Skip to Content

The Five Worst Second Interview Blunders

Well, you did it! You made it past the first interview round and were invited back for a second interview and you’re feeling like the job is in the bag.

Not so fast.

A hiring decision isn’t usually made after the second round of interviews. In my experience as a Hiring Manager, more than half the time there will be a third interview before a final decision is made. For high-level positions, there may even be a fourth round of interviews.


What You Need to Know About Second Interviews

There are a couple of things you need to know about the second round of interviews.

First, they are just as important as the first interview, if not more so. It’s the interview that will narrow the candidates down to probably two or maybe three. This is the group you want to be in because the next interview will likely be the one at which a hiring decision is made.

Second, the expectations are much higher for you once you make it to the second round. You obviously made a good enough impression to be invited back, so the expectation is that you will continue to make a good impression. The interviewers are likely to be more unforgiving of mistakes.

Below are the interview mistakes you need to be particularly careful to avoid in a second interview. However, be aware that you also need to pay attention to all the common mistakes made in the first interview, as they still apply.

With that said, here are the most common mistakes I’ve seen made during second interviews, in no particular order.


The 5 Most Common Second Interview Mistakes

#1 Not Dressing Appropriately

One of my previous posts gave detailed information about the best way to dress for your first interview.

And now that you’ve had your first interview and observed how the interviewers were dressed, you can refine this even more. Dress for your second interview in line with how the interviewers were dressed in your first interview.

I would take this even a step further and tell you to dress one step up from what the interviewers wore. For example, if the men wore dockers and casual shirts, then dress in slacks and a button-down dress shirt. If the women wore casual pants and tops, then wear dressy pants and a blouse, or a pantsuit.

You get the picture.

What you don’t want to do is dress down from what you wore to the first interview. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you’re now a preferred candidate who can go more casual. You don’t have the job yet!

#2 Inadequate Preparation

By this, I specifically mean you didn’t review your notes from the first interview to identify the areas in which you felt your performance was weak. Hopefully, you’ve taken good notes in your first interview and can focus on forming stronger answers for these topics.

I can practically guarantee that the interviewers did identify your weak areas (I would!), even though you did well enough to make it to the second round. And there is a high likelihood that your weak areas will become the subjects of questions asked during the second interview. This is why these are the areas for which you should specifically concentrate on beefing up.

For example, let’s say you in your first interview you stumbled over answering the question “Tell me about a time when you were faced with conflicting priorities.” If managing priorities is an important part of the job, you can bet that I’m going to question you further on this during your second interview.

This means you’ll need to have some excellent examples of how you successfully resolved competing priorities in your prior jobs and practice until you can smoothly relate them.

Do the same for any subject for which you weren’t satisfied with your answer in the first interview.

#3 Having an attitude

I’ve had many candidates come into a second interview with the assumption that since they were called back, they got the job.

Consequently, they give off an attitude of being too casual. They’ll make jokes, bring in a cup of coffee with them, chew gum, be dressed overly casual, you name it.

I’ve seen candidates make aggressive requests such as wanting meetings with executives or asking to see detailed and confidential information about the company. I’ve even had a few assume that I would take them out for lunch.

These types of candidates incorrectly conclude that since it’s a second interview, the roles have been reversed and it’s now the company’s responsibility to sell itself.  

Your attitude in the second interview should be the same as the first interview. Project an image of professionalism and show gratitude for the opportunity, while still displaying confidence that you’re the best person for the job.

#4 Being Unprepared to Answer Behavioral Questions

The questions in a first interview will for the most part focus on the stated job requirements and how well you meet those requirements. Consequently, they will be more quantitative in nature, such as:

  • How many years of experience do you have in each of the required skills?
  • How many technical certifications do you have?
  • What projects have you completed?
  • How many people have you supervised?

The first interview establishes how well you meet the stated job requirements.

However, things change in the second interview. Now the intent is more to determine if you are a good fit for the position and the organization, and how successful you’ve been in applying your skills and experience. This gets us into the realm of behavioral questions.

The second interview is where you’re more likely to encounter behavioral questions. The idea behind behavioral questions is that how you’ve handled situations in the past is a good predictor of how you’ll handle similar situations in the future. Some examples are:

  • Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with your boss and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about a time you had to adapt to a difficult situation.
  • Give me an example of when you displayed initiative.

You can see more examples and the best way to approach them in my post on “Behavioral Interview Mistakes”.

Basically, you need to come to a second interview with several examples of when you were faced with a difficult challenge or problem and how you successfully solved it.

#5 Not Having Prepared Relevant Questions to Ask

I’m not talking here about asking questions you should already know the answers to, such as basic questions about the job or company. These answers are obvious from the job posting.

The second interview is where you should ask deeper questions about the job and the working environment. These are questions that show you’ve given considerable thought to the position and can formulate relevant and intelligent questions.

Here are some examples:

  • Can you describe what a typical day is like?
  • How is performance measured for this position?
  • What will I be expected to accomplish during the first 90 days?

If you’re unable to ask questions such as these, it’s a red flag that you haven’t given much thought to the position and are simply looking to find a job, rather than the right job.

Visit my extensive Q&A Section