How To Answer Second Interview Questions (With Examples)

By David Luther - Oct. 5, 2021
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Think of your job interviews as dates.

You dress nicely, you get to know people, and you determine if there’s any chemistry.

In the first interview, you demonstrated that you were capable and a reasonable fit for the position, which is kind of like getting someone to go on a date with you.

But in this second interview, you want to go beyond that, and show that you are the best possible candidate for the position — you’re presenting yourself as relationship material.

Odds are, in your first interview you met with someone from human resources or a hiring manager, and it was probably more of a broad screening to weed out the last of the unsuitable candidates — think of it like them swiping right on you and deciding to talk to you.

The second interview though, that’s the first date, the one where you bring out all the stops. This is when you actually get to know them and when they choose to invest time in you.

You can expect more questions about the company and the job description, and also more questions about how your abilities and skills that you discussed in the first interview will translate into the person they want to hire.

And if it all goes well, you may even get a formal offer.

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How to Prepare for a Second Interview

Preparing for your second interview shouldn’t be a passive process — now that you know the responsibilities and the company’s needs, use that information to prepare examples and stories that describe your abilities.

Some of the interview questions may be the same as the questions you were asked at the first interview, but others will be very different — you’ll have new interviewers, they’ll have forgotten your answers, and they may even want to see if you answer the same way.

You can think of the first interview as an opportunity for interviewers to learn about who you are as a person and to figure out off the bat if you’d ever be able to perform the job’s duties. The second one will be to discern whether your skillset would be a good fit.

Below are the six steps you should take to prepare for and ace your second interview.

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1Review Your Research

Learn as much as you can about the job and the company, so you can more accurately tailor your answers to describe what you can offer your potential new employer.

The research you presumably did for your first interview is crucial here — what is the company proud of? How do they present themselves on social media? What community outreach and press relations efforts are they pushing?

And don’t stop trying to learn more — when you’re notified that you’ll be going through a second interview, ask who will be conducting it and learn about them. Google their names, find them on LinkedIn, see if they’ve published any articles or papers.

2Practice Your Presentation

You’ve worked on your elevator pitch and you’ve brought your materials — don’t forget to practice presenting both, as this is often the time when you’ll meet the people you’ll be working with and not just hiring manager types.

Remember to be consistent. Your second interviewer is most likely going to read over the first one’s notes, and if you have multiple interviewers in the second round you can bet they’re going to talk about you and compare notes.

Be consistent on your work history, skills, and experience — don’t try to appeal to any particular interviewer that you misrepresent yourself.

That means no lying, which is always good interview etiquette.

As always, review your resume and take notes on what you discussed and the questions you were asked.

3Ask More Specific Questions

An interview is always a conversation — if you’re not talking back and asking questions, then you’re doing it wrong. Be an active listener, and if it feels more like an interrogation, then you probably should look elsewhere.

Just as the interviewers are going to be asking you more detailed questions that help them figure out who you are, you should be doing the same. Even if you have your heart set on this position already, you should take these questions as opportunities to impress them with your interest and showcase how your mind works.

  • How would you describe the culture here?

  • How do you measure performance?

  • What opportunities would I have in this position to best impact the company?

  • Are there any challenges I could expect to face in my first few months here?

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4Learn About the Company Culture

If your predecessor was promoted, it indicates room for growth and you can divine how long you’ll need to be in the position before you move up.

And it’s a bit more sensitive, but you can also figure out a bit about the company and your supervisor by learning about why the previous person was fired. If they didn’t perform, you can figure out on the fly how success is measured — and if they were fired quickly, you can learn a bit about how the company values its employees.

Remember, the main reason people either love or hate their jobs is their supervisor.

And while it’s not an opportunity to begin talking about salary requirements, you can ask questions that are a bit more presumptuous.

  • What would the next step be in the hiring process, and when should I expect to hear about it?

  • If hired, when would you like for me to start?

