Finding a Job - Second Interview

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The Second Interview

Congratulations—you made it through your first-round interview! At this stage of the interview process, the employer is seriously considering you as a candidate for the position. However, while your confidence should be up, you still have work to do.

In order to secure the offer, you want to build on your previous performance and demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the job. The second interview is crucial in expressing your “fit” with the organization, as well as your particular skills and knowledge. Employers are looking to see which candidate has the best ability to get the job done and to work effectively on a team. Employers will evaluate your interaction with others, your job-related abilities, your company and industry knowledge, and your enthusiasm.

What to Expect

  • You will usually meet with a number of individuals during a second interview.  
  • Typically, you meet one-on-one with employers in back-to-back appointments; however, you may meet with several employers (all at once) in a group interview setting
  • Expect to meet with a full range of your potential co-workers, peers, superiors, and junior employees. In turn, you should keep in mind that these are the individuals that you will likely work with on a daily basis. Therefore, as you proceed through the interview process, you should evaluate not only your own performance, but also what impression your potential co-workers make on you. For example, would you like to work in this type of environment, with these supervisors and colleagues? If not, why?

Second Interview Questions

Questions posed during the second round interview are often more specific and focus more on the particulars of the job and your understanding of the company - its culture and significant plans and objectives - and its industry. You should, therefore, research the technical aspects of the job and anticipate specific questions posed in the language of the industry. Additionally, behavioral questions are common during a second interview. Employers may ask about the way you handled past situations in order to assess what your future performance may be like.

How to Prepare

The second interview is an opportunity to let your research pay off. You should always visit and carefully read the company's or organization's website.

  • You should be able to articulate what you know about the company or organization and how you would be a good fit
  • Knowledge about the organization is essential when demonstrating your interest in the job. Why do you want to work for this company and not for their competitors?
  • By networking and speaking to current and former employees, you will show that you have done your homework and have found out what makes the company unique. When you research the company and speak with your contacts, seek out information on any recent events going on within the company and industry (e.g., mergers, management changes, etc.) as well as about the organizational structure and culture

Employers are looking for competence and compatibility. Review your resume once again, and focus on discussing your internships and other related work experience in more detail. Think about what you have learned, the skills you have developed along the way, and how they relate to this particular employer.

Please keep in mind that second round interviews are not typically held at Columbia, but at company offices. In turn, before you head out the door, make sure you have:

  • Complete contact information for your point person within the organization, including his/her title, address, email address, and phone number
  • All travel details including dates, times, locations, and phone numbers
  • Any documentation you need such as plane/train tickets
  • A map of where you are going
  • A schedule of day or weekend events
  • A list of professional references (please refer to the References tip sheet for additional information)

Super Days

A Super Day is a type of final-round interview generally given by bulge bracket firms in the financial sector. After a first round interview, you may be invited to a Super Day that is being held within a day or two of the first interview. Please make sure that you check your schedule before agreeing to attend.  If you have a conflict that you cannot reschedule, ask if they can offer an alternate date. In most cases, they can accommodate you. Super Days get their name because they take multiple hours, sometimes even full days. They could be full days even if they are only confirmed for half day, so you should not have any other interviews or commitments planned on these days. If that is unavoidable, be sure to tell the company with whom you have the interview that you will have to leave at a given time.

A Super Day is a firm’s way of determining if they want to hire you and if so, in which desk/group you would work. You will need to know how to talk about desk/group specifics while continuing to be open-minded and talk about your skills and how they could apply to various departments. In a typical Super Day, you will have multiple interviews, either one-on-one or in a group, with employees who have different levels of seniority. Interviews are usually between 30 to 60 minutes in length and back-to-back. Some of these interviews will be more behavioral and others more technical. Generally, senior interviewers will ask more behavioral questions, but this is not always the case. Super Days may also include projects or presentations and social events like receptions or meals. It is likely that a representative or multiple representatives from recruiting will be coordinating the Super Day. You should keep in mind that they will also be evaluating you so you should show up on-time, be professional, and prepared and ask them any recruiting-related questions. This way you are not asking these questions to the interviewers and instead you can focus on more business-specific questions.

Due to the length and intensity of these events, pacing yourself to maintain your energy is important. Your interviewers will be deciding not only whether you have the skills for the job but also whether your personality would make you a good fit, so make an effort to be polite and personable both in formal interviews and less-structured events like lunches and networking events. As you’re going to be meeting with many people, and sending many thank you notes, be sure to get business cards or write down the name and group of each person you interview with so that you can follow up.

Additional Resources: Superdays, Dining Etiquette, Networking.

Good Questions to Ask

The following are examples of good questions to ask employers (i.e., supervisors, co-workers, and Human Resources) during your second round interview:

Questions for Supervisors

  • What are the ongoing or special departmental projects?
  • What are the daily responsibilities of the position?
  • What are company expectations for the position? What does the company or division hope that the employee will accomplish?

Questions for Peers

  • What do you like most and least about working for this department/organization?
  • What is a typical workday like for you?
  • Have you seen opportunities for professional growth?
  • What are the greatest challenges you face on the job?

Questions for Human Resources

  • What is the procedure for new employees—is there a scheduled orientation?
  • What are the long range possibilities for this position?
  • What do employees like best and least about working for this company?

After the Interview

You should find out the next steps in the hiring process. For example, you should ask if third round interviews will be held or if decisions will be made immediately.

If you receive a job offer on the spot, which is uncommon but not impossible, it is appropriate to tell the employer that you need more time to think about the opportunity. You should ask for the specific deadline by which the company needs your answer.

When you leave the second interview consider how you felt during the interview – about the organization or company, its supervisors, co-workers and Human Resources personnel. You should evaluate your interest in the company.

You should send a thank you note to every person with whom you met. Although writing individual notes is time consuming, it is important to write a different letter to each interviewer in order to emphasize your appreciation of the opportunity to interview with the company.

Additional Resources

Please refer to the following tip sheets for additional help or answers: Interviewing, Interview Questions, and Networking and Informational Interviewing.

The Center for Career Education also suggests the following additional resources:

  • 201 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview by John Kador
  • 101 Great Answers To The Toughest Interview Questions by Ron Fry
  • Interview For Success by Caryl Krannich