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Second Round Interview

Finding the best fit for a position you’re hiring for is intense. It requires critical thought and can be draining. While reviewing resumes and screening applicants will give you a pool of qualified candidates, how can you ensure you make the right hire at the end of the day?

Second interviews are a crucial component of the hiring process that ultimately leads to a hiring decision. Continue reading to learn what a second interview is, why it’s important, how to conduct a second interview and what questions to ask!

What is a Second Round Interview?

A second round interview is the formal interview conducted after a candidate passes through their preliminary screening interview. This interview is typically conducted face-to-face on-site, though remote roles and video conferencing services have led to an increase in virtual second interviews.

What’s the Difference Between a First and Second Interview?

While a first-round interview is used to screen a larger pool of candidates that met the minimum requirements in resume review, a second interview digs deeper into a smaller list of candidates. Second interviews are typically longer than a screening interview, ranging from one hour to a full day.

Why Arrange a Second Interview?

Second round interviews allow you to:

  • Conduct a thorough evaluation of the most qualified candidates’ skills, abilities, and personality traits
  • Explore further the cultural fit of each candidate
  • Identify which candidate stands out from the rest

Who Should Be Involved in a Second Round Interview?

The individuals involved in a second round interview vary depending on the position. At a minimum, the hiring manager will conduct the interview all the way through.

You can also consider a panel interview or an interview process with several interviewers. A role that relies on teamwork and collaboration might warrant a group interview. Incorporate potential supervisors that the position will report to and any co-workers who will work directly with the candidate selected.

How Do I Conduct a Second Interview?

When planning a second interview, set a specific itinerary and follow it accordingly. The specific steps of your second interview will vary depending on the position and other circumstances. For example, if you are conducting the second interview virtually you won’t be able to give the candidate a tour of the facility.

In general, a second round interview will include the following steps:

1. Welcome the Candidate

Whether you meet the candidate yourself or have an assistant handle that task, greet them warmly. Engage in small talk to help ease their nerves and, if time permits, give them a tour of the facility.

When it’s time to begin, walk the candidate to the room you’ll be interviewing in and offer them water, coffee, or tea before commencing.

2. Provide an Agenda for the Interview

Second interviews can be stressful for candidates and uncertainty will fuel their nerves. To set the tone of the interview, walk the candidate through the agenda for the interview.

A typical second interview itinerary might include:

  • Asking the candidate a series of prepared questions
  • Sharing information about the role and organization
  • Allowing the candidate to ask questions about the role and organization

3. Ask Behavioral Interview Questions

To gain a better understanding of the candidate’s skills, abilities, and personality traits, ask behavioral-based interview questions. These questions dive into past experience which is often the best predictor of future behavior.

After you’ve asked your prepared questions, you should have an idea of how qualified the candidate is for the role based on their previous experiences.

4. Complete Any Pre-employment Testing

This step is optional, but some employers prefer to conduct pre-employment testing during the second interview. These tests evaluate the candidate’s skills and abilities as they relate to the specific role.

Make sure that the tests are work-related and non-discriminatory if you choose to conduct them during the interview.

5. Describe the Position and the Organization

Once you’ve completed the questioning portion of the interview, take time to provide the candidate with specific information about the position and the organization. Specifically, elaborate on:

  • The day-to-day responsibilities of the role
  • Your organizational culture, work environment, and management styles

6. Allow the Candidate to Ask Questions about the Position and Organization

Open up the floor for the candidate to ask any questions about the position or organization before concluding the interview. In doing so, you will tie up any loose ends or uncertainties they may have and gain additional insight into their personality through the questions they ask.

7. Explain the Next Steps

Before the candidate leaves the interview, be clear about the next steps in the process. Let the candidate know:

  • How long you anticipate it will take to make a hiring decision
  • What additional information they may need to provide
  • In what form you will communicate whether they’ve been selected

Other Second Round Interview Tips to Keep in Mind

The steps above will help you develop a strategic itinerary to get the most out of your second round interview. To make sure the process runs smoothly, here are a few additional second round interview tips:

  • Make the interviewer comfortable — greet them warmly and inform them of every step
  • If the interview is on video, don’t begin right away — make sure to include small talk at the beginning
  • Follow all laws and regulations in your questions, only asking job-related questions
  • Create an evaluation form that standardizes the rating for each candidate

Questions to Ask in a Second Interview

Through screening interviews, you’ve gained the basic information required to assess whether a candidate is a strong fit for the position. In their second interview, utilize behavioral interview questions to learn about specific experiences where the candidate’s skills and abilities were applied.

