14 Tips to Ace your Second Interview

second interview
Congratulations, you made it to the second interview. Now what? Getting to a second interview is confirmation that the company generally feels that you have the qualifications to do the job. You should be pleased that you made it to the next round. That does not mean, however, that the job is yours. Most likely you are competing with two to three other finalists, candidates about whom you know nothing. They may even be more qualified than you, at least on paper. Now most definitely is not the time to sit back and coast. These 14 tips will help you prepare for and ace your second interview.

1. Get a detailed agenda. Contact human resources to get a detailed agenda for your second interview. You likely will be meeting with several people and may be invited to lunch as well. By getting the agenda, you will be able to block the amount of time needed and practice the names of the key people you’ll be meeting with beforehand. Information is power and being prepared for the day also will help to reduce your stress.

2. Research the people you’ll be interviewing with on LinkedIn. Review their profiles, study their career paths and look for connections you may share or common interests. Show them that you did your homework by asking a relevant question related to their experience at the company.

3. Continue to learn about the company. Search the web for any media mentions, add Google alerts, and follow the company on LinkedIn and Twitter. Spend a good deal of time on the company’s website again and familiarize yourself with the company’s mission, values and key lines of business. You’ll want to go well beyond the home page and dig deep. Know the names and backgrounds of the senior leadership team. If you are interviewing with a public company, research their stock price. In a second interview, you should plan to demonstrate that you’re taking this opportunity as seriously as the company is. You’ll do that better if you invest time researching the company.

4. Practice answering common interview questions. You should be prepared both for the standard interview questions (“tell me about yourself”) as well as tougher, and occasionally offbeat, questions. Glassdoor is a great website to learn about the interview process from others who have already interviewed with the company. You may be given a psychological test or asked to complete a case study during your interview, so be mentally prepared to bring your “A” game. Most of all, you want to have a great sticky message so that you, and why you are qualified, stands out.

5. Study the job description. This is critical. the job description clearly outlines the skills and experience that the company thinks are most important. Highlight the key words in the job description. Prepare specific examples demonstrating that you have both the skills and the experience needed to hit the ground running.

6. Sell Yourself. The second interview is your opportunity to close the deal. Confidence matters, just be sure not to come across as being arrogant. If you can’t effectively sell yourself in your answer to “why should we hire you”, you’ll never get the job. Be clear about your skills and strengths and why hiring you would be a good decision for the company. Invoke John F. Kennedy and  “ask not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company.”

7. Prepare a list of questions to ask. A primary driver of the second interview is to see if you would be a good fit with the company’s culture.  The best way to do that is to ask questions. Have a list of at least ten questions to ask. Why ten? Very often, the interviewer will answer some of your questions before you’ve even asked them. Having a long list ensures that you’ll still have a couple of questions you can ask. Not having any questions at the end of an interview is a guaranteed way to kill any chance of an offer.

8. Interview the company. This is part two of item 7. The second interview is also your chance to figure out if you’d like both the job and working for the company.One of my favorite tips is to ask everyone the same one or two key questions and then vary the rest. How they answer the same question will speak volumes about the company culture. If the answers are pretty consistent, then you’ll have a great idea of what it will be like to work there.

Accepting a job that is a poor fit for your skills, interests and working for a company whose values you don’t share is a terrible way to start your career. I regularly advise my clients that their goal is to get the job offer, then decide if they actually want the job. Just because you are offered the role does not mean that you need to accept it.  You can use these tips to help you make a great decision.

9. Dress the part. Even if the company dress code is casual or business casual, a second interview is not the time to slack off on your interview attire. How you dress makes an impression so make it a positive one. If you only have one business suit, it’s fine to wear the same suit again, just switch it up by changing your shirt/tie or blouse and accessories. And don’t forget to polish your shoes. Seriously. I know of one company president who would screen out candidates based on whether their shoes were shined. It’s a lousy way to lose a job offer.

10. Be on time. Plan for the worst – traffic, parking, getting lost. Don’t ever be late for an interview.   You should plan be ten to fifteen minutes early. You can always hang out in the parking lot or lobby.

11. Turn your cell phone off. Your cell phone should be off the entire time that you are at the company, including at lunch. Let your friends and family know in advance that you will be out of contact for a few hours. Nothing in your regular life is so important that you want to interrupt your interview with a text or phone call. If it is, then you probably should have rescheduled your interview.

12. Get business cards from everyone. This serves two purposes. First, if you are meeting with more than one person at the same time, you can put their business cards in front of you on the table. That way, you can casually look down if you are prone to forgetting names. Second, you have their contact information, including accurate job title and how to spell their name for a follow up thank you note or email.

13. Don’t ask these questions. You shouldn’t ask about salary, vacation time or benefits unless the company brings it up first. Talking about the job perks before you have the offer sends the wrong message, e.g. that you aren’t serious about the work. It’s perfectly fine to ask these questions (and you should!) but not until after you’ve scored the offer or the company has initiated the conversation.

14. Send thank you notes. To everyone. An email thank you is perfectly fine in today’s world and is  faster. Do not, under any circumstances, send a mass thank you email. Nor should you send the exact same email to each person. It is quite common for your interviewers pto share the email you sent them with the others who met you. If they see that you sent the same email to everyone, you likely won’t get the job no matter how well you interviewed.

Customize your thank you’s by referencing one or two things the person said during the interview to show that you were paying attention. Lastly, your thank you note is a great opportunity to reiterate why you’d be a great fit for the role and how much you would love to work at the company. A great, and timely, thank you note might just be what gets you the job offer.

With these tips, you’ll be better prepared for what can be a long and tiring second interview day. You’ll not only be more relaxed, chances are you’ll interview much better too and score that coveted job offer.

About Lisa

Chief Career Catalyst @C2C, former Fortune 500 businesswoman, dog lover, avid skier, mediocre tennis player, golfer, new SUPer, aspiring surfer, cyclist, yoga & exercise enthusiast, happy wife & home chef. I am a regular contributor to the Bangor Daily News, and have appeared on WCSH6 where I offer career advice for college students, recent graduates and young professionals.
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