Congratulations! You’ve been asked back for a second interview. At this point, you’re being seriously considered for the position. You sailed through the first interview because you were well prepared. Now you have to be hyper-focused: Questions for a second interview will go deeper, and will be tougher, than what you handled in that initial conversation.
What else will be different about this interview? The second round can be much more involved. For one thing, you can expect new faces. Follow-up interviews give you the chance to meet more people in the organization who have a voice in the hiring process.
To help streamline the hiring process, an employer might schedule a panel interview, on video or in person, so that a mix of senior executives, managers and potential coworkers can get to know you at the same time. So, be ready to field questions from several different people.
Below, we offer a list of sample second interview questions, ideas for how to answer them and other important considerations to help you prepare for this critical evaluation phase.
Potential questions for a second interview
First-round interview questions typically focus on the applicant’s skills and experience. Second interview questions are aimed at helping the interviewer or panel visualize you in the role. Here are 15 questions you might be asked, along with some savvy ways to respond to them:
1. Tell me again what interests you about this job and what skills and strengths you plan to bring to it.
Note that the question is not, “What are your skills and strengths?” but “What skills and strengths can you bring to the job?” Answer this question by outlining specific contributions you believe you can make to the company.
2. Do you have anything you want to revisit from your first interview?
A less-than-ideal answer to this question is, “Not really.” So, before the second interview, take time to make a list of things that occurred to you after your last conversation that you may want to bring up.
An example might be, “Could you please tell me a bit more about the company’s culture? I want to make sure I have a good sense of what it would be like to work here and be a part of the team.”
3. What is your greatest weakness?
Yes, some managers still ask this question, even during the second interview. Be honest about an actual negative trait — but also follow up immediately with how you’re working to overcome it. Some examples of more acceptable weaknesses might include impatience with bureaucracies or the tendency to take on too much responsibility.
4. Can you tell me a little more about your current/most recent job?
Note that the employer is asking for more than what you’ve described in your resume or during the initial interview. You should be able to give a short and precise summary of duties and responsibilities at your most recent position. Be careful not to sound negative about the job or your employer.
5. Describe a professional achievement you’re especially proud of.
This request is designed not only to evaluable your career priorities but also to test your ability to clearly explain what you do. Avoid jargon and acronyms; instead, explain the significance of your accomplishment in simple terms.
One idea is to highlight an anecdote that shows you can collaborate effectively with people in other departments or those outside of your field — a key characteristic of a good team player.
6. How did you change your current/most recent job?
A convincing answer here shows adaptability and a willingness to take the bull by the horns, if necessary. Talking about times you chose to approach a task or problem differently from other people highlights your creativity and resourcefulness.
7. What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make on the job?
This one tests your integrity and decision-making style. Make sure your answer aligns with what you’ve learned so far about the company’s culture and the standards it has set for its employees.
8. Looking back, what could you have done to make a challenging workplace relationship better?
This interview question is attempting to find out whether you’re capable of rising above an unpleasant situation or learning from past mistakes, both highly desirable qualities.
A bitter answer may indicate someone who holds grudges or simply can’t get along with certain kinds of people. A reflective, positive answer will show that you try to minimize personality conflicts — and don’t use them as excuses for failing to move forward. The employer is likely looking for a candidate who tries to be tactful and diplomatic but nonetheless stands up for what’s right.
9. Do you prefer to work alone or with other people?
A strong answer here is “both.” People who say they like working with information are obviously a good choice for technical positions. However, that may be a red flag if the interviewer perceives you don’t also enjoy communicating with others or that you lack collaboration skills. Even for highly technical jobs, these traits are valued.
10. What do you think your current/past company could do to be more successful?
Some questions for a second interview, like this one, are meant to reveal whether a candidate can see and work toward the “big picture” in an organization. If you get this type of question, keep in mind that the employer is probing to find out whether you have a clear understanding of your current or past employer’s missions and goals and if you’ve worked with those objectives in mind.
11. Can you describe a typical day at work in your last job?
The interviewer wants to see how your current (or most recent) routine compares with the requirements of the job in question. And given how much has changed in business, generally, since the start of the pandemic, you may have a lot to say in response to this question.