Consider using the STAR approach when preparing your interview questions. This approach includes:

  • Situation: Describing a specific situation
  • Tasks: Describing the tasks involved in their approach to the situation
  • Actions: Walking you through the actions they took to complete the task
  • Results: Summarizing the results of the action they took

“Can you walk me through your resume?”

To ease into the conversation and revisit their previous roles, ask the candidate to walk you through their resume. This will give you a high-level overview of their experience in each position and highlight any accomplishments or skills that are relevant to the position they are interviewing for.

A strong candidate will have upward career progression and an increase in responsibilities with each position. Additionally, look for candidates to highlight information they feel is important that you may have overlooked in the resume review.

“Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision. How did you handle the process?”

Difficult decisions are stressful to make and require strategic thinking. This question will give you a real-world example of how the candidate was able to form a strategic plan and take responsibility to see the decision through.

Confidence and critical thinking are two qualities you want to see in a candidate as they respond to this question.

“Tell me about a time when you had too much to do and not enough resources. How did you overcome this challenge?”

By asking the candidate about a time where they had too much on their plate and were strapped for resources, you’re gauging their ability to handle pressure and be flexible.

A strong candidate will provide a specific example of how they remained calm through a stressful situation and persevered to complete the task.

“Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you correct it?”

This question assesses a candidate’s character in owning up to their mishaps. It also provides another example of how they can handle stressful situations and overcome challenges.

If a candidate cannot think of a mistake they made, that can be a red flag that they aren’t willing to own up to it and might not be a cultural fit for your organization.

“Describe a time when you disagreed with a team member. How did you resolve the issue?”

This question assesses the candidate’s problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. Learning about how they work through disagreements with other members of a team can help assess their ability to succeed in a collaborative environment.

Look for a candidate who approached the conflict in a thoughtful and professional manner. The way they handle conflict can measure their flexibility to adapt for the greater good of the team.

“What accomplishments have given you the most pride and why?”

Delving into a candidate’s accomplishments tells a lot about their motivations and career aspirations. Their answer can give you an idea of their work ethic and priorities.

Look for responses that align with tasks they may face in the day-to-day responsibilities of the position and the culture of your organization.

“What plans have you made to achieve your career goals?”

Not only does this question tell you about their preparedness and proactiveness, but it also lets you know what their long-term aspirations are.

A candidate that clearly outlined their career goals and specific steps to achieve those goals is likely to bring that same attention to detail and planning to your organization.

“Can you give an example of how you’ve contributed to the culture of previous teams, companies, or groups?”

This question is aimed at assessing the candidate’s cultural fit within the organization. The best fit for your organization will have values aligned with those of the company. If the candidate is unable to provide examples of contributing to a culture in the past, it could be a red flag that they may not be aligned with your organization’s values.

“Why are you a strong candidate for this position?”

Conclude the interview with a question that forces the candidate to sell you on why they’re the best choice for the role. This question will lead the candidate to review the relevant skills and abilities they possess and display their level of self-awareness.

The ideal response from a candidate will leave you confident that the individual possesses the:

  • Necessary skills to complete the role
  • Personality traits to thrive within the organizational culture.

Conclusion

A second round interview is a vital step in identifying the top candidate for the role you’re hiring. By determining who should take part in the interview and how the itinerary should be structured, you can assure that everything runs smoothly. Ask behavioral questions that assess the skills and abilities required for the role and make the right choice for your organization.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Second Round Interviews

How Many Candidates Should Be Advanced to a Second Interview?
Try to limit your final list of candidates to 2-3 individuals. Otherwise, you will likely have to conduct another round of interviews to narrow down a “final” final list. Additionally, you may become fatigued if you have to conduct several interviews on the same day.
How Soon After the Interview Should I Contact the Candidate?
You should not make the candidate wait a long time before contacting them. Aim to contact the candidate within 7-14 days of the interview. This gives you enough time to conduct background checks, contact references, and come to your final decision.
Should I Schedule a Third Round of Interviewing?
If you are unable to come to a decision after the second interview, you can schedule as many additional rounds of interviews as necessary. Depending on the level of the role, it may require additional interviews. However, additional rounds of interviews can extend an already lengthy hiring process.
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