, I just need a job and this one looked interesting.” This is a candid response, to be sure. But it does nothing to demonstrate a sincere interest in the role or company. Plus, the hiring manager might have concerns that you’d be quick to leave the firm for another opportunity you find more compelling.
- “I’ve heard this company offers good pay and benefits.” Any company wants to be viewed as an employer of choice, and leading firms recognize that they must offer competitive compensation to hire top talent. That said, they don’t want to recruit people whose primary motivation to work for the business is money.
- “I see this as a step to bigger and better things.” While no employer expects every worker to stay with the organization for the long term, a response like this one implies you’re more focused on the future than the now. It also suggests that you already have one foot out the door before you’ve even been hired.
A more thoughtful approach to explaining why you want the position
One of the keys to coming up with a compelling answer to “Why do you want to work here?” is to flip the question, like this: “Why would this company want to hire me?” In other words, think more about what you have to offer, and how you could make an impact than why getting the job would benefit you. Here are a few things to consider as you develop your response:
- How can you help the company succeed? Read up on what’s happening with the company and its industry. Has it recently changed its product or service offerings? What competitive pressures is it facing? Consider this landscape and think, “What knowledge and experience do I have that would be especially useful to this employer right now?”
- What past career successes could you potentially repeat at this company? In previous jobs, how did you meet or exceed your employers’ expectations? What problems did you play a major role in solving? What ideas did you introduce that helped the company save money or otherwise boost its bottom line? What lessons have you learned that you could apply in the future to create value for the potential employer?
- How will you complement the company’s culture? A candidate’s ability to fit within the organizational culture is an important hiring factor for many employers. So, do your homework on the company’s culture and identify what you find most appealing about it. For instance, if the firm encourages entrepreneurial thinking and that’s important to you, include that in your response.
Rolling out your response with a smooth lead-in
When you’re asked, “Why do you want to work here?”or “Why are you interested in this position?” in an actual interview situation, you want to deliver your prepared answer in a way that sounds polished but natural. Consider using one of the following lead-ins as the inspiration for crafting your tailored response:
- “I see this opportunity as a way to contribute to an exciting/forward-thinking/fast-moving company/industry, and I feel I can do so by/with my … ”
- “I feel my skills are particularly well-suited to this position because … ”
- “I believe I have the type of knowledge to succeed in this role and at the company because … ”
- “I’m excited about this job opportunity, as it would allow me to … ”
When faced with the question “Why do you want to work here?” (or other challenging ones like “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your greatest weaknesses?”), some job seekers freeze up because they worry that they’ll say the wrong thing. But if you anticipate the question and take time to prepare an answer before the interview, you’ll avoid feeling flummoxed — and your chances of hitting the mark with a winning answer will rise.
Employers have long expected job candidates to do some company research for an interview, but many applicants skip this step or only do the bare minimum of homework.
And they’re passing up a great opportunity.
Learning more about a prospective employer can give you an edge over the competition. Doing your homework will enable you to craft a tailored resume and customized cover letter that will catch a hiring manager’s eye.
Here are 7 tips to help you nail your company research:
1. Start with the company’s website
You don’t have to be a super sleuth to do company research. All you need are a couple free hours and some Wi-Fi. Visiting a company website’s About Us page is likely to give an overall description of the company, a mission statement, and maybe even profiles of staff or senior leadership. Read it all. And be sure to check out the company’s social media feeds as well.
2. Search for outside info on the company
While a company’s website is a great place to begin, it shouldn’t be your only stop. It’s only going to present a rosy view. A savvy job candidate will go one step further to learn what others have to say about the business. Do a web search for the company and look for relevant articles from trade publications, business journals, local newspapers, and Wall Street analysts covering that industry. They will give you a more objective and multi-faceted view, including information on the company’s financial stability, how well it carries out its service philosophy, and details on its services, products, customers, and primary competitors.
Also check employer review sites such as Glassdoor and Fairygodboss to see the comments of employees, former employees and applicants who have interviewed at the company. This will give you an unvarnished look at the interviewing process — and the organizational culture (see tip No. 3 for more).
3. Carefully evaluate the workplace culture
It’s a little harder to uncover, but you need to ensure that a company’s culture is the right fit for you. Each company has its own unique style. There are companies that have relaxed workplace cultures, and companies that take a more buttoned-up approach. Businesses variously place an emphasis on, for example, a collaborative work environment, work-life balance, or a flat organizational structure that helps involve workers more in key decision-making processes. Make sure a company’s values are aligned with your own. (Finding out about a firm’s organizational culture can also give you hints as to what you should wear to an interview.)