If you’ve been working remotely, for example, you may want to highlight your successes in transitioning to that situation. It’s OK to admit to any early struggles you’ve had, too. What’s most important is showcasing your adaptability, perseverance and resilience.
12. What sort of work environment do you prefer?
Plain and simple, with this question, the interviewer wants to find out whether you’re going to mesh well with the company and its work environment, as expressed in your own words. Weave your answer around your perception of the employer’s corporate style — as long as it’s truly what you’re seeking.
Also, when addressing this question, consider where the company will expect you to work. Does the organization have an all-remote team right now? Does it intend to keep all or part of its workforce remote once the pandemic subsides? And what is your preference for the long term?
13. Have you ever been in a work situation where you were asked to do something you felt was unethical?
This is another case where you should give specifics, if possible. The interviewer knows no serious job candidate is going to say that sometimes it’s OK to be unethical. But how you approach your answer and the anecdotes you share can increase the company’s comfort level with hiring you.
14. What would you consider an acceptable salary for this position?
There are numerous ways this question could be asked, depending on whether compensation has been discussed previously. Still, the last thing you want is to be caught off guard by a salary-related question. Consult Robert Half’s Salary Guides to learn what the market rate is for professionals with your experience and skillset.
Also, during negotiations, don’t forget to ask about perks and benefits that would be important to you, such as flexible work hours and opportunities for professional development.
15. If you got the job, what would you do in your first year to establish yourself?
Don’t be surprised if targeted (and tough!) queries like this one pop up among the questions for a second interview. Conduct in-depth company research to show you know your potential employer inside and out. Also, be clear about what you can do in this job to make a quick and meaningful impact.
How else can you prepare for a second interview?
Aside from practicing your answers to possible questions for a second interview, there are other things to contemplate and anticipate:
- Loose ends to tie up — Was there a question from the first interview that you didn’t answer completely? Or did the interviewer mention that they wanted to cover a topic but ran out of time? Remember those loose ends from the initial interview. Prepare for them so you can respond more fully during the second interview.
- Off-the-wall questions — Some employers enjoy asking tricky questions, such as, “If you were stranded on an island, what’s the one item you would want to have with you, and why?” to see how well you think on your feet. These questions also test your problem-solving skills and reveal a bit of your personality.
- Stories to tell — Sell yourself with a few success stories of past accomplishments. Don’t just say you’re good at what you do. Stand out by giving specific examples of how you’ve helped solve a problem or dealt with a specific challenge at work, and present that information in a way your interviewers are likely to appreciate.
- Discussion of the next steps — At the end of the second interview, the interviewer will likely tell you what happens next (possibly a third interview) and when you will hear from them. Or they could offer you the position on the spot. If the latter happens, don’t feel compelled to decide right then. Let the employer know you want time to decide and when they will hear back from you. And, if they don’t mention next steps, be sure to ask when they will be in touch or if you should follow up.
Questions you can ask the interviewer
During your second interview, you’ll likely be free to ask more questions than you did during your first interview. That’s good, because you’ll probably think of more probing questions as you learn more about the company, employees and the job itself.
Be sure to ask thoughtful, open-ended questions (and leave the detailed compensation questions for later). These are examples to help get you started:
- What do you like most about working for the organization?
- What is your management style?
- How do you measure the responsibilities and performance of those you supervise?
- How would you describe your ideal employee?
- What’s the greatest challenge that I would likely face in this job in the first year?
And finally, here are four additional tips to help you prepare for a second interview:
- Be ready to share your work samples (if relevant). You may be meeting with people who didn’t have an opportunity to see material you presented in your first interview. If you'll be meeting by video, have digital versions of your information that you can quickly tee up for a screen-share or send via email. You might also consider providing interviewers with a link to a secure, online folder containing your work samples.
- Review your resume and cover letter again to make sure you are providing consistent information about your skills and experience throughout the hiring process.
- If the second interview panel ask some questions you’ve addressed before, answer them with the same detail and enthusiasm that you applied the first time around. (But here again, also make sure you are providing consistent information.)
- Remember to send a thank-you email or note to each person you interviewed with. Even if you don’t get the position, thank key decision makers again, and ask that they keep you in mind for future opportunities — if that’s what you want. You might also ask for feedback about why you weren’t offered the position, so you can learn from the experience.