IPad or Portfolio? Black or Navy? White or Striped? Pumps or flats?
While most candidates spend a great deal of time worrying about their wardrobe for an upcoming interview, truth be told it’s one of the easiest parts of interview prep. Sure it’s important that you present a clean and professional appearance but I can honestly say that in over 20 years I’ve never hired a candidate simply because I liked their appearance better than my #2 pick.
So, instead of obsessing for hours (and days in some cases!) about what to wear, it’s much more important to prepare yourself mentally for the opportunity. And just like your CSV should be tailored to each job you pursue, interview prep should be different. Changing up your strategy is especially important when preparing for a first-round vs. a second round interview.
It’s commonly said that the first interview is about “skills” and the second about “fit.” While I agree with the premise, those terms simply aren’t as black and white as many candidates would like. In fact, it’s one of the most common questions I receive. So in an effort to help you maximize the opportunity, give these specifics below a read and see if they help you.
NOTE: Part One of this post addressed first-round interviews. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
Second Interview Expectations
More of everything! While they are several nuances to consider, the most obvious is to simply expect more of everything in a second interview. It’s likely it will take longer than a first interview. They can often run several hours so be careful not to schedule other things too tightly around. And there’s also a higher than likely chance that you will talk with several folks. So, do yourself a huge favor and ask HR names of who you will be meeting with. Once you have the names, do some research on LinkedIn. You can often find causes they are passionate about and at the very least, learn titles and gain a summation of what they do.
Prep even more! I know I can’t be serious right!?! If you thought interview preparation for Round One was grueling, you haven’t seen anything. Chances are the questions will be more ambiguous and the answers need to be more strategic and example filled. And it’s also critical that you replay your performance from the first round. What did you say that gained interest? What questions could have you handled better? Think through each of those scenarios and be ready to supply more of what “played well” and plan ways to revisit topics where your initial performance was lack luster.
Cloud or Elephant? While some employers will wait for the dreaded psych profile until they make an offer, others will probe will lots of behavioral questions during the second interview. Your prep for interviews at this point should not only include developing specific real-world examples that showcase your proven skillset but also some time considering how you might respond when asked if you would rather be a cloud or an elephant and why. Admittedly it may not seem like either response tells a potential employer much about your ability to add value to the organization; however, it does show your ability to confidently respond to unexpected events…which hello tells them a great deal!
So You’re my Co-Worker? It’s quite common to expect face time with potential co-workers during second round interview opportunities. A word to the wise, you will be far ahead in the game if you can ask more questions than you answer of potential team members. And just so we’re clear, the reason for asking questions isn’t to deflect the attention away from you. Instead, it’s to show interest in them. The reality is that it’s human nature to enjoy being the center of attention. Just remember your goal for this phase is to be more concerned with being “interested” than “interesting” and you’ll do just fine!
Demonstrate Fit…this interview is all about FIT. If you can absolutely see yourself working (and thriving!) in this environment, then whatever you do make sure to prove it! Sharing examples that will resonate with the hiring manager and potential co-workers is a great way to show fit. But it’s not the only way. Asking relevant, intelligent and thought provoking questions is a subtle but highly effective way to showcase your abilities.
So I was wondering….It’s a given that you developed some questions to ask at the end of your first interview, but that doesn’t mean you’re done. In fact, if you really want to gain a job offer from this experience, it’s highly important that you develop new, challenging and deeper questions to ask during the second interview. Just as the hiring manager may ask situational questions of you at this point in the process, it’s also quite acceptable for you ask similar questions of them. For example, you may ask what they do when their team members make a mistake. Or perhaps you ask them to define their expectations if several team members were simultaneously (and unexpectedly) out of the office.
What’s the bar? Realistically you don’t want to take a job unless you know you have a solid chance for success. Now mind you, I’m not suggesting that you take jobs that you can do it your sleep or that leave you totally unfulfilled. But you also don’t want to take a job with expectations that you simply can’t meet. Second round interviews are a great time to ask open-ended questions to learn the true expectations and how success will be measured and rewarded!
Talk benefit/salary packages. Typically you want to avoid any talks of salary/benefit packages during round one interviews. The only exceptions allowed are those rare occasions when you believe the offer will be made without the benefit of second round conversations. Instead prepping for these conversations should be a serious portion of your round two pre-work. Make sure you’ve done adequate research to understand the competitive landscape for the company size, location and duties you are being asked to fulfill. It’s also critical you have a good grasp of what the industry offers for benefit packages…and yes, they differ greatly! Never approach this conversation without having a firm idea of what your talents are worth and what items you are (or aren’t!) willing to negotiate.
It’s all about the Plan. Once you’ve been through a second round interview, you’ll never fear a first round interview again. During the second round, the stakes go up…way up! Consequently, it’s a great time for you to share your plan for 30-60 or 90 day plan for execution. Now admittedly, it’s quite likely that whatever plan you present during the interview will be modified but that doesn’t matter. What matters to the hiring manager is that you are a self-starter and someone who won’t require constant babysitting for every decision. Arriving to an interview with the confidence and mental fortitude to develop a plan will always win favor!
The Spanish Inquisition. The great news is that the candidate pool is typically much smaller (3-4 people max) once you make it to this point in the process. The not so great news is that second round interviews can be mentally and emotionally grueling. They typically last much longer than the short 1 hour initial interviews. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to expose you to multiple folks at this point. So be expected for a process that may last several hours and put you in front of different groups of people with differing agendas…and they’re likely all looking for different things. Take a deep breath, be yourself and make it a point to learn about their contribution to the organization and chances are you’ll be just fine.
Close the deal. There was a time when it would have been entirely inappropriate to end the interview by asking for the job; however, those days are over. I’m not sure if it’s that working managers simply have too much on their plates or because the candidate pool is stronger, but I can assure you that it takes far more to differentiate yourself than it once did. And one of the easiest ways to show confidence, independence and leadership is to ask (politely of course!) for what you want. In today’s culture it’s quite acceptable to have one of your final questions be, “may I join your team?”
Say Thank You. While I sincerely doubt this will be your morsel from this post, for goodness sake don’t forget to send a handwritten thank you card after the interview. Some things should be obvious, but admittedly we all get busy. While always important, this is especially critical after second round interviews when the potential employer has invested a considerable amount of time trying to determine if the two of you are a good fit.
Still looking for more? Check out this exhaustive list of Do’s and Don’ts for second interviews.
Oh and remember...unless you're applying for a job in the fashion industry, employers care far more about your brain, professionalism and drive than your wardrobe! So dress for the part but focus the majority of your interview prep on proving yourself to be the best (not best dressed!) candidate.
I’d love to hear from you-what is the most bizarre question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?