Second interview questions and expert advice on how to ace this round

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The feeling of acing a first-round interview is unmatched. You leave the office feeling on top of the world, thinking about what to say in that follow-up thank you email, and considering how you should celebrate tonight. A few days later, you get an email asking to come in for a second round of interviews. This is great news…you were prepared for your first interview, so all you have to do is show up and not say anything stupid, right?

Wrong. The second round interview actually serves a completely different purpose and comes along with completely different questions. Look no further, for example, second interview questions that will help you prep for this occasion.

Ladders spoke with Rhiannon Staples from Hibob to answer all your questions about the second interview, including an entire list of an example second interview questions.

What is the point of the second interview?

According to Staples, the first interview is all about understanding whether or not this candidate is the person for the job from both a technical and experience perspective. Using the candidate’s resume, Staples will ask questions that peer deeper into that side of the candidate and try to get a firm grasp on whether or not this candidate has the right skill set for this position within the organization.

“By the time I get to the second interview, I’m much more focused on understanding two things…the level of employee engagement and whether or not they’re a good cultural fit,” Staples said.

Culture fit is extremely important to companies these days, which is why most hiring managers will use the second round interview to test this fit with behavioral interview questions.

In many cases, companies will use the second round interview as a time for the candidate to meet other employees on the team. Staples said it is very common to pull in other managers, peers, and anyone that would be interacting with whoever fills this open role.

“While the assumption should be that the hiring manager has determined that the skill set is the right fit, it’s about understanding whether or not this employee would be a good fit to be a business partner to the others in the organization,” Staples said.

Second interview question examples

According to Staples, there are four different types of questions that she typically asks during a second-round interview.

Question type: Indirect or direct questions that help the interviewer understand how engaged, prepared and invested the candidate is in the company, industry, and role?

  • Example 1: Did you see our recent news release about XX? What are your thoughts?
  • Example 2: Did you download a trial of the product to see it in action and understand the customer experience?
  • Example 3: [Name] is a major influencer in our space. Do you have a perspective on some of the work they/she has published recently?

Question type: Role-relevant inquiries

  • Example 1: (Marketing) Did you see our recent campaign on X? What did you like about it? What would you have done differently?
  • Example 2: (Sales Development Representative – SDR) Did you try to enroll yourself as a lead in our system? What did you learn when speaking with one of our SDRs that reached out? What did you like about their approach? What would you have done differently?

Question type: Culture and fit related questions: Employer to Candidate

  • Example 1: What aspects of company culture are most important for you?
  • Example 2: X is an important company value for us, can you give examples of how you have you reflected this in past roles?
  • Example 3: When starting a new job, what are some of the ways in which you get to know other employees?
  • Example 4: How would you describe the culture of your last employer? What about it did you appreciate? What would you change?
  • Example 5: Tell me about the people you were closest to in your last job. Why were you magnetized to one another?

Question Type: Unexpected insights

  • Example 1: I see on LinkedIn that you were cited in an article that discusses XX. Can you tell me more?
  • Example 2: I noted on LinkedIn that we both know [name of mutual contact]. What is your relationship to him/her and what would they share with me about their experience with you.

What does the second interview mean?

“Time is so precious for all of us…none of us have any time to waste, hiring managers and candidates alike,” Staples said. “So by the time you’ve gotten to that second interview, the interviewee should believe that the employer feels you’re a good technical fit for the organization and they’re trying to feel out whether you’re a good cultural longterm fit the business.”

That being said, candidates should not be naive enough to believe that they are the only candidate in the running. While this might be the case, it is definitely possible that the company has multiple candidates going through second round interviews for the position.

“A second interview is not a job offer, but certainly it is demonstrated intent because they wouldn’t be spending face time with you and then using the time of colleagues if they weren’t somewhat into you,” Staples said.

How do you prepare for a second interview?

In addition to preparing answers to the above questions, Staples recommends diving deeper into your research of the company, far past what appears on the company’s homepage. Candidates that impress Staples are those that take what they learned in the first interview, do more research on the topics, and come back for the second interview with more to add to the conversation.

Candidates should do as much research as possible on past, current, and upcoming projects at the company and see if the organization has appeared in the news at all lately. If the company puts any sort of content out on the web, the candidate should be familiar and be able to discuss it.

In the second round interview, Staples usually does more research on the candidate as well. She likes to use her digital tools, particularly LinkedIn, to see what the candidate has posted about recently and if they have any mutual connections. If there is a mutual connection, Staples will most likely reach out and ask the professional about your relationship. 

Being prepared to discuss your LinkedIn profile as well as relationships with any mutual connections is important going into the second round interview.

How to ace the second interview

The most important aspects of acing the second round interview are to express enthusiasm for the role, show culture fit at the company, and use the preparation tactics outlined above.

Candidates should use the first interview round as an opportunity to ask questions about the company’s culture that way they are able to emphasize the qualities about themselves that align.

Expressing enthusiasm during a second interview round is also extremely important for a candidate.

“I remember being coached when I first came out of college, to never seem too eager for a position…play it cool, keep your options open…I don’t think that that works in today’s environment either way,” Staples said. “As a hiring manager, one of the things I’m doing in that second interview is really trying to understand how invested this person is in my company.”

Part of this enthusiasm is coming back to the second interview already have ideas on how to get started and make changes in the company and deliver in the role.

“When a candidate says to me, ‘I was thinking about what we spoke about on our last call and I had this great idea when I was in the shower this morning…’ that kind of enthusiasm and constant attention as a hiring manager really appeals to me because it shows that this person can already see themself in the business,” Staples said. “It’s a really good indicator of a cultural fit.”

Questions for candidates to ask the interviewer in a second interview

Question type: Culture and fit related questions

  • Example 1: I want to be part of a team/company that values XX, can you share how this is reflected in your company or team?
  • Example 2: What are some of the professional interests or personal goals of other members on the team?
  • Example 3: How do different departments come together both inside and outside the office?

How to dress for a second interview

While it’s a good idea to dress up for a first interview, that in-office time gives you a chance to get a feel for every aspect of the company culture, including the dress code. Most companies today are more casual, and while we’re not recommending you wear jeans to your second round interview, you can probably get away with dressing down a notch from your first interview.

“I used to have a philosophy that you could never be overdressed, but I certainly don’t carry that philosophy anymore,” Staples said. “I think that’s changed quite a bit where now you can stand out and feel like a misfit, so follow the lead if you have visibility to how folks in the company are dressing.”

How to write a thank you email for a second round interview

Just as second round interviews shouldn’t be treated exactly like the first round, Staples recommends changing up your after interview thank you email for the second round as well.

“The thank you email always must reflect specific points from the interview, that the proactively are taking out and are responding to, so not reiterating all of the same points that were covered in the interview, but finding a way to extend that conversation beyond the second interview,” Staples said.

Staples recommends thinking about points that were discussed and consider how you can add to that conversation in an email.

One example is that is that the candidate and interviewer bonded over an influencer that they mutually agreed they admired, it would be relevant and appropriate to maybe share content from that individual.

By showing further investment in the conversation, you show that you were engaged and listening, not just going through the motions of the interview process. Staples recommends taking the relationship to a deeper personal, but professional level.