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Some Thoughts on the Second Interview

August 27, 2009

Candidates who are evaluated most positively during the initial/screening interviews are invited for a more extensive visit at the employer site (likely all of you have been through this exercise in one fashion or another). The nomenclature varies, e.g. office visit, plant trip, call back, etc., but the process across employers has many similarities.

Following are some thoughts you might keep in mind as you prepare for this next step.


First, considerations of structure.

Most employers will schedule this visit for the better part of a full day. Occasionally there will a dinner/entertainment function prior or post the actual interviewing day. You will probably interview with several people at different levels in the firm and with varying responsibilities. The interviews might well be a combination of fit and analytics, but I think they will lean more toward fit at this juncture. And generally, at the end of the day, the employer will lay out next steps and timing of communications (if they don't, ask - this is information you should have).

Generally speaking, employers who are thoughtful in approaching the hiring function will follow certain principles which might look something like this:

  • Treat the recruit as a welcome and respected guest.
  • Have an organized agenda for the day and give the recruit a copy.
  • Leave the candidate some time during the day to catch their breath.
  • Provide broad exposure to people and processes in the firm.
  • Answer the recruit's questions candidly.
  • Assess qualifications and fit.
  • Communicate next steps. On the assessment of qualifications, keep two things in mind.

First, EVERYBODY you meet might have a voice in the decision making process. Second, obviously the employer has already made at least a preliminary positive assessment of your candidacy - they wouldn't be investing time and dollars unless you had a good shot at an offer.

Following are some tips to help with continuing that forward momentum:

  • Do your homework - read websites, annual reports, Hoover's, etc.; talk to friends, faculty, alums, employees you know, and formulate legitimate questions meaningful to you.
  • All this preparation isn't only about knowledge you can demonstrate, it is also a signal that you care.
  • Be prepared to answer some variation of the question "Why are you interested in us?" Surprising how many folks don't have a thoughtful and coherent answer to that most basic of questions.
  • Don't try to convince them this is the only job you want/ever wanted unless it is true. A better bet is to tell them what you are looking for and how they match up well against those goals.
  • There is an old saying, "Hire for attitude, train for skill." Translated in this situation it means simply that you should be enthusiastic - your demeanor matters in an exercise which is often very subjective.
  • Be prudent with travel expenses, dress, language, alcohol consumption. This is not a good time to be aggressive in these areas - quite the contrary.
  • For heaven's sake be honest with your resume, transcript, and answers. Ever heard of George O'Leary? (Hint - Notre Dame Football).

When it is all said and done, this isn't complicated - be prepared, be yourself, be enthusiastic, be ready to carry the conversational ball if necessary. And be discerning - after all, they aren't the only ones making assessments and decisions in this process. So are you.