After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Second First Interview

When I contact a candidate with the happy news that he/she has been invited for a second interview with a company, I can almost hear the figurative champagne cork popping. I know that mere minutes may pass between the end of my phone call and an exuberant phone call or text sharing the good news of a potential new job with a friend or family member. 

As the person whose role it is to lower expectations, may I say that getting a second interview is as close to getting a job as the U.S. having a 4 point lead going in to Sunday’s final round of the Ryder Cup.  You are ahead of where you were when you started, but you can still lose it.  (And they did.)


In general, the second round of interviews is similar to the first in that it is still very much a part of the screening process.  In rare cases, when only a few people have interviewed in the first round, you may be the only one left going forward.  More often though, you will be among several who are proceeding to the next interview phase.  Based on performance in the first interview, you or someone else may have an advantage at this point.  The competition continues.

During the first interview, you have probably survived a general examination of your background and credentials.  The second interview will be similar in nature, but be prepared for the interviewer to dig a little deeper.  If you have made mistakes in your first interview, this is your chance to correct them.  If you omitted experiences or achievements you wanted to emphasize, this is the time to work them in to the conversation.   

You may meet one or several people you did not meet in your first interview.  With each of these individuals, remember that this IS your first interview.


Are you wondering why this position is open for the third time in as many years?  Do you have some doubts about the financial health of this company?  Have you seen the office in which you will be spending your days?   Do you have questions regarding working hours or travel or overtime requirements?  The second interview may be your best shot at asking the questions that will help you determine whether or not you really want this job.   

This is because the third step in the interview phase may well be a job offer.  It is best to enter this phase armed with most of the information you need to make a decision.  Asking more than a few questions about the company and/or the position at the point of the job offer may cause your hiring manager to wonder where you were during the previous sessions.


Many candidates perform better at the second interview than the first because of increased levels of confidence and comfort.  This is all good.  They liked you – they were impressed with you – they asked you back.  But don’t pop the champagne just yet.

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