How To Stand Out During Your Second Interview

By Tamiera Vandegrift on February 25, 2018

Congratulations! You have officially made it to the second round of the interview process. You completely aced your first job interview and now it’s time for round two. It’s definitely a promising next chapter in the hiring process, but you’re definitely not out of the woods yet!

First, what is the purpose of the second interview? What should you expect? In the first interview, you were given a basic screening. The first interview probably consisted of a short meeting between yourself, the hiring representative, and maybe someone from human resources. The second interview means that you completely knocked the first interview out of the ballpark and now more figures from the department (who could potentially become your coworkers) would like to get to know you and see if you would make a good addition to the work environment. The employers were impressed by you and now they want to get a stronger impression of who you are and how you can contribute your skills to their overall professional mission.

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In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Chantal Verbeek-Vingerhoed, the head of enterprise talent for ING gave an exact description of how in-depth the second interview will venture:

“They dig deeper into your technical skills, and make connections about how you’d add value and solve issues in the department.”

Needless to say, the second interview is a pretty big deal and to be successful, you must be as prepared as possible. Even though the invitation for a second interview is a call for some serious bragging rights, you can’t get too cocky. Remember, you are still a name on a list of applicants. The best thing you can do to completely blow away your interviewers is find a way to stand out from the crowd. Make your name and resume one to remember. Make yourself more than just a name tag and an email correspondence. Use the second interview to leave a lasting impact on the workplace, so much so that they can’t fathom ghosting you or not offering you a position. But how? You might ask. That’s what we’re here for. Keep reading for ways to stand out and blow away your interviewers during the second interview.

Infographic by Tamiera Vandegrift

Get Prepared

Like in many aspects of life, failing to plan is planning to fail and the same principle applies for preparing for that second interview. You probably spent days reading articles about questions employers ask and probably begged your parents, your roommate, and your goldfish to run through practice interview questions with you all in preparation for the first interview. Now, even though you have passed that, you still need to prepare yourself for everything that the second round will have in store.

First, the interview style itself will have likely changed into something different from the first interview. If the first interview seemed like more of an information session or a presentation, expect something like a Q&A panel or overall assessment for the second interview. If you interviewed with one or two people for the first interview, you should prepare to interview with a larger group of people in the second interview and vice versa. In order to stand out during your second interview, you need to be able to demonstrate that you can roll with the punches and do thorough research when necessary which leads to the next point.

If you haven’t done extensive, thorough research on the company you are interviewing with to the point that you know your potential supervisor’s favorite color, then you definitely haven’t done enough. While we don’t encourage the actual stalking of your potential supervisor, it is important that you know everything you possibly can about the company and the position. The ideal candidate for a job is one that is actively passionate and interested enough in a position to use their free time to learn more about it and what they can do to fulfill that role. Plan to use the research and knowledge you’ve done to showcase the time and consideration you have put into the position. After all, wouldn’t you want your interviewers to put the same time and consideration into you?

Lastly, you will definitely want to make a plan of what you want to talk about during the interview. Moments of awkward silence could hurt your chances of being memorable. Plan to talk about the thesis work you’ve completed in college. Make notes of the philanthropy activities you participated in with a Greek organization. Talk about any leadership roles you might have served. The more information you can provide to your interviewer, the more interesting you will seem and the more memorable you will stay.

Build a Connection

Interviews can be so scary and intimidating that we often forget that everyone in the conference room is still human. At some point during the day, we’re all going to trade our blazers and dress shoes for sweatpants and fuzzy socks. While you definitely don’t want to get too comfortable during an interview, you still want to find ways to build a genuine human connection with the people you’re interviewing with.

For instance, when I was invited back for a second interview for a job in human resources, I noticed that one of the interviewers was an alumna from Florida State University, where I currently attend. I instantly struck up a conversation about her experiences at this university and all of a sudden, the ice was broken. I was no longer just a random applicant coming in for a quick interview session; I was a fellow Seminole at Florida State University. You can definitely bet that after I was hired, we would exchange a quick “Go ‘Noles” every time I passed her office or spent my lunchtime with her.

While we aren’t all part of the garnet and gold family, there are tons of ways to build this sort of connection with your interviewer. Ask them questions about their background and life outside of work. You will still want to keep the questions appropriate and professional. For instance, ask them what university they went to or what they were involved with. If you’ve done research on your company and potential coworkers (which you definitely should have!), you should already know a little bit of background about your interviewers and if you feel comfortable enough, feel free to show that you’ve done your research by asking questions about the information you’ve discovered. They will be flattered that you took the time to get to know them on a deeper level than just an interviewer and they will be more likely to remember you as the candidate who cared.

