Introduction to Final Interviews
A ‘Final Interview’ is just what the name implies. It’s the last interview given for a particular position. A hiring decision will be made after the final interview round.
If you’ve made it to the final interview, congratulations! Your hard work in preparing for all the interviews has paid off and it’s likely down to just you and one other person. Sometimes, you’re the only person making it to the final round, which means your odds for getting the job are extremely high.
That is, unless you blow your chances by taking your foot off the preparation gas pedal!
More commonly, there will be two candidates in the final interview round, sometimes more. But two is the usual number. These will be the two strongest candidates from the prior interview rounds. The Hiring Manager wants to have a backup in case the front runner collapses in the final interview.
As to who will be in your final interview, the Hiring Manager will be there for sure. There will very likely be one or two other interviewers present, and perhaps even a full interview panel. Many Hiring Managers are looking for confirmation from others in the organization that they’re making a good hiring decision.
As a Hiring Manager, I like to have two other people present in my final interviews.
One of the two will be another manager or perhaps a higher-level person than myself. The other person will be one of my direct reports. This is to give me a perspective on how that candidate will fit into the team. Other Hiring Managers may have more or less or even just themselves in the final interview.
Whatever the environment for your final interview, your preparation should be the same.
The Purpose of the Final Interview
The purpose of previous interview rounds was primarily to confirm you have the right skill set, experience, and education for the position.
The final interview won’t dwell too much on these areas. In the final interview, I’m most interested in whether or not you’re a good fit overall for the company and my position.
The most important question in my mind now is how you’ll approach the job if you get it and if you’re a good fit for the culture of the organization. I’m interested in your values and what you think is important for performing well in this position.
Since I’m already familiar with your experience and skill set, you can now expect a lot of behavioral questions.
The ‘Likability Factor’
There’s one more important purpose for a final interview, although you won’t find many Hiring Managers who will admit it because it’s entirely subjective. It’s what I can the ‘Likability Factor’.
In other words, are you likable? Do I like you? Do I think your co-workers and customers will like you?
A final candidate I interviewed once for a master-level network engineer position made it that far because his level of knowledge and projects handled was higher than any of the other candidates. We’ll call him Mike. However, I had an underlying feeling that Mike was sort of a jerk.
But he was so qualified that I wanted to make certain I wasn’t letting my personal prejudices interfere with my judgement. So I had two other managers and two senior-level co-workers sit in on Mike’s final interview.
Sure enough, Mike came across as patronizing and conceited to all four other interviewers. The two co-workers commented that he would be a turn-off to both team members and the corporate customers for this position. The two other managers said they wouldn’t want him on their team no matter how smart he was.
The bottom line was we just didn’t like Mike.
So we chose the other candidate who made it to the final round. We simply told Mike we decided to hire another finalist who we felt was more qualified.
The lesson to learn here is to pay attention to your attitude. While you can’t change your basic underlying personality, you can at least make sure your attitude is one of confidence, not conceit.
I suspect the Likability Factor has determined more hiring decisions that we Hiring Managers are willing to admit.
How to Prepare for a Final Interview
First, let me say that everything that applies to preparing for earlier round interviews is equally applicable to your final interview.
Pay attention to dress, manners, business etiquette, all the preparation steps you’ve previously used. You want to appear and act as the most professional candidate.
Here are some specific preparation steps to take.
Look over your notes from prior interviews
Pay particular attention to any areas in which you felt you were weak, as these may very well come up in the final interview.
Research the company even further.
Look for something especially current or interesting that you can relate to your skill set or accomplishments. This is an excellent way to make yourself stand out from other final candidates.
Prepare for behavioral questions.
The best way to approach them is to use the classic STAR approach: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Situation: describe the situation you’ll use and any relevant background.
Task: what was your responsibility in that situation. For example, you had to resolve a conflict with a co-worker or your boss.
Action: what action did you take to address the task.
Result: what was the result of that action.
These steps will help you focus your answer for most behavioral questions.
