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The Second Interview

When employers complete their initial interviews for a job opening, they ask the top candidates back for a second interview before making a final decision. The second interview, also known as the site visit, office visit, or plant visit, can range from a half day to a full day of interviewing and related activities. If you have been asked back for a second interview, it means you are a contender for the job. Typically after the second interview, candidate evaluations are conducted and an offer is made.

Knowing the general dynamics will help you prepare. The following information is consistent for most employers on managing the dynamics before, during, and after your second interview. However, every employer may have a different format, including the number of people involved, levels of people interviewing, and the degree of formality.

The employer has two primary objectives for the second interview. First, the employer will assess if you are a fit for the job and confirm a good match between your goals and the opportunities the company has available. Secondly, the employer wants to observe if there is good chemistry between you and the corporate culture. A second interview is expensive and time consuming for the employer and can be the last step in the process before an offer is made. Your objective should be to determine if the company, the job, and the people are a strong fit for you, and to learn more about the position, the company, career advancement, and the community.

Go Prepared

It is essential that you prepare before the second interview. The company will reward candidates who exhibit enthusiasm, energy, drive, motivation, and maturity.

Before you go, learn as much about the employer as possible from a variety of sources, including: the annual report, the Internet, promotional materials, alumni, and your campus career center. Read up on the employer and be sure to know the organization's products, services, and locations, the name of the CEO, and any related current events. Try to speak with an alumnus/a of your college or university who is now working for this company/industry to learn about his or her experience.

Prepare a thoughtful list of questions that will demonstrate your interest in the company and will help you make a better decision if you are offered the position. Such questions can cover training, promotion, performance evaluation, community life, corporate culture, and goals. Do not ask any questions that can be found in the employer's literature or on its web site.

Be sure to know last year's salary range for your field and degree level. However, never initiate a discussion of salary. You want to be sure that the company wants to make you an offer before salary is ever discussed. Never state salary requirements, but instead give an appropriate salary range.

Preparation Tips

Dress Code: Arrive dressed appropriately for the job. When in doubt, wear a conservative suit. If you will be in a "field" environment, wear a blazer and slacks or less formal attire. If you are concerned about appropriate dress, ask your host prior to your visit.

Travel Arrangements: If you're traveling out of town, clarify your travel arrangements in advance, either by e-mail or by phone, with the organization's contact person. Employers may prepay airline or train tickets or provide you with a travel advance, or ask you to keep all receipts for reimbursement. Use good judgment regarding your travel expenses; don't be extravagant.

Ask for phone numbers, in case your departure is delayed, so that you can keep your host informed. Obtain a map of the area and get directions ahead of time.

Pack light, carry your luggage on board in an overnight case or suit bag.

Hotel Notes: Since many second interviews are full-day experiences, an overnight stay may be required. Try to arrive the day/night before to avoid airline delays or related difficulties. Confirm your hotel reservations, rental car, and how payment will be handled. