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How to ace your second interview questions

December 28, 2022 - 15 min read

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What’s a second interview?

How to prepare for your second interview

Second interview questions and answers

Nail that second interview

You’re not alone if you find interviewing for a job stressful. It’s the most overwhelming part of the job search for many

Much of this stress comes from worrying about making a good first impression. Feeling prepared and positive when entering that virtual or in-person interview room is crucial, because 52% of job interviewers make their decision within the first 5–15 minutes of an interview.

If you nailed that first impression, you’ll likely be asked to attend a second interview. This is exciting news — they’ve narrowed down promising candidates and you’re among that lot. 

It’s time to nail another interview. We’ll discuss how to prepare and outline great answers to common second interview questions.

What’s a second interview?

Second interviews are for candidates hiring managers found promising during the first round.

During the first interview, an HR employee typically asks surface-level questions to ensure you meet base requirements. If you do, then you’ll likely meet members of the team you’d be joining in the second interview.

They’ll ask you more in-depth, skills-based questions to ensure you can handle what they need from their new team member. 

For example, if you’re interviewing for a systems engineering role, they might schedule a working interview to ask you to solve a simple coding exercise or walk them through spinning up a server — or ask you to explain it verbally in a more traditional interview.

Applicants for an executive assistant role might need to indicate familiarity with certain project management and organization tools mentioned in the job ad. 

Then, if all goes well, you’ll either receive a job offer afterward or attend a third interview with someone higher up in the organization. 

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How to prepare for your second interview

It often feels like second interviews are higher stakes, but find confidence in the fact that you’ve already made a great first impression — and now you can show your skills. Here are some second interview tips to ensure you continue your winning streak:

Research the company

Study the organization’s core values, history, and future goals by perusing their website and social media accounts and searching on LinkedIn and Google. If a current employee is in your professional network, reach out to ask about the company culture and what kind of employee the business needs. 

This research also allows you to confirm this company’s a good fit for you. If so, show you’re an ideal candidate by explaining how you plan to align your values and cultural priorities with theirs during the interview. 

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Evaluate the first interview

Consider what went well and what didn’t during that first interview so you can make any necessary changes. If you took notes during it, read those over to see if there was information you left out that you think would be valuable to address.

You know this interview went relatively well since you got a second one, so think about what you did beforehand that may have contributed to its success and replicate this preparation.

Practice your answers

Interviews are nerve-wracking, but considering what they might ask and practicing your answers will help. Try role-playing the interview with a friend or family member, taking notes when you get stumped or feel flustered. You could also film yourself delivering answers to ensure you’re speaking articulately.

This practice is a great way to highlight areas worth researching further and get more comfortable with the interview process. 

Second interview questions and answers

You should expect more in-depth and skills-based questions during your second interview. Here are six good answers to common interview questions — we recommend using these as guidance, personalizing, and practicing them before the big day.

1. “Talk us through what your ideal workday looks like” 

This helps the recruiter or company team members gauge how well you’ll fit in with the rest of the team. Remember to answer the “why” regarding your daily processes, as this showcases your values. Here’s an example: 

  • “At the beginning of every week, I like to build out an agenda of tasks and weekly goals. I always give myself a little room for error for unexpected meetings or challenges that pop up.

    I like to dedicate my morning to the most challenging tasks because it’s when I feel most energized and creative. In the afternoon, I catch up on emails, do smaller administrative-type tasks, and take meetings.

    Meetings later in the day re-energize me. I can bounce ideas off someone about any challenges that arose in the day and push myself to think a little more critically.

    Before I finish up, I come down to inbox zero so I can start fresh in the morning.”

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2. “Tell us more about your familiarity with [insert tool]”

This question helps interviewers understand how your skills and experiences get used in a practical situation. Be as specific as possible to demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge. Here’s an example: 

  • “At my previous job, I started as an intern and worked my way up to the project manager for a software development position. [Name of tool] was my primary project management tool, and I used it to build strategic goals for my team and track their progress.

    Over the last eight years, I worked on more than 150 apps with 40 different clients, often juggling 8–10 clients at a time, and every interaction between clients and the software engineers was done through [Name of tool].”

3. “How would you describe your managerial style?”

No matter the position you’re interviewing for, highlighting your management style and how it has positively shaped previous teams is attractive to employers.

Management experience shows you’re ready and willing to take on increased responsibilities and that you get along well with others. Here’s a great way to answer this question:

  • “When I first started in advertising, I had a lot of managers that managed through fear. Most of my team was afraid of getting in trouble. We expected the worst-case scenario response from our boss.

    I definitely felt less creative and safer in my decision-making, which was counterproductive to our work.

    When I moved into a management position, I spent a lot of time building a sense of trust and inclusion on my teams. I want people to bring their most creative and innovative ideas, which only happens when they feel safe and supported to be themselves and take risks.

    I work very hard to show gratitude and always encourage people to take risks, even if that means a few failures along the way.”

4. “Tell us about a problem you solved at work” 

Explaining a problem you’ve overcome demonstrates your humility and problem-solving skills. It showcases how you react under pressure and whether you can handle complex challenges. 

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Respond to this question like you’re telling a good story:

  • Setting: Where were you working, and what was your role?

  • Challenge: What needed to be solved?

  • Solution: How did you solve the problem?

  • Outcome: What did you/your team/the organization achieve?

5. “What are your salary expectations for this position?”

Because second interviews are often the final vetting process before making a decision, this is when you typically discuss money. Attend the interview knowing how much you must make to accept the job. Consider taxes, debt, and your current budget.

This will also involve some research to figure out average salary expectations for this role in your area and for those with your experience level. 

When they ask about salary expectations, give a range with the lowest number being slightly above what you know you must make to accept. This increases the chance you’ll be offered more than you need, and if they can’t afford it, what they do offer you will still suffice. 

Ask about other forms of compensation or benefits, too, since these affect if the job meets your salary expectations. Perks like unlimited PTO might be greater selling points for you than a holiday bonus. 

Here are some example answers you can customize to your industry and expectations: 

  • “I expect a salary between $80–90,000 annually as I feel this meets industry standards for those with my experience level. But before we confirm a number, I need to understand more about role responsibilities and perks.”

  • “Discussing job expectations and benefits first would help me deliver a fair salary expectation. I’d also love to know what you’ve budgeted for this role. This will give me a better idea of the responsibility level I’d be taking on.”

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6. “Do you have any questions for us?”

Since this interview is likely the last one, the company will want to ensure you have all the information you need to decide if they send you a job offer. This speeds up the administrative process so they can start onboarding you immediately. 

Prepare a list of questions for the interviewer to demonstrate your interest and proactivity. Think about everything you need to know before accepting an offer. Here are some examples:

  • How do you measure success in this particular role?

  • What’s your favorite part about working for [company name]?

  • What does an average day look like for a person in this position?

  • What are some challenges I might face in this job?

  • Why did you decide to join the company?

  • What are the opportunities for continued career development?

Nail that second interview

Performing well in a job interview is like every other professional skill: it takes practice.

Remember that everyone involved knows how nerve-wracking interviews are. The goal isn’t to ease all nerves and never feel flustered — those experiences are simply a part of the game.

But if you prepare and practice for the second interview questions, the entire process will be less scary and you’ll be more likely to get that well-deserved job offer.

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Published December 28, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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