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Chances of Getting a Job After a Second Interview

If you’ve been invited back for a second interview, then congratulations! Of the hundreds of candidates I’ve interviewed over the years, I estimate that only about 25% got a second interview. Of course, the mileage may vary based on the industry and state of the economy, but that’s been my experience.

Now that you’ve been offered a second interview, what are the odds that you’ll get the job? Many industry experts put those odds at 1 in 4, or 25%.

My experience as a Hiring Manager is that these odds are fairly accurate.

On average, I invite between 10 and 15 applicants to a first interview. Based on their performance, usually about three to four are invited back for a second interview. Sometimes, with a particularly strong performance, I’ll offer the job right after the second interview.

More often, I’ll narrow it down to two candidates for a third – and usually final – interview. Almost always I’ll either make a job offer after the third interview or decide neither of the candidates is the right fit and start over.

This process is pretty typical of the hiring process at many companies and public sector organizations.

A Personal Second Interview Experience

To give you an example from personal experience, I was in between jobs myself at one point due to my company being bought by another company. I had three interviews with three different organizations before landing my next job and all three closely followed the process I just outlined.

Here’s how the process went at one of my interviews.

I applied for the position of Budget/IT Manager at a medium size city. I know – this sounds like an odd combination but at this city the Budget Manager also controlled IT.

My first interview was with the City Manager, to whom this position reported. I knew I was one of several candidates being interviewed because one came out before me, and one came in right after me. Plus, the City Manager told me she was interviewing 11 people over a period of three days.

I made it past the first interview and was called back for a second interview. I was one of three people given a second interview, which was a panel interview with the City Manager’s entire management staff of 12 people.

I was the only candidate called back for a final interview with the City Manager, after which I was offered the job. Because I know you’re wondering, I ended up not accepting the job because I had what I thought was a better offer from one of the other three organizations with which I was interviewing.

In this example my odds of getting the job with a second interview were one in three, since I was one of three candidates being interviewed. But as a Hiring Manager, it’s not at all unusual for me to make a job offer after the second interview.

This means you should always assume that the second interview may end up being the final interview and you should prepare accordingly. Here’s how to improve those one in four odds.


If you haven’t already thoroughly researched the company before your first interview, now is the time to do so. Even if you did quite a bit of research, you should do an even deeper dive for your second interview.

Pay particular attention to that company’s goals, values, and mission. Be sure to look for any recent news or projects they’ve been involved in and how your particular skill set might fit in.

What you want to do is demonstrate how your qualifications and accomplishments are not only an excellent match for the specific requirements of the position but can also assist that organization achieve their goals. This is what will make you stand out from other candidates.

Be sure to review the notes you took after your first interview (you did take some, right?). The questions you were asked can give you some insight into that company’s priorities. You can then research these areas more thoroughly before your second interview. This will help you better tailor your answers to what they feel is most important.

Be Prepared for More Behavioral Questions

Standard inverview questions, the type that are typically used in first interviews, seek to determine if you have the required experience and skills.

Behavioral questions are designed to find out how you’ve used those skills to handle various situations that arise on the job. In other words, how did you behave under certain circumstances. These types of questions are more often found in second interviews.

Two of the most common root behavioral questions are:

  • Tell us about a time when…..
  • How would you handle……

There are many others, but these two are the most common ones (and the ones I’ve most frequently asked). Hiring managers like these because you can add any situation you like to these root questions in order to suit your particular opening.

By far, the one most specifically asked is this: “Tell us about a time when you had a conflict with your boss/co-worker/customer and how your resolved it.” Hiring Managers love to hear about successful conflict resolution, so be sure to have a good example you can quote.

Prepare Examples that Demonstrate Your Soft Skills

Soft skills are those non-technical skills that are not specific to a particular job or industry. Examples of soft skills are:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Attitude
  • Initiative
  • Work Ethic
  • Problem solving skills
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Self-management
  • Willingness to learn
  • Dependability

While hard skills are the primary focus of most first interviews, it’s the soft skills that get probed the most in second interviews. These are the skills that define who you are as a person and they are often the primary factor in deciding who gets hired.

Go through this list and identify the soft skills you feel are most important for the position you are seeking. Then develop examples of your skills, experience, and accomplishments that demonstrate these skills.

Review and Be Sure to Practice Good Interview Etiquette

This is seldom a primary area of judgement about you, but occasionally it can be a tiebreaker between two candidates who performed equally well in the second interview.

By good interview etiquette, I specifically mean:

  • Thanking the interviewers right at the start for giving you the opportunity to return. You don’t want to give the impression that you were entitled to a second interview.
  • Be polite and thank everyone you’ve encountered before, during, and after your interview. Some Hiring Managers make it a point to ask staff members who weren’t interviewers for their impression of a candidate. You don’t want to be the one they said was rude.
  • Send a thank you message to each interviewer. Having said this, I’ll also say that there has never been a case where I haven’t offered a good candidate the job because I didn’t get a thank you note. In fact, most of the time a decision is made shortly after the end of the interview. Still, this shows you’re a professional and reinforces the decision to hire you.
  • Ask in advance if it’s okay to take notes – and then be sure take some! Assume there may be a third interview and if so, these notes will help you.

Signs You Got the Job During the Second Interview

Sometimes your second interview goes so well that if becomes your final interview and you’re offered the job. Here are some signs that indicate there’s a good chance you’ll get the job.

  • You begin to hear the word “when” instead of “if”. As in, “When you start here this is where you will be located” or “When you arrive the first day, here’s who will meet you”. If they start using phrases that indicate you’re an employee, you probably will be.
  • The interview becomes more conversational and casual. If the questions become more about what you’re looking for and how you feel about the position and the company, that’s an excellent sign that a job offer will likely be made.
  • You get introduced to other employees whom you’re told are on the team you’ll be working in. While this may simply to get their opinion of you, it’s a very good sign that you’ll be hired.
  • You’re given a tour of the company’s physical facilities. This is a strong indicator that they are now trying to impress you instead of the other way around.
  • Your references are checked. This won’t be done until after your second interview is over, so keep in touch with your references. This is frequently the last step taken before a job offer is made.
  • They initiate a talk about salary and benefits. As with a tour, they are now trying to win you over.

A second interview is by no means a guarantee that you’ll get the job. However, it certainly means you’re one of the finalists. This means your preparation should be at least as good, if not better, than for your first interview.

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