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Effective ways to conduct a second interview

As a business leader, you understand the importance of building an organization that offers useful products and services and building a loyal customer base. You need to stay ahead of the competition and give people a reason to keep coming to you for their needs. You can’t do this without a committed, talented workforce.

If you’re like most company stakeholders, you have a wide range of roles in your company, each with a specific skill set. When it’s time to replace a team member and hire someone new, you’ll sift through resumes and interview the most qualified applicants.

Once you narrow the pool to a handful of individuals with interviews, you’ll want to conduct a second interview and involve more people from your organization. The second interview is usually the final step before extending a job offer, so the types of questions you ask and how you ask them can carry a lot of weight. Fortunately, with the right approach, you can feel good about hiring the right person for the position.

Extending the invitation

There are various opinions on how many people to call back for a second interview. You should base your decision on how many candidates apply, how many people you interview during the first round, and how qualified those prospective employees were. You want to have a few people to choose from, but the second interview pool should not be too large that it bogs down the process.

After you complete all first interviews, confer with other team members on which candidates were most appealing. Once you determine whom to invite back for another interview, you should either call or email the candidates as soon as possible.

Remember, some people may be in the running for other positions, so you don’t want to miss out on the chance to hire them. Waiting too long to invite the person for a second interview has some other risks. The candidate may lose interest in the position and your organization. Or, it could have a ripple effect throughout your department and company by slowing down production.

Either a phone call or an email is appropriate. If you call, and the candidate does not answer, leave a detailed message. When you speak to the person, or if you communicate via email, make sure your tone is positive and professional—state how excited you are to move forward in this process with this candidate. Suggest a few different days and times to meet, if possible.

You should tell the person who will participate in this second meeting and what it entails. For example, if you will have the person perform a skills test, let him or her know at this time. Remind the candidate to bring his or her resume and portfolio, as there may be different people in this interview than were in the initial meeting.

Confirm the interview

The day before the interview, confirm the meeting time and location. You can do this through a second interview email or a phone call. People are human and can forget or confuse dates, so this reminder is important. Be understanding and respectful if the candidate has a legitimate reason to cancel or reschedule. Make sure other people involved in the interview–potential co-workers, supervisors, managers, directors–are available for the date and time you mutually select.

Welcome the candidate to the office

Once the candidate arrives at your building, greet him or her promptly. Do not make the candidate wait, as this can make the prospective employee more nervous and anxious. Be warm and genuine, expressing gratitude for the person’s continued interest in the position.

Congratulating the person for making it to this stage of the interview and selection process. Introduce the candidate to everyone else taking part in the interview. You may also want to take the candidate around the office to meet other people he or she would be working with if hired.

Recap and invite questions

You should start by briefly recapping what you talked about during the previous interview. Give the person a chance to ask any questions he or she may have had from the first meeting. Just as you expect the candidate to come up with good answers to your questions, you must do the same for the candidate. Give as much detail and as many examples as you can. Not only is the candidate trying to emphasize why he or she is the ideal person for the job, but you need to portray the role in the best light possible. Be positive but not misleading in your responses.

Time to ask questions

Many employers struggle to know what to ask candidates in a second interview. You don’t want to be repetitive and ask the same things as you did before. Refer to the notes you made during the previous interview. It’s fine to restate key questions, but expound upon them and challenge the candidate to give thoughtful answers. Here are some examples of things you should ask at this time:

  • What is the most important career goal you have fulfilled?
  • How have you worked effectively with someone who had different goals and values than you had?
  • Talk about a time when you had to overcome a mistake.
  • What is your philosophy on how to be successful at work?
  • How do you prioritize projects that all seem to be equally as important?
  • Why do you want to work here?

Of course, there are many more types of questions you can ask at this point. You are trying to assess the candidate’s ability to give intelligent answers quickly. You also want to determine that this person has the key attributes you are looking for in this position but also that the candidate will fit in well with your company’s culture.

Discuss availability

Be respectful of the fact that the candidate likely has a job at this time that he or she would leave to join your organization. It is customary for employees to give their employers two weeks’ notice. There may be cases when an even longer period would be warranted. Ask the candidate when he or she would be able to start working for you. The answer to this question can help you put the right support pieces in place to prepare for the hire.

Be honest and open about the rest of the process

If you have more candidates to interview in the coming days, don’t tell the person that he or she could expect a decision tomorrow. If you know that the executive team prefers to do one more round of interviews, explain that to the candidate. Be accurate as you talk about the timing of the hire.

Ending the interview

At the end of the questioning, thank the candidate for coming in. Tell the person that he or she can contact you if there are any questions or concerns. Walk the candidate out to the reception area.

For the candidate and your organization, the second interview is often the final chance to gather and give information. You can’t afford to choose the wrong person and take the time to start over from scratch. If you follow these guidelines, you can have confidence that you will find a qualified individual to take on this new role.

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