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5Be Prepared for Behavioral Interview Questions

In interview processes where there are multiple layers, it’s usually because there are a bunch of people whose input this all hinges upon. If you find yourself called up for a second interview, it’s not likely going to be a repeat of the first interview.

While you probably got the what-would-you-do, straightforward questions like “What motivates you?” and “Tell me about yourself” in the first interview, this is often the time when you’ll get the what-did-you-do questions — so not “how would you handle yourself if you disagreed with a coworker”, but “how have you coped with unruly clients in the past”.

Rehearse a few stories from your past or work history that tell a lot about who you are as a person. Things that characterize you as a team player through your actions make for a lot stronger answers than just saying, “I’m a team player,” for example.

The best approach to behavioral interview questions is to use the STAR method:

  1. Situation. Briefly describe the context of your story.

  2. Task. Talk about your task (whether you were assigned to something or took it up yourself) in the given context. The “situation” and “task” section of your answer can be blended into the first couple of introductory sentences.

  3. Action. This is the real meat of your answer — talk about how you handled the situation. The richer detail you can give on the “how” and “why” of your job, the more substantive your answer will be.

  4. Result. Finally, detail the conclusion of your story. The result should always be positive, even if the question is about a negative situation like conflicts or mistakes. Focus on what you learned and improvements you’ve made, and never place blame on a third party.

class="fancy">6Answer Questions Directly

Resist the temptation to ignore the question. That sounds like a given, but people have a tendency to just talk about themselves instead of talking about themselves in a way that answers the question.

  • Ask for clarification if you need it.

  • Describe a scenario you were in that echoes the one they describe.

  • Discuss what it was that you did to address it.

  • Detail the outcomes.

Remember to do all of the above in a way that casts you in a positive light, even when you’re asked about a negative experience or hypothetical.

Remember, the interviewer is trying to gauge if your previous behavior makes you a good fit — but if your current behavior is bombastically ignoring their questions so you can talk about yourself, it’s answering that question in another way.

class="fancy">Common Second Interview Questions

The second interview leaves the powers that be with a list of candidates who meet their basic criteria, and now they want to figure out who from that list bests aligns with their company’s mission.

They’re going to want to know about you, but the point of the answers you give should focus on role-specific skills and not general qualities about yourself.

  • How do you handle being given multiple tasks that share the same deadline?

  • What do you know about our competition and how we’re different from them? Why do you want to work here and not there?

  • Tell me about a time when a project’s priorities changed suddenly and you had to adapt.

  • Have you used our product/service before?

  • Tell me about a time you’ve disagreed with a coworker or supervisor. How did you handle the situation?

  • We’re going through some challenges with [job-specifc challenge]. Do you have any thoughts on what we could be doing differently?

  • What kinds of challenges do you enjoy in a job?

  • Is there anything you want to discuss from your first interview?

class="fancy">Example Answers to Second Interview Questions

The key thing to do here is frame the situation or story you want to tell in terms of the question they ask, then describe the situation while finally returning to a succinct answer.

  1. How do you handle being given multiple tasks that share the same deadline?

    I feel that the most important thing to do with concurrent deadlines is to rank them by priority and then determine how long each of those tasks should take — because even if my goal is as always to finish them all, my overarching goal is to allocate my time in a way that best benefits the company.

    As a web content creator, I would rather put out a product that stands on its own merits — so in the past, I’ve had to decide which stories could actually be written to our high standard in the given period of time and complete them first, knowing that it’s not an option to sacrifice quality of work just to meet deadlines.

    If it became clear that I couldn’t meet my deadlines, I would reach out to my supervisor to make sure that my priorities were aligned with theirs, and then see if we could collaborate with others on my team to meet our deadlines.

  2. What do you know about our competition and how we’re different from them? Why do you want to work here and not there?

    What stood out to me in my research was how happy your employees are. In my conversations with people who work here, I’ve learned that there’s a genuine spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that extends across departments. In my past positions, there’s always been a sense of disconnect between teams and it often makes working on projects frustrating.