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Ask Questions

Speaking of asking questions, another great way to stand out is to have heavier questions that have in-depth answers. While you are trying to impress your interviewer during this process, you also need to make it clear that you are looking for ways that this position can benefit you and your career goals (without sounding too self-centered of course!). You want to ask questions that show that you’re interested in the position, not just the idea of having a position. For instance, you could ask about the company culture, the work-life balance, what a typical day would look like, why is the position open, and anything else that can give you a little bit of a hint as to what the atmosphere of the workplace is like.

Doing this will serve two important purposes. First, it will definitely show your interviewers that you have put serious thought and consideration into the position and how you would fit into it. Second, it will give you the answers you need to make a well-informed decision about whether or not this position is right for you. It’s a win-win situation that will definitely benefit both parties. Bring a notebook and a pen to jot down your answers (Employers dig organization!) and ask away!

Market Yourself

If there’s anything more valuable than having enough experience to be considered for an interview, it’s having an excellent plan to market those experiences for an interview. During the first interview, the recruiters probably took a very quick glimpse at your resume just to make sure that you had the years of background necessary to qualify for the position. For the second interview, the recruiters will want to ask more in-depth questions and will expect more in-depth answers. For the sake of this, you will want to read up on your resume ahead of time and jot down any notable memories and experiences that you can recall during the interview. You might be surprised at how much of your career and volunteering experience could be notable and applicable towards a position.

This is the point in the interview process where you need to thoroughly explain to your interviewer(s) how your previous experience can translate to the needs of the position. For instance, if the position you are interviewing for is calling for someone who is proficient with Microsoft Office products, use the interview as an opportunity to talk about how you kept track of your schedule or your club’s activities using Microsoft Excel. If the position you are interviewing for calls for a strong team player, tell your interviewers about your experience working as a summer camp counselor and how you worked with other counselors to make a worthwhile experience for kids. Any and all experiences, no matter how small they may seem, contribute toward a larger professional goal. Even the content you market on social media is significant. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t be shy. Now is your time to show what you’ve got and tell your interviewers why you would be the best match for this position. However, you definitely should not fabricate information. Whatever you present to employers should be able to be backed up in some tangible way, whether it’s confirmation from a former coworker and/or employee or written and/or visual evidence of the work you’ve completed.

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Be Flexible

While it’s definitely important to walk into the interview room feeling as prepared as possible, you also have to prepare to feel unprepared. Sometimes, employers will try to test their applicants by blindsiding them with difficult questions. This is done so that employers will see how well their applicants can think on their feet with little to no time to think. With modern workplaces becoming more and more fast-paced, it is important to prove to your interviewers that you can handle things on short notice without becoming flustered. This will also allow your true personality to shine through, which is really what employers crave the most.

It’s also important to remember that there is a strong possibility of being asked the same questions multiple times. Keep in mind that not everyone you speak to during the second interview will be informed of what happened during the first interview. Answer the questions with kindness and patience no matter how many times you have been asked them. Don’t give a short answer or redirect them to the person you spoke with before. Remember: every person you speak to during these interviews is another person who can vouch for you when it is time to decide who is on the hiring block and who is on the chopping block.

While you might walk into an interview feeling like you have done everything to prepare, you need to prepare to be flexible and go with the flow above all else. There is no telling where an interview will lead, so it’s important to roll with the punches and do your absolute best.

When you get your invitation to return to a company for a second interview, rejoice. A potential employer has reviewed you and decided that you could be an excellent fit for their team. To stand out and succeed in impressing your interviewers, you need to make sure that you leave enough substance to be remembered by. Doing so could land you a spot in the next round of the hiring process, or even better, a spot on the newly hired list.

Good luck!

Tamiera is an alumna of Florida State University, having earned a BA in Editing, Writing & Media and a BA in Digital Media Production. Tamiera is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, inspired by the works of Lars von Trier, David Fincher, and Darren Aronofsky. Tamiera has previously written for the FSView and Florida Flambeau, College Magazine, and more. She has recently published a creative thesis containing short stories based on mental illnesses in the media. In the future, Tamiera aspires to win "Best Original Screenplay" or "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards with one of her film projects. Besides writing and storytelling, Tamiera enjoys cooking, traveling, spending time with friends, and geeking out over movie trivia.

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