A candidate who makes it to a second interview can expect to be presented with scenario-based questions, such as how they would respond to certain situations and why.

How recent college grads can ace the second job interview

Posted April 27, 2017 by


Almost every job interview boils down to three key questions in the mind of the interviewer, says Steve Koppi, Executive Director of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Mass) Career Development Center.

  1. Can this candidate do the job
  2. Will this candidate do the job, and
  3. How will this candidate fit in or get along with others?

“These same principles apply to second round interviews,” says Koppi. “The good news is that you have cleared at least that first hurdle. The employer believes you, the candidate, can do the job, and you have the skills and knowledge they are seeking in a new hire.”

Thao Nelson, Senior Associate Director of Undergraduate Career Services at the Indiana University Kelly School of Business, is also a former recruiter. She invited recent college grads to a second job interview when they convinced Nelson of these three things in the first interview:

  1. That they can do the job and provided strong, impactful, and relevant examples
  2. They really wanted to work for her company.
  3. That they were likable, and she or others on the team would enjoy working with them.

A job seeker who makes it to a second job interview has demonstrated they have the background, core aptitudes, and transferable skills to do the job, says Cheryl Goodman, Talent Development Manager with Alexander Mann Solution’s, a talent acquisition and management firm with clients in 80 countries. Goodman is based in Cleveland, Ohio and heads up Alexander Mann Solution’s new graduate recruitment program.

In the second interview recent college grads are “being assessed for long-term potential to thrive within the culture and contribute to the company,” says Goodman. “It’s about ROI, too, because the company will be investing in your career launch and professional development, so they are looking to be sure that’s a wise investment.”

What to expect in a second interview

A candidate who makes it to a second interview can expect to be presented with scenario-based questions, such as how they would respond to certain situations and why, says Goodman.

“At this stage, the interviewers expect a candidate to be well-informed about the company business strategy, market, culture, and operations,” says Goodman. “Interviewers are expecting candidates to offer insight and ideas about the company from a business standpoint. Know the customers, the market, and more. Demonstrate a big picture understanding and that you are a strategic thinker looking to make a contribution.”

In the second job interview, interviewers are assessing a candidate’s preparation, level of engagement, the effort put into the process, critical thinking and decision-making abilities, and their ability to instinctively apply the skills they gained in school to a new situation, which is also a way of surmising their maturity.

“The second interview is an opportunity for a more in-depth conversation, immersion into the company culture, and assessment of fit,” says Goodman. “This is a two-way decision, and for the candidates just starting their careers, it’s a major life decision.”

Second round interviews often have more to do with your motivation to succeed and how you get along with others, says Koppi, who offers these tips for recent college grads researching how to succeed in a second job interview:

  1. Demonstrate your motivation to succeed: Showcase your company/industry knowledge, and how you see yourself fitting into the role and with the company. Before the meeting do your homework, research the company, read up on industry trends, talk to people in the know, and be ready to talk up why you are the right fit for the role.
  2. Practice active listening during the interview: Be open, engaged, and fully present so you can respond with genuine curiosity and enthusiasm to the employer’s interests, questions, and dialog.
  3. Channel your inner anthropologist or journalist: If the second round interview is on-site, it’s a terrific opportunity to observe organizational culture, identify questions you have about expectations, orientation, training, and career growth. Ask appropriately when the opportunity arises.
  4. Share aspects of your story to connect with others: Know your resume inside and out, have some brief, positive, engaging stories to tell about your choice of major, the school you chose, your senior project, your co-curricular activities, and try to relate these examples to how it fits into the role/company you are interviewing for/with.
  5. Before the interview, utilize college/university career services department: To prepare for a second interview, take advantage of the resources at your school’s career services department. Even if you have graduated, the career services department can offer practice/mock interview opportunities, interview preparation workshops, and/or connect you with alumni or other professionals who can help answer questions about what to expect in a second job interview.

Assess the company and job – make sure it’s the right fit

Many recent college grads are so focused on landing that first job, they don’t think long-term says Goodman. Meaning, they only focus on getting a job, not the right job.

“Sometimes, candidates can become laser-focused on landing the job to the detriment of whether or not it is a position and a company where they will be successful and fulfilled,” says Goodman. “At that stage in life, landing the job can feel like the be all, end all. However, acing the interview is about achieving an outcome that is best for all parties, which may in fact mean not landing the job.”

Hiring is a two-way street, says Nelson. A second round interviews means that the company is interested in you, but it’s also an opportunity for both you and the company to get to know each other better and evaluate each other’s fit.

Employers want job seekers to ask these important questions.

Ultimately, the second interview is the best chance to make a positive impression so be sure to reinforce the three questions (can I do the job, do I want to work for this company, am I likable?).

“Come prepared with questions about the position, company, and management,” says Nelson. “Ask questions resulting from the information you learn during the interview. You want to be sure all of their issues have been addressed.  You may close with asking ‘What additional information or examples can I provide that will help you make a decision?’ Finally, send a personalized thank you letter to the key people you met during the process.”

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