4. Leverage your network
Scroll through your contacts list and find people who might know a thing or two about the company, or even work there, and ask them to share their insights and experiences. LinkedIn can also be an invaluable resource. With millions and millions of users, many of whom are senior in their industry, you may be able to uncover a lot about a company and the employees who work there.
And while you’re doing online company research for an interview, it’s a good idea to take a fresh look at your own digital footprint as well. It’s a safe bet that the people seeking to interview you are taking a look.
5. Connect with a recruiter
Having a recruiter can make all the difference. Recruiters with specialized staffing agencies understand the nuances of the job market in your area. They know what companies need and can deliver your candidacy as the solution. Finding a great job can often feel like a job itself. Finding a recruiter can help alleviate much of the burden.
If you do choose to work with a recruiter, be sure to carefully consider their recommendations, whether it’s advice about tailoring a resume and cover letter or coaching on job interview best practices. They are the professionals, and they are there to help.
6. Pursue informational interviews
It’s a wise idea to take a broader approach to your research, extending it to learning about the field or industry you’re interested in, not just the company at which you hope to land an interview for an open position. There’s no better way of doing this than setting up an informational interview. Because you’ll be gaining knowledge straight from the source — people currently employed in that field — you’ll be able to ask informed questions as opposed to simplistic ones when you do get to the real interview.
Seek out people who’ve been actively involved for at least three or four years in the field you’re researching. If you don’t know anyone who meets these qualifications, get names from friends, relatives, classmates, or even your alumni association.
Be transparent with your motivation, however. Don’t use the meeting as a pretext to get through the door and make a pitch for a specific job. You’re asking for an informational interview, so you should keep it as an informational interview. When approaching someone about such a discussion, you may want to use the word meeting rather than interview so there’s no misunderstanding about your purpose.
7. Find out who you’ll be talking to at the job interview
When a company invites you for an in-person job interview, sometimes HR representatives will indicate the name of the interviewer, but not always. If they don’t, when you reply and accept, be sure to politely ask if they know who you will be interviewing with. Take note of the title, the spelling of the name, and the proper salutation. Then research that person just like you did the company at large. At minimum, look them up on LinkedIn to see if you have any shared connections — whether that’s people, places worked, schools attended, or nonprofits you both are interested in. Weaving in a reference like one of these during the interview will help you begin to establish a rapport with the HR rep or hiring manager.
Not knowing enough about the company you’re applying to is one of the biggest mistakes you can make — but also one of the most avoidable. Company research for an interview will make you better prepared, so when you do sit down for that meeting you can make a solid case as to why the company should hire you. They’ll see you as a candidate who takes the initiative to learn about the company’s values, workplace culture and mission, as opposed to the candidate who gives cut-and-paste job interview answers.
In short, there are no downsides to doing your homework before the big job interview.
“Tell me about yourself.” It’s one of the most common (and tricky) job interview questions. Even so, many job seekers don’t take the question seriously, thinking it’s just an icebreaker meant to put them at ease.
But they should carefully consider their response, because “tell me about yourself” is more than a throwaway opener for most interviewers. When hiring managers pose this open-ended question, they’re hoping candidates will offer insight about their goals and priorities, which gives them a better sense of who each job candidate really is.
And that’s not all: Interviewers also ask this question to evaluate how confident interviewees are, which in turn gives them a view of how new hires might present themselves to customers, clients and colleagues if they get the job.
As a job seeker, knowing how to answer, “tell me about yourself,” gives you a great opportunity to spotlight the skills and experience that make you the ideal candidate for the job. And because it’s a question that many hiring managers lead with, it’s also your way to start off on the right foot. Here are a few more job interview tips to help you nail your response:
What you should not say
Many job candidates make the mistake of answering this question with talk of something personal. Some even launch into their life story, starting with their hometown and continuing on through their college graduation.
Alternately, others share descriptions of the problems in their current job, explaining that they applied for this position because their boss is a micromanager or their employer won’t allow them to work a flexible schedule.
And some job seekers simply summarize their resume, going point-by-point through their work experience and education history.
All three of these responses can quickly send your new-job dreams down the tubes. If you answer with either of the first two, hiring managers see a red flag — an indication that you’re not that serious about the position or simply trying to escape a bad situation at your current job.
And if you go with the third approach, you’re throwing away an opportunity. You can assume the interviewers read your resume before inviting you for the interview, and they don’t need you to walk them through it.
