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How can you prepare for a second interview?

How can you prepare for a second interview?

Artwork by: Lizabeth Zaft

  • Revisit first-interview guidelines
  • Evaluate your performance from the first interview 
  • Research what to expect in the second interview
  • Recall relevant work stories from previous careers
  • Brush up on potential technical questions
  • Ask in-depth questions you wanted to ask in the first interview
  • Send a follow-up message after the second interview
  • Key takeaways

With the guidelines listed in this article, second-stage interviewees can anticipate challenging new interview questions, refine their existing interview strategy, and maximize their chances of landing their sought-after job.

After acing the last interview you attended, you receive an invitation from your potential employer to come in for another. This invite to a second interview is a good sign but also leaves you with a vexing quandary: How can you leave interviewers with an even better impression than you did in your first interview? 

 Read on to learn how to do this successfully using the following tips: 

  • Revisit first-interview guidelines

  • Evaluate your performance from the first interview

  • Research what to expect in the second interview

  • Recall relevant work stories from previous careers

  • Brush up on potential technical questions

  • Ask in-depth questions you wanted to ask in the first interview

  • Send a follow-up message

Revisit first-interview guidelines

Many interview strategy guides focus on giving advice for people attending first-stage stage interviews – understandably so, since many companies and businesses use preliminary interviews to narrow crowds of job-seekers down to a smaller, more manageable list of promising candidates. 

Much of the advice these interview guides offer – dressing well, maintaining good hygiene, printing out resumes, memorizing answers to common questions – are still very relevant for prospective employees invited to a second interview. At the bare minimum, a second-stage interviewee should prepare and present themselves just as well as they did in their first interview.

Most interviewees will, for very good reasons, want their second interview to go even better than their first interview did. However, interviewees who prepared rigorously and presented themselves well during the last interview might find themselves at a loss during the next stage of the interview process, wondering what they can do besides “more of the same.” 

To break free from this mental gridlock, it’s important to take a step back and rebuild your strategy from the ground up using the second-interview tips and tricks outlined here.

Evaluate your performance from the first interview 

Ideally, you should start to prepare for the next interview shortly after completing your first one, even if you’re not sure whether you’ll be called back. After a short respite to calm down from the tensions of being scrutinized, think back on your interaction with the interviewers. 

  • Jot down notes about the questions that were asked (by both you and the hiring team) along with the answers that were given. 

  • Recall and analyze small details such as the language you employed, the tone of voice you adopted, your posture, how much eye contact you made, etc. 

By evaluating and documenting your performance in this way, you’ll be able to identify blind spots and gaps in knowledge that you can shore up in future appointments. 

  • Perhaps there were questions that you struggled to answer or moments where you rambled on for too long. 

  • Or maybe there were lapses in concentration where you didn’t pay close enough attention to what the interviewers were saying and requesting. 

Thinking back on lapses like that can be embarrassing at times, but acknowledging and accepting these sorts of slip-ups will greatly improve your interview performances in the long run.

While documenting the flaws in your interview performance, it’s important to also document the moments where you did well – the questions you answered confidently, the thoughtful questions you asked, the engaging stories you shared about past work experiences, the moments where you connected with the interviewers, etc. 

Besides being good for your self-esteem, recording your successes will gradually help you grasp the science behind an interview strategy, letting you make choices/statements with the full knowledge that they’ll be effective.

Statistical Insight

According to recent data, an average corporate job opening will receive around 250 resume submissions, but only four to five candidates will actually be interviewed.

Research what to expect in the second interview

When prospective employers invite promising candidates back for a second interview, the questions they ask and the tests they propose will generally be harder and  different from the questions and tests of the previous interview. To avoid being caught off guard, candidates should gather as much information as they can about the format of their second interview and adapt their approach accordingly.

One effective way to gather information about second-stage interviews is to simply send a message to the company’s Human Resources department and ask what you should expect. In most cases, the folks at HR will be happy to explain how the second interview will be structured, how candidates should prepare, and whether candidates should bring print-outs of resumes, well-written cover letters, or comprehensive portfolios.

Recall relevant work stories from previous careers

Many interviewers these days like to ask job seekers questions about previous careers and the lessons learned from them. Questions like “Can you describe a time where you were faced with a challenging customer concern, and the approach you took to resolve it?” tend to be asked during interviews for customer-service positions and are popular among interviewers who want to ask the infamous “What is your biggest weakness?” question in a more subtle way.

