Skip to main content
An image of a man and woman shaking hands as they greet each other at a job interview.

Once you’ve interviewed the first round of candidates in the early stages of a recruitment process, the second round requires a very different approach. The aim of a second interview is to assess the candidate in more detail, get to know them a bit better, and can help recruiters confirm if the candidate is the right one for the role.

Here’s a list for recruiters to consider when planning, executing and following up on a second interview:

Inviting candidates to a second interview

Unlike the first interview, you need to narrow your selection down to a maximum of two or three candidates for the second interview. Any more than that and you’re likely to need to whittle your pool down again, making the process too unwieldy. After the first round of interviews, invite the most successful candidates back and highlight why you want to see them again. Giving them positive feedback about how they performed in the first round will let them know you’re interested in finding out more about them.

Interview timings

Ideally, interviews should be set up so that each candidate is interviewed as close to each other, time wise, as possible. If you leave too long between the interviews, it can become harder to compare candidates, making the decision-making process harder. The ideal scenario would be for candidates to be interviewed on the same, or consecutive days.

Invite additional interviewers

It’s valuable to involve another colleague in any second interview, to get another opinion on how suitable a candidate is. The additional interviewer should be another manager, or someone who would come into day-to-day contact with the future employee. Share the relevant candidate information with them so they have the context they need before joining the second interview.

Prepare the candidate

When you are arranging the second stage interviews, make sure you explain to the candidates what the second interview will entail and who else will be joining. Remind them to bring any necessary documents, portfolios, or completed tasks to demonstrate their expertise and competencies where needed.

Put your candidate at ease

The main purpose of a second interview is to get a better impression of a potential candidate’s personality and skills. For this reason, you need to try and make the interviewee as comfortable and relaxed as possible. This will make them feel at ease which will allow them to give the best account of themselves. Simple things like enquiring about their journey or offering them a drink can help create a more relaxed feel. Diving straight into an interview can seem more like an interrogation, and this gives off the wrong signals.

Reiterate your impressions from the first interview with the candidate, and talk through anything that was particularly impressive, to help make the candidate more comfortable. You can then highlight any areas you want to explore with them during the second stage.

Key questions to ask in the second interview

Make sure you review all the notes from your first interviews before the second round begins. Base your questions for the second round interview around anything you’d like more detail about, or anything that might need clarifying. It’s likely you’ll have covered off key competencies in the first interview round, so the second stage can focus more on the details of the role, what makes the candidate tick and and can dig a little deeper on any competencies or soft skills that you want to explore further.

Suggested questions to ask a candidate

  • What are the most relevant strengths you could bring to this role?
  • If you were successful in this role, what would you want to achieve?
  • What are your short/long term career goals?
  • How would you approach a problem or challenge in this role?
  • How do you typically like to be managed?

Confirm practicalities

As well as understanding more about the candidate, their skills and their working style, there are practicalities to consider before you can offer them a job. Use this checklist as a guide to make sure you’ve got the necessary things covered.

Cover off these practicalities

  • What are their salary expectations?
  • If they’re currently working, how long is their notice period?
  • When would they be able to start work?
  • Can they provide any relevant references?
  • Are they happy with the contracted hours and set up (e.g. remote/flexible working)

Have an open conversation

As the second interview can lend itself naturally to being more of a conversation, rather than more one-sided like first interviews, make sure the candidate has the opportunity to ask questions about your company. Answer these questions in as much depth as possible – this is your opportunity to sell the role to the candidate, as well as finalise your decision whether they’re the right candidate for the job.

Share insights into your company culture, structure and how teams work together to give the candidate a more well-rounded idea of how the business works.

Outline next steps

Make sure the candidate is aware of what to expect after the second interview. Tell them if you have other interviews lined up, and when you’ll get back to them with an update. Writing up feedback for each candidate after each interview can help to keep points clear in your mind, and means you can share accurate, constructive feedback with the candidate via email, along with your update. Highlight that the candidate can email over any questions they may have in the meantime too.

Keep the candidate updated

Ensuring your candidate is kept in the loop with updates in the recruitment process is essential. If a candidate doesn’t feel like they’re being updated properly, it’s more likely they won’t accept your job offer, or they may accept one with another company. If the process is delayed for any reason, let the candidate know so they stay engaged.

Using these tips as a guide can help you to make the most of a second stage interview.