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The Kinds of Questions You Should Ask in a Second Interview

You’re definitely in the running for the job, but your questions could make or break your chances

Stephanie Olsen
Contributor

Woman in a job interview

Congratulations! You’ve passed the initial phone screen and first interview and you’ve made it to your second interview!

Now what?

Before breaking out the champagne, remember this: The fact that you’ve come this far is great, but the employer still needs another meeting with you to be sure you’re the right candidate. You’re definitely in the running for the job, but you may be up against other strong contenders.

Ask questions that show the value you offer

Don’t jump the gun, advises career empowerment coach Melanie L. Denny. “At this point, you shouldn’t be asking about the job responsibilities, but digging deeper with more in-depth questions to get a clear picture of what the role would look like on a daily basis,” she tells us. Those questions should be meaningful: They’ll help you stand out and also give you some insight as to whether this is the ideal job for you.

Her go-to question in the second interview is: What is the biggest challenge your department is facing right now? Denny says to listen carefully to the answer, “then frame your response in a way that positions you as someone who can help alleviate the issues.”

Read more: Questions to Ask an Interviewer That Make You Sound Like a Genius

Ask questions that show compatibility and likability

Career coach Bill Benoist explains that the second interview isn’t about competence. That was determined by your resume, the phone screen, and initial interview. The second interview is about compatibility and likability. Talking about teamwork and collaboration is important in this phase of the interview process, he adds. It’s when you make the recruiter or hiring manager comfortable with you and think that if you’re hired, you’d be a great addition to the team

To that end, a strong question to ask the person behind the desk is: What do you like best about working at this company?

It’s strong “because it puts your interviewer in a personal mode and it gets them to tell you on a personal level, what they like and it’s almost like they’re trying to convince you and sell you to come and work here,” explains career coach Don Georgevich.

You’ll typically get answers like, Oh, yeah. This is a great place. The company really cares about the employees. We have company picnics, we have profit sharing. It’s a very warm, family type of company and you would just love it here. To have them selling you on working there is what you want, Georgevich says. “You want them to try to convince you to come work at this company.” Don’t just settle for a fluffy answer.

Ask questions that show you’re paying attention 

Another tactic is to demonstrate that you’re and engaged and thoughtful candidate. 

Executive recruiter and leadership coach Andrew LaCivita says to “ask again.” It’s simple: Refer to a previous conversation you had with anyone in the organization during the lead-up to this second interview. He says it would look something like this: 

Last time I was here you [or so-and-so in HR] mentioned [insert whatever here]. It really stuck with me. I thought more about it and I wanted to get more insight into that as it relates to [insert whatever here.] Could you elaborate on…

LaCivita advises you to watch for consistency in the response you receive. Something completely different from the original statement could be a red flag.

Ask questions about company culture

It’s important to like where you work, so use the second interview to ask questions to make sure their corporate culture is right for you. That means finding out if the company has values you respect and if it conducts business in a manner you trust, says career counselor and coach J.T. O'Donnell.

A good way to broach this is to ask who the most successful recent hire is and why. O’Donnell advises that you listen very carefully to the answer. If they extoll a new employee who works 80 hours a week with no budget or direction—you have to ask yourself if it sounds like a place you really want to work. You can get a similar point of view by asking who didn’t succeed as a new hire and why.

Come with plenty of questions

Job search strategist Maureen McCann tells us there’s a reason you should prepare your questions in advance, just as you do your answers. An applicant who was having trouble coming up with a final question in her second interview looked around and blurted out: Why don’t you hire more immigrant women?

While McCann says her client’s intention was not malicious and she wasn’t calling anyone out, the question certainly wasn’t ideal and may have made the interviewer uncomfortable. (A better way to ask a question like this: How do you ensure your workplace is diverse and inclusive? What measures do you take now, and what practices will you implement in the future?)

Instead of improvising on the spot when you’re drawing a blank, it’s much better to have a couple of extra questions in your pocket. Two questions McCann often advises clients to ask at the end of interviews are:

1. Is there anything about my previous answers I can clarify or strengthen for you?

2. How will you know, after my first 90 days, that I’ve been successful in this role?

Because you never want to be empty-handed 

While you don’t want to ask questions that might put you out of the running, you certainly don’t want to ask zero questions, says Emily Liou, career happiness coach at CultiVitae. She tells us that when you don’t ask questions, it makes you appear that you don’t care about the opportunity or the company.

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