    For example, the biweekly “all hands” meeting you hold sounds interesting and particularly beneficial to me. Having a high-level coordination event like that so frequently ensures consistency across the company. As a hyper-organized individual who likes to keep the big picture in mind, this sort of company culture brings me much-needed structure and cohesion that makes setting my priorities much more straightforward.

  3. Tell me about a time when a project’s priorities changed suddenly and you had to adapt.

    In my last position, we had a goal of revamping a client’s website for monetization. The client wasn’t precisely sure how they wanted to incorporate ads and other paid service offers on their page without harming the overall user experience. Our team drew up several options and started A/B testing to see which performed best, both from a monetary and engagement perspective. However, as we started rolling this out, our client’s priorities shifted entirely to affiliate marketing.

    While they expected a long turn-around time for what they felt was a radically different request, our team was able to deliver new options in a quarter of the time. Using the templates we had developed and the same A/B testing process, we had a polished website ready under time and under budget. The affiliate marketing campaign went on to be a success.

  4. Tell me about a time you’ve disagreed with a coworker or supervisor. How did you handle the situation?

    I tend to be a go-with-the-flow type, but when I see a needlessly inefficient or expensive process, my OCD kicks in. My last supervisor religiously kept to a manual describing the protocol for all projects. It was devised over the course of his career, and it had a lot of useful and beneficial guidelines.

    However, one of those guidelines was proving to be a major bottleneck — requesting funding for each element of the project as it came up. I brought my concerns to him after multiple projects started falling behind, and he explained that it was a cost-saving measure he’d learned from wasted cash in the past.

    I told him I understood the motivation behind the protocol, but suggested requests come in bigger chunks, less frequently. We were able to reach a compromise where we had rolling monthly financial requests on a schedule for each department, so that funding was processed more quickly and finance could focus on one thing at a time.

    Projects moved along a lot more quickly after that, and my supervisor thanked me for the suggestion after he saw the results.

class="fancy">Common Second Interview Mistakes

If you make it to a second interview, you have the potential — interviewers are at this point looking for you to confirm that and also not screw up.

These are some of the attitudes that they don’t want to see — this is important to remember because even if you are the most eager, excited, and prepared candidate, perception is everything. Answer interview questions for the interviewer’s ears, not yours. Seeming disinterested or passive is a big no-no.

As we said before, if you’ve passed the first interview then you’re more or less qualified — this is to see if you and the company are a good match for each other.

If you fail to ask questions about the role, you’ll come across as disinterested. People don’t want to hire someone who’s not excited, and they definitely don’t want to hire someone who may leave in the near future.

You shouldn’t bring up salary requirements, but when it comes to discussing things like benefits, salary, work schedule, and the like, employers are going to be looking for someone whose demands aren’t mismatched.

  • Being unprepared. You really should be prepared for second interview question by the time of your first interview, but your interviewers this time are going to expect for you to know a thing or two about the company and the role you’ll be filling.

    If you don’t demonstrate knowledge of services and products, a bit of company history, and what the industry is like then you’ll look like you aren’t genuinely interested in the position.

    In other words, don’t ask questions like “I’m sorry, what do you sell again?”

  • Being unwilling to adapt. Make sure that you present yourself as a person who can adapt to change. If the company is going to grow or demands an indication of some flexibility, you need to indicate that you are game for it and it won’t hurt your performance down the road.

class="fancy">Final Thoughts

The process might not be over. There may be further rounds of interviews, and if the competition for the position is particularly close you might get an email or phone call to follow up on one of your answers.

This isn’t an opportunity to embellish or present yourself in a better light — remember how you presented yourself and represented your answer, and clarify it.

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David Luther

David Luther was the Content Marketing Editor for the Zippia Advice blog. He developed partnerships with external reporting agencies in addition to generating original research and reporting for the Zippia Career Advice blog. David obtained his BA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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