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Shine Your Second Interview

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 

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

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.