To prepare for second interview questions about previous work experience, think back on moments from your previous careers that were challenging, frustrating, fun, or rewarding. Difficult customers and challenging projects that you handled with aplomb are good examples of stories you can share with interviewers to demonstrate your prowess. 

Write down these examples and practice until you can tell them from memory.

Expert tip

Having trouble thinking of work stories where you surmounted  major challenges? As an alternative, you can bring up stories about early career moments where you initially struggled with a job’s task and then decisively explain how you learned and improved from the experience. As with most forms of storytelling, presentation matters.

Brush up on potential technical questions

As mentioned above, the questions asked in second-stage interviews tend to be more technical and complex than those from first-stage interviews. For this reason, job-seekers preparing for a new interview should always refresh their understanding of the fundamental knowledge needed for the position, particularly if said position requires a working knowledge of math, language, computer programming, or other information-dense disciplines.

In public schools, colleges, and other universities, students absorb information on complex topics through activities such as lectures, tests, homework, group projects, and self-study. Post-graduation, however, it’s easy to forget the studying habits you picked up during your student days, rely too much on intuition to complete tasks, then suffer from mental hiccups when job interviewers ask you questions about basic terminology or procedures. 

Even a quick perusal of online guides and old academic textbooks can help job seekers shake off the metaphorical rust and anticipate the questions interviewers will use to evaluate your proficiency.

Ask in-depth questions you wanted to ask in the first interview

Interviews, particularly first-stage interviews, can be as short as five minutes and rarely last longer than an hour. Due to the finite span of an interview session, job-seekers may lack the time needed to ask all the questions on their mind. In this context, second-round interviews are a perfect opportunity to ask the job interview questions you weren’t able to ask the last time around.

Before a second interview, briefly jot down a list of questions you wished you could have asked in the previous interview – questions about job responsibilities, dress codes, starting salaries, insurance, ethical guidelines, prospects for promotion, and so on.

If possible, phrase these questions such that employers can answer them with a “yes,” a “no,” or by choosing one of your suggestions. “Yes/No” and “this or that” questions are not only easier for prospective employers to answer on the fly but also demonstrate your ability to think critically and brainstorm solutions to problems.

Copyable example


Besides basic qualifications, are there any personal qualities you’re looking for in your employees?

How would you describe your company’s workplace culture? 

If I’m hired for this position, are there challenges I should watch out for while starting out?

What kind of career growth opportunities would I have working in this position?

In my last interview, were there any skills, attitudes, answers I gave that inspired you to invite me to this one?

Send a follow-up message after the second interview

It’s important to send a follow-up or thank-you message to your interviewers – ideally a few days after the second interview is complete. At the end of the interview, ask the interviewers if you could reach out to them via phone call or email. 

In some cases, the HR departments or certain businesses aren’t able to respond personally to queries from candidates being evaluated. In many more cases, HR staff members will appreciate genuinely curious follow-up phone calls and emails from their interviewees and be more likely to remember their names when the time comes to pick their new hires. 

Below are tips on what to include in a follow-up message.



Open by thanking your interviewer for taking the time to talk to you.

Lie or exaggerate your interest in the position.

Explain why you’re excited about potentially being hired for this position.

Send multiple follow-up messages in a short amount of time.

Cite examples of how your prior worker experiences qualify you to handle the job’s responsibilities.

Use language or tones that come across as desperate, entitled, or condescending.

Ask if they need additional documents or information.

If a week or so has elapsed, and you still haven’t heard back from your interviewer or their associates, it’s generally okay to send one follow-up message to your follow-up message – the more concise and to the point, the better. 

Key takeaways

  1. Second round interviews will be different in style and depth from first round interviews, and job applicants should prepare themselves accordingly.

  2. To craft a functional interview strategy, candidates should evaluate past interview performances, identifying what they did well and what they could improve.

  3. Prepare for technical questions that might be asked.

  4. Second interviews are a good opportunity to ask additional questions, share extra information, and demonstrate types of expertise that didn’t come up in the previous interview.

  5. Always send a follow-up or thank-you note to the interviewers.

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