Craft an elevator pitch
The best way of knowing how to answer, “tell me about yourself,” is to make sure you succinctly and clearly explain how you’re suited for this particular job and — just as important — why you want it. So before you start crafting your selling points, spend some time reviewing the job description in the recruitment ad for the position and researching the company. That way you’ll have a good understanding of what the hiring manager is looking for as far as skills and experience.
Next, prepare a short script that highlights your post relevant abilities, strengths and areas of expertise. Follow that with the reasons you’re applying for the job, focusing on career-related motivations such as the desire to build your experience and take on added responsibilities. Conclude with a brief statement explaining why working for this specific company appeals to you.
A strong sample answer
Here’s an example of an excellent response to “tell me about yourself” for a job seeker applying for a senior administrative assistant position with a clean-energy company:
“I’ve been working as an administrative assistant for three years. At my current job in the finance department of a midsize company, I handle scheduling, meeting and travel planning for four executives and 20 staff members. I also help prepare correspondence, presentations and reports.
“I’m known for being a detail-oriented, well-organized team player. I never miss deadlines, I’m a good communicator and I can juggle multiple tasks at once. In my performance reviews, my supervisor always notes that he appreciates my professionalism and enthusiasm for the job.
“With this experience under my belt, I’m looking for an opportunity to take the next step in my career. I’m hoping to do so in an organization like yours that works to improve the environment, which is something I’m passionate about.”
A final word on how to answer, ‘tell me about yourself’
Be concise. Don’t take up too much time with your response. You don’t have to tell the hiring manager every single thing that you think makes you a great candidate. Just give a few important details that will spark their interest in learning more about you, and you’ll get the interview off to a strong start.
Congratulations! You’ve been asked back for a second interview. At this point, you’re being seriously considered for the position based on your success in the first interview. You were well-prepared for the initial meeting, but you should know what questions for a second interview to anticipate.
What’s different about this interview? The second round can be much more involved. For one thing, you can expect new faces. Follow-up interviews give you the chance to meet different people than those you talked to before. Some businesses conduct a panel interview so a mix of senior executives, managers and potential coworkers can get to know you at the same time.
To show you how to prepare for a second interview, we’ll give you sample second interview questions, ideas of how to answer them and other important considerations for this interview phase.
Potential questions for a second interview
First-round interview questions typically focus on the applicant’s skills and experience. Second interview questions are aimed at helping the interviewer or panel visualize you in the role. Here are 15 questions you might be asked, along with some savvy ways to respond to them:
1. Tell me again what interests you about this job and what skills and strengths you plan to bring to it.
Note that the question is not, “What are your skills and strengths?” but “What skills and strengths can you bring to the job?” Answer in the context of contributions you can make to the company.
2. Do you have anything you want to revisit from your first interview?
This is one where you’ll need to be prepared. A bad answer is, “Not really.” Before the job interview, make a list of things that occurred to you after your last conversation that you’d want to bring up.
3. What is your greatest weakness?
Yes, some managers still ask this question, even on the second interview. Be honest about an actual negative trait, but follow up immediately with how you’re working to overcome it. Some examples of acceptable weaknesses include impatience, discomfort with public speaking and wanting to do things your own way.
4. Can you tell me a little more about your current/most recent job?
Note that the employer is asking for more than what you’ve described in your resume or during the initial interview. You should be able to give a short and precise summary of duties and responsibilities at your most recent position. Be careful not to sound negative about the job or your employer.
5. Describe a professional achievement you’re especially proud of.
This request is not only evaluating your career priorities but also testing your ability to explain what you do in terms anyone can understand. Instead of using jargon and acronyms, explain the significance of your accomplishment in plain English. One idea is to highlight an anecdote that shows you can work with people in other departments or those outside of your field, a key characteristic of a good team player.
6. How did you change your current/most recent job?
A convincing answer here shows adaptability and a willingness to take the bull by the horns, if necessary. Talking about times you chose to do a job differently from other people highlights your creativity and resourcefulness.
7. What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make on the job?
This one tests your integrity and decision-making style. Make sure your answer fits the company culture.
8. Looking back, what could you have done to make a bad workplace relationship better?
This interview question is attempting to find out whether you’re capable of rising above an unpleasant situation or learning from past mistakes, both highly desirable qualities. A bitter, critical answer may indicate someone who holds grudges or simply can’t get along with certain kinds of people. A reflective, positive answer will show that you try to minimize personality conflicts — and don’t use them as excuses for failing to move forward. The employer is surely looking for a candidate who tries to be tactful and diplomatic but nonetheless stands up for what’s right.
