What to expect at the second interview

Round one of the job interview is in the books. Now it’s time for round two. Follow these tips to help you prepare and come out swinging.

What to expect at the second interview

Round two is often where the real vetting happens.

Congratulations, you did it—you survived the screening interview and got a callback. While the first round of a job interview is all about going over your qualifications and resume, round two is often where the real vetting happens.

“During a second interview, you will need to emphasize your added value to the organization, enthusiasm for the position, and demonstrate that you are a good fit,” says Lynn Berger, a New York City–based career counselor and coach.

To get you ready for round two, Monster mapped out some of the most common questions and situations you’ll face so you can get prepped and be ready to dazzle your interviewers.

New people to impress

A first job interview is typically with an HR person or a department supervisor, but once you’re brought back in, a higher-up manager might sit in. And sometimes, you might even meet with several team members who you’d be working with directly.

How to prep: Read up on the company to understand the employer’s brand, culture, and recent events, and research the people you’ll be interviewing with (if you are told who that will be), says Christol Johnson, manager of career services for El Centro College in Dallas. “Employers are impressed when a candidate knows a lot about them,” she says.

A different setting

Just because the first interview took place in a closed meeting room or office doesn’t mean your next meeting will have the same feel. “It’s very dependent on the organization, so be prepared for meeting more people and maybe it not being all sit-down,” says Berger. You might go out to lunch, or be taken on an office tour, for example.

How to prep: Practice positive body language. “Your presentation and the impression you leave with the interviewer could help the employer decide to make you an offer,” Johnson says. So if you’re walking around the office, stand tall, smile, and make eye contact with staffers. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good handshake. And, of course, be mindful of table manners if food or drink is involved.

Typical second interview questions

Every employer uses different interview tactics, but second-interview questions often require you to reveal not only your competencies, but also your ethics and values and how they fit with the company culture.

“Situational and behavioral interview questions are designed to learn a candidate’s approach to real-world situations,” says Johnson. (We’re talking about those “What would you do if…” or “Tell me about a time when…” questions.)

In addition, some questions are designed to gauge how you prefer to communicate, and your thoughts on work/life balance.

How to prep: Prepare valid examples of your accomplishments—times when you led a team, managed a project, or turned a negative situation into a positive outcome, says Johnson. Ultimately, the employer wants to know that you can handle yourself if challenges arise, as well as hear about how you’ve navigated difficult workplace situations or adapted to change as necessary.

Wacky questions

As for oddball questions like what you read last or what animal you most identify with, there’s really no way to be 100% ready for those. The interviewer’s goal here is to get some insight into your personality, while also observing if you’re easily flustered.

How to prep: “Take a step back and understand why they’re asking the question,” says Berger, rather than blurt something out because you let your nerves get the best of you. Try pausing a moment to collect your thoughts (you can say something like, “That’s a question I haven’t heard before,” to buy yourself some extra time), and then give a simple but thoughtful answer.

Role reversal

During a second interview, the tables will once again be turned on you, with the interviewers opening the floor for you to ask questions. In the second interview, you want to get into specifics of the position.

“This is your chance to get a sense of the daily responsibilities, priorities of the job, and the goals,” says Berger. You can also ask about the career trajectory of people who’ve held the position before you, and what impact your role has on the company overall.

How to prep: Look over the original job posting and think back to lingering questions you might have had after your first interview. Again, this is where your research skills can come in handy; ask about recent company news and announcements. As for what not to ask? Don’t bring up salary and benefits just yet—that will come later in the offer stage.

Prove you fit in

Because so much of the second interview is about determining if you’re the candidate who’s the best fit, much of it does come down to how well you hit it off with the employer, says Berger. “You might have someone who asks questions very dryly, while someone else is more conversational,” she says.

How to prep: Try to take cues from the interviewer regarding how casual and conversational you should be. As far as the content of your responses, try putting yourself in their shoes.

“Your ability to identify with the employer’s operations, mindset, and processes will help them determine your fit/ability,” says Johnson. When possible, highlight a connection to the employer to indicate that you’re on the same page.

No matter how you think the second interview goes, if you really want the job, always try to end on a positive note and be explicit about your interest in the role. That’s something simple, but surprisingly, not everyone does it, says Berger. Just being enthusiastic can leave a lasting impression and set you apart from an equally qualified but more reserved candidate.

Think (and prepare) ahead

While the first job interview is more of a get-to-know-you scenario, the second round is much more about the hiring manager picturing you in the role at the company. It's an opportunity not only for the company to check you out, but also for you to determine if they're right for you. And if you both decide to move forward, there will be additional considerations to work through. Could you use some help navigating the process? Join Monster today. As a member, you’ll get interview insights, career advice, and useful tips sent directly to your inbox. From additional interview questions (hello, salary expectations) to negotiating the eventual job offer, Monster can help you position yourself to come out on top.