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Do's and Don'ts for Second (and Subsequent) Job Interviews

By Katharine Hansen

It's gratifying to be called for a second or subsequent interview because you are another step closer to the job.  Don't blow it now!   Read our second-interview do's and don'ts.

Do's

  • Take a practice run to the location where you are having the interview -- or be sure you know exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there.
  • Remember these three words: More, More, More.  Compared to the first interview, a second interview will likely involve more preparation, more people, more questions, more intensity, and more pressure -- in addition to more likelihood that you will land the job.
  • Prepare -- even more than you did for the first interview.  Presumably you researched the company before the first interview.  Now it's time to delve even deeper into that research using Guide to Researching Companies, Industries, and Countries.  If you are a college student, particularly seek out alumni from your school or sorority/fraternity who work for the employer.  Also be sure you're up to date on developments in your field or industry by reviewing trade publications.
  • Be up on business dining etiquette if you are asked to dine with representatives of the prospective employer, see Job-Hunting & Business Etiquette Resources.
  • Remember these three words: Fit, Fit, and Fit.  A major reason for the second interview is so the employer can see how well you fit in with the company culture.  Deploy your very best interpersonal communication skills.  Keep in mind the idea of showing your fit -- but remember it's OK not to fit.  If you aren't a good fit with the employer, you probably wouldn't be happy working there anyway.  Read more about fit with company culture in Uncovering a Company's Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers.
  • Expect to be asked some of the same questions you were asked in the first interview, but some new ones as well.  Second-interview questions may delve more into your personality, or they may be more targeted toward specific technical skills -- or both.  Plan to keep your responses fresh yet consistent for each person you meet with during the second-interview, and don't worry about repeating yourself since you will likely have a difference audience.
  • Expect behavioral questions, which are commonly asked in second interviews, even if they haven't been asked in the first interview, see Behavioral Interviewing Strategies.  Watch out for off-the-wall questions by reading Don't Get Stumped by Off-The-Wall Job Interview Questions.  The second interview is also a likely venue for case questions, especially in consulting firms, see Mastering the Case Interview.
  • Listen for clues that get at the heart of what the employer seeks in the person hired for this position and key into the needs, concerns, issues, and problems that you would be expected to handle.
  • Be prepared with lots of questions to ask.  You will likely have more opportunity to ask questions in the second interview and will be expected to make more sophisticated inquiries than you did in the first interview.
  • Try to collect the business card of everyone you meet with.  Keep a small notepad handy to write down the names in case there's someone from whom you can't get a card.

Don'ts

  • Neglect to review your performance from your first interview.  Note any questions or situations that caused you difficulty and plan how you will handle those aspects better in the second interview.  Think about what made you shine in the first interview, and plan to do more of the same.  Further, brainstorm new information you can bring into the second interview -- new accomplishments, new examples, new evidence of how much you know the employer.
  • Be surprised if the second interview is actually a series of interviews -- in both individual and group / panel formats -- making for a long day.  You may interview with managers, senior executives, department heads, and prospective team members.  You may also get a tour of the workplace and be taken out to eat.  For college students, this second-interview day may represent the first time the student has been interviewed in the employer's workplace.  Plan to bring ample copies of your resume for all the people you may be meeting with, see Mastering the On-Site Interview: A Guide to Company Visits.
  • Forget the cardinal rule of panel interviews: As you respond to a question, maintain eye contact with everyone on the panel -- not just the panelist who asked you the question.
  • Slack off with your interview attire.  A second interview generally doesn't denote a more casual interview.
  • Be shocked if some of the people you meet with aren't very competent interviewers.  While managers trained in interviewing often conduct first interviews, the array of people who might talk with you during the second-interview experience may include people lacking skills and training in how to conduct an interview.
  • Be caught off guard if an interviewer raises the subject of salary and benefits.  Be prepared to negotiate.  Arm yourself, see Salary Negotiations and Job Offer Tools and Resources.
  • Necessarily give an answer immediately if the employer makes an offer.  Ask for a few days to think about it.
  • FORGET TO SEND A THANK YOU NOTE with everyone you met with.  That's right -- every single person.  Aren't you glad you collected those business cards?  You can write the same basic message to all, but vary it a bit in case they compare notes.