Second stage interviews are becoming much more common, as businesses stress the need to find the very best candidate for the job and are looking to find out as much as they possibly can about their candidates. If you’ve been invited back for a second interview it’s safe to say that you impressed in your first. You clearly met expectations and the employer is seriously considering you for the role. However, you are not alone. The second stage is to really scrutinise the best candidates and make a final decision on who best suits the role.

But what is different this time, what should you expect and how should you prepare? These are the questions you need to ask yourself beforehand and with the correct preparation, you will be in a great place to be accepting a job offer before too long.

What’s different about a second interview?

A first stage interview is generally used to test your basic competencies, discuss your career history and to generally get a feel as to whether your personality would be a good fit. The line of questioning will commonly be aligned to your CV and to the job description. You will likely have been asked to share a bit about yourself and your motivations and will have had the chance to ask questions of your own. Having been invited back for a second interview you can safely assume that you answered these questions satisfactorily and that you impressed the interview panel. They are already picturing you in the role but have some further questions to challenge whether they are ready to offer you the role.

The second interview is designed to ascertain what separates you from the other candidates they are considering. They’ll look to work out what your working style is, what specific abilities and experience you have that will allow you to succeed, and will most likely address any question marks they had about you from the first interview. You may also meet with other members of the organisation, those who you will potentially be working closely with. Furthermore, many second stage interviews require you to prepare a presentation, a report or something which challenges you to showcase your capabilities and suitability for the position.

What should you expect in a second interview?

Expect to be challenged. The second interview can often feel more intense than the first round. This is partly due to the fact that you may feel closer to landing the job and therefore the stakes are raised, but also because the interviewer will look to challenge you, perhaps put pressure on you, all in a bid to see how you cope. They will have identified some weaknesses they saw in the first stage and ask you further questions in that area, perhaps even tell you why it is that they are not sure about hiring you. This is to gauge how you react, how you respond and whether or not you can show them that you really want this job.

You may also be asked to prepare something beforehand and to present it in front of the panel. For example, in a marketing role, you may be asked to present a campaign plan, in a finance position this might be a report on a set of data they provided, or in a project management role it may be to perform a risk analysis on an existing transformation plan. Whatever you are asked to produce it is sure to be closely aligned with the remit of the job you are interviewing for and actually gives you an excellent opportunity to showcase your skills and your understanding of the company.

How should you prepare?

Preparation is key for any interview you undertake but for a second stage, it is absolutely paramount. You will need to show that you have a strong understanding of the business, their operational goals and how the department you hope to be working with fits into it. Research as much as you can about the business as well as the people you are going to be meeting. If you can show that you understand the business, the people working there and show how you will fit in and add value you will go a long way to showing them that you are the person for the job.

Potential second stage interview questions:

What are the key attributes you think are required for this role?

This is an opportunity to sell yourself. Identify the key characteristics that are needed to perform well, but more importantly back this up with examples of your capability in these areas.

What do you think we could be doing better?

This is not a trick question. You should feel comfortable in highlighting areas that you have noticed could be improved. It might be the website, it might be a store layout or even a piece of technology that could improve productivity. Avoid being too critical but show that you can bring ideas to rectify any issues you have picked up on.

What are your career goals?

The interviewer wants to know that you take your carer seriously and have thought about where you want to go. They are likely looking for someone to come in and be in it for the long haul. It’s always a good idea to add detail here; don’t simply say ‘I want to be a manager’, show that you have thought about what type of work or people you’d like to manage. You might want to manage a team responsible for a transformation project, or take ownership of high-level client relationships – whatever it is, you will be more impactful if you show that you have given it some real thought.

What is it about this job that excites you?

You may have already been asked why you want the job in the first stage, but this time they are looking at what your motivations truly are. This is also a chance to show that you are invested in the role, the company and their future. What responsibilities in the job description particularly interest you, and why is the direction that the company is moving in something you want to be a part of?

Why should we choose you?

This is often the closing question and gives you the chance to sum up much of what you have prepared. It’s all about showing enthusiasm and displaying why you are the person they cannot miss out on.

If you would like more tips, explore all of our career advice here.

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