"Look at the tested and think, 'There but for the grace go I'." – Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Impression That I GetYou may never get a second chance at first impressions, but you’re sure to be doing well when you get a first chance at a second impression.
Last week, I discussed first impressions and last impressions, and the pitfalls within. This week I want to revisit those impressions, and making more, in that wondrous, hopeful, limbo known as 'The Second Interview'.
I have a second interview this week for a job I have a feeling I’m really close to. Second interviews are a fluid thing that can be strikingly different than your initial interview, a different animal all together. Or they can be the same with different people. Or it can be a test to see if a first (and last) impression holds up under different circumstances. So, how does one prepare for a call-back and what should one expect? I’m no expert (as I’ve mentioned many times before), but I have certainly been on enough to be able to give some first-hand advice.
First thing’s first: congratulations. You clearly did something right. The person or persons you interviewed with liked what he saw the last time. You’ve impressed them enough with your résumé to have you in to interview, and you wowed them in the interview to where they want to know more about you. In the timeline of job hunting, you’re half-way home. Experts say you have between a 25% to 50% chance of landing the gig at this point. Now, keep an eye on the third base coach, and look for the ball in the gap that’ll bring you in to score. Make sure you don’t undo any brand-building you’ve already erected, and prepare yourself to add on to the foundation you’ve already poured.
Baseball and construction metaphors aside, your goal in a second interview (besides, you know, getting the job) is to reinforce everything the person you interviewed with the first time 'round liked about you, and give the same personally-tailored impression to the other people you meet and interview with. So, who might that be? There’s a good chance that you’ll speak with a spectrum of new folks your second time in, like your potential boss’ boss, the human resources director, would-be fellow co-workers, a head of the department you’d be working in, other senior management, a diversity manager, a client, the president or CEO, and basically anyone else, so be prepared for anything and anyone.
What exactly are they trying to find out from you? They already have your résumé, portfolio if that’s your thing, and a good chunk of time already having spoken with you. Considering all the other people you may meet with, the biggest thing they are looking to see is if everything that your original interview said about you holds true. It’s like meeting a potential boy or girlfriend, and running them by your buds, entourage, posse, whathaveyou, to see if they approve, or more likely, to see if there’s anything glaring about them you’re missing ('Dude, didn’t you see that extra finger growing out of her shoulder?'). The original interviewer wants to make sure everyone else sees everything they saw in you. When you see a great new armoire at Ikea, be sure to bring the wife back to check it out with you, and come back more informed the second time.
They also want to glean deeper information from you. Most interviews come off boiler-plate, and only skim the surface of what they wish to know about you, getting a good general impression. The second interview will dig much deeper, get more specific about what they need to know and how it relates to the job. Questions will get more specific, and pressure will intensify, even if the atmosphere comes off more relaxed. And don’t be surprised if you’re asked to take psych and personality tests, something becoming more and more common in the business world. How do you prepare for that? Well, you don’t. You can try to find some practice tests online, but this ain’t the SAT’s.
Ahead of time, make sure you go over everything from the first interview. Give yourself a good post-mortem. Recall anything that you had trouble with or couldn’t quite answer with specifics the first time. Expect these things to come up again. Do your research on the company from scratch, knowing now what you didn’t know then. Review everything you learned that you didn’t find on their website or by talking to other employees. Go back to the company’s LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Review anything you see, and gather as much information about other people you may be interviewing with as possible. Think about anything new you can bring with you this time: new accomplishments, recent projects, anything you’ve learned in the mean time, and questions about the company you didn’t ask the first time to show you did your follow-up homework. Plan to meet with multiple people, even possibly at the same time.
Be sure to prepare for a very-likely question about salary. If you’re lucky, they will give you a figure or a range and ask you if that’s copacetic with you. But there’s a good chance you’ll get the dreaded open-ended question, "What is the salary you’re expecting for this position?". I’m not going to tell you how to calculate that figure, but it goes something like take your cost-of-living expenses, your last salary, your experience, the research you’ve done about compensation for similar positions, what a job posting might have indicated, and what you’re willing to take, then figure out a high-end, and a low-end, and be prepared with a number or range right back at them. And, similarly, if they come right out and give you a figure they're expecting to pay, you'll know if it falls in your range. But I do suggest you Google how to decide on a figure best for you, because I don’t want any angry emails from you saying you got lowballed for a salary and it’s my fault. I’m just a columnist, believe me, we’re nobody.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen about second interviews comes from Katharine Hansen, Ph.D. who says in her article 'Do's and Don'ts for Second (and Subsequent) Job Interviews':
- "Remember these three more words: Fit, Fit, and Fit. A major reason for the second interview is so the employer can see how well you fit in with the company culture. Put yourself inside the employer's head and realize that the interviewers at your second interview want to learn how well you will get along with other team members with whom you'll be interacting with every day."
And this may or may not be the end of the line. You could get a third interview, or more. But if you are starting to feel like your time is being wasted, go with your gut. Maybe this is not the place for you.
So, when you’re in for your second interview, remember that you’re making new first (and last) impressions again all over the place. Remember all the things you said the first time that impressed them, and cover and highlight them once more. You’re halfway to the win now.
Just be sure, when you are sliding home, to touch the plate with your winning run.
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Michael is a Copywriter, Creative Marketer, and Broadcasting Professional still in search of full-time employment after 15 months of full-time job hunting, thanks to an "involuntary career sabbatical". A Philly native and Syracuse graduate, Michael will gladly accept any job offer you may have for him. Any. Really. Please give me a job??
"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar." - Drew Carey