Bring Extra Copies of Your Resume
But this time, place each one in a good folder. There will be people present in the interview that don’t have copies and this shows you’re a professional.
Bring Any Written Evidence of Your Performance in Prior Positions
This can be awards, industry papers written, formal charts of results, etc. It’s one thing to talk about your performance, it’s an entirely different thing to let printed examples speak for you. As with your resume copies, put each example in its own folder.
Bring Written Recommendations
If at all possible, bring copies of written recommendations from your prior managers, other company executives, key customers (particularly good for sales and marketing positions). These should be recommendations from business people, preferably managers and the higher on the organization chart the better. This is NOT the time and place for personal (non-business) recommendations.
Questions You’re Likely to be Asked in Your Final Interview
It’s difficult to predict the exact questions you’ll be asked in a final interview because every Hiring Manager is different. We all have our favorite questions to ask.
That said, here are a few of the most common questions I’ve seen (and asked) in final interviews over the years.
“Tell Me About Yourself”
Yep, even though you may have answered this question already and more than once, there’s a good chance it will be asked again. Remember, there may be people in this interview who have never seen you and this will probably be their first question.
Just use the ‘Elevator Story’ you prepared for earlier interviews and you’ll be fine. After all, it was one of the things that got you here.
“What Motivates You?”
This is a behavioral question that doesn’t lend itself very well to telling a story. The approach I would use is to stress that you’re driven to achieve the goals of the organization. Then add “Such as…” and cite one or two that you’ve identified.
Hiring Managers love goal-oriented individuals.
“What Can You Contribute to Our Organization?”
This is where you want to hit hard the skills and accomplishments you have that relate directly to the job requirements. Be sure to have some examples of accomplishments that are relevant to that position, so you can say that you’ll bring those same results to this job.
“What Are Your Hobbies and Interests?”
This one can be a land mine waiting to be stepped on, so watch out!
You should talk about general, non-controversial subjects. The best ones include your family (that you’re married and if you have children, how many), if you have a healthy lifestyle (you go to the gym, or hike, or bike ride, etc), and your learning activities (you’re learning to play the piano, taking classes, etc).
When I say to avoid controversial subjects, a good example is hunting. Many people are avid hunters and probably an equal number are against hunting. The Hiring Manager may be one of them and that can cost you the job. Stay away from subjects that have polarized viewpoints.
“What Are Your Salary Expectations?”
Chances are good that you’ll get the salary question.
You should research in advance what the salary ranges are for similar positions in that geographical area. Then, make an adjustment considering your skills, education, and experience. This should be the range that you give.
Since you may have no idea what the position pays, you should consider making a statement that you’re willing to negotiate. This can prevent you from being dropped as a candidate because the range you gave was too high.
At the End of Your Final Interview
At the end of virtually every interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions. This is your golden opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve really considered the position and the company and as a result, have some questions you’d like to ask.
I’m often surprised at the shallow questions – or no questions – that are asked, even in final interviews. Make sure yours have some depth. Here are three that work well for any position.
“Can you tell me something about your company culture and what you value in employees?”
“How do you see this company (or this position) evolving over the next five to ten years?”
“What advice do you have for the chosen candidate who wants to excel in this position and at this company?”
Some Final Thoughts
One very good sign is if they walk you around the company and introduce you to people, so take advantage of this. Be polite and introduce yourself and make it a point to ask one or two questions. For example, “How long have you worked here?” “What do you like about your job?”
The fact that they are taking this extra step means they have enough confidence in you to introduce you around. Validate that confidence by using the above suggestions.
And finally, I’m often asked if sending a thank you note after a final interview should still be done. My answer is yes, it’s good business etiquette and validates the decision to hire you.
Notice I said that it validates the decision, not that it contributes to the decision. The fact is, the hiring decision is almost always made quickly after the final interview and whether or not you send a thank you note will have no impact on that decision.
I’ve never decided against hiring a good candidate because I didn’t get a thank-you note, nor have I ever met a Hiring Manager who has. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s important to make the Hiring Manager feel good about the decision to hire you.