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The Second Interview: Rubber stamp or bear trap?

So much of your efforts go into securing and excelling in a job interview. News of a second interview can be unsettling.

Why do they want to see me again? Is the second interview just a box-ticking exercise? Does the employer want to explore doubts they have about my suitability?

Failure to treat a second interview with the care of the first could result in you losing out. But what're the main differences between the two? And how do you ensure you shine?

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1. Technical

On the whole, first interviews tend to focus on the biographical. It is about the employer getting to know you as an individual - your career history, motivations, strengths and weaknesses.

It’s also an opportunity for you to find out more about the role and the company. In contrast, second interviews dwell more on the technical aspects of the role and explore in greater detail your experience and competence in certain key areas.

Expect to be probed on your strengths and skills as related directly to the role.

2. Senior

A second interview will normally be held by a more senior interviewer or interviewers. Often an initial interview is with the hiring manager, while the second may involve a senior stakeholder in the business.

For example, a candidate applying for a head of operations roles may find themselves interviewed by a director of another business area or global location.

So you may find yourself being assessed on your ability to face off to senior stakeholders, meet demanding deadlines and work collaboratively.

3. Consistent

Your second interview should be a progression of your initial meeting, but covering new ground and exploring certain topics in greater detail. However, questions may be repeated from your first interview - particularly if the original interviewer isn’t involved in this stage.

If this happens, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. The interviewer either hasn’t heard your answer before or could be probing areas of perceived inconsistency.

If you have well-prepared answers from the first interview, don’t be tempted to use examples or circumstances you have just thought of for the sake of originality. They are unlikely to be as considered.

4. Format

Some employers like to alter the format for a second interview. It may be a presentation, it may be a panel interview, it may consist of back-to-back interviews.

The best advice is to be prepared for all eventualities. Regardless of what is involved, your recruitment consultant should be ensuring you know what to expect.

5. Don’t be surprised if there’s a 3rd stage!

The second interview might not be the final one. There may be a third round involving a formal process or an “informal” interview – perhaps incorporating a “meet the team” lunch.

Here, your interviewer or potential colleagues might be very relaxed and casual in manner. Do not mirror them. You are still being assessed.

Stay focused

Candidates often underestimate the importance of the second-round interview, thinking they already have the job ‘in the bag’. But in many cases, a subsequent interview is tougher than the first.

Don’t undo all your hard work by misjudging its place within the recruitment process.

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Rachael O'Neill
Associate Director, Investment Operations – Financial Services
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