9. Do you prefer to work alone or with other people?
The ideal answer here is “both.” People who say they like working with information are obviously a good choice for technical positions, but it may be a red flag if the interviewer perceives you don’t also enjoy communicating or lack collaboration skills — increasingly a function of even highly technical jobs.
10. What sorts of things do you think your current/past company could do to be more successful?
This one is a great big-picture question. The interviewer is probing to find out whether you have a clear understanding of your current or past employer’s missions and goals and whether you’ve worked with those objectives in mind.
11. Can you describe a typical day at work in your last job?
The interviewer wants to see how your current (or most recent) routine compares with the requirements of the job in question. If what you did on a day-to-day basis in your last job is vastly different from what you’ll be expected to do with the new position, it could be a concern for the employer.
12. What sort of work environment do you prefer?
Plain and simple, the interviewer wants to find out whether you’re going to be a good fit with the company as expressed in your own words. Weave your answer around your perception of the corporate style there — as long as it’s truly what you’re seeking.
13. Have you ever been in a work situation where you were asked to do something you felt was unethical?
This is another case where you should give specifics, if possible. The interviewer knows no rational job candidate is going to say that sometimes it’s OK to be unethical. But how you approach answering and any anecdotes you share can increase the company’s comfort level with hiring you.
14.What would you consider an acceptable salary for this position?
There are numerous ways this could be asked, depending on whether compensation has been discussed previously. Still, the last thing you want is to be caught off guard by a salary-related question. Find out what salary level your skills, experience and location can help you earn by consulting resources like the Robert Half Salary Guides. During negotiations, don’t forget other perks and benefits important to you, such as telecommuting options, flexible work hours and opportunities for professional development.
15. If you got the job, what would you do in your first year to establish yourself?
Don’t be surprised to get targeted queries like this. Conduct in-depth company research to show you know your potential employer inside and out, and be clear about what you can do in this job to make a quick impact.
How can you prepare for a second interview?
Aside from practicing your answers to possible questions for a second interview, there are other things to contemplate and anticipate:
- Loose ends to tie up — Was there a question from the first interview that you didn’t answer completely? Or did the interviewer mention that they wanted to cover a topic but ran out of time? Remember those loose ends from the initial interview. Prepare for them so you can respond more fully during the second interview.
- Off-the-wall questions — Some employers enjoy asking tricky questions, such as, “If you were stranded on an island, what’s the one item you would want to have with you, and why?” to see how well you think on your feet. Plus, these questions test your problem-solving skills and reveal a bit of your personality.
- Stories to tell — Sell yourself with a few success stories of past accomplishments. Don’t just say that you’re good at what you do. Stand out by giving specific examples of how you helped solve a problem or describing your actions in dealing with a challenge that connects with your audience.
- Tour of the facility — If you didn’t get a tour during the first interview, your potential employer may show you around, introduce you to potential coworkers, and point out where your office may be. This is your chance to express as much interest as possible in different parts of the company’s operations.
- Discussion of the next steps — At the end of the second interview, the interviewer will likely tell you what happens next (possibly a third interview) and when you will hear from them. Or they could offer you the position on the spot. If they do, you don’t typically have to decide right then — unless you’re certain you want the job. Otherwise, let them know you want time to decide and when they will hear back from you. If they don’t mention next steps, be sure to ask when they will be in touch or if you should follow up.
Questions you can ask the interviewer
During your second interview, you’ll likely be free to ask more questions than you did during your first interview. That’s good, because you’ll probably think of more probing questions as you learn more about the company, employees and the job itself. As you prepare for the second interview, write down your queries as you think of them.
Don’t bother with questions that have answers on the company’s website. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions (and leave the detailed compensation questions for later).
Here’s some food for thought to get you started.
- What do you like most about working here?
- What is your management style?
- How do you measure the responsibilities and performance of those you supervise?
- How would you describe your ideal employee?
- What’s the greatest challenge that will likely be faced in this job in the first year?
- What are your next steps in the hiring process?
4 final tips for success in a second interview
- Bring work samples, if you have them, in case there are people you didn’t share them with during your first interview.
- Review your resume (again) and keep your communication consistent with it.
- If you’re asked some of the same questions you answered the last time, give as thorough an answer as if it was the first time.
- Remember to send a thank-you note to each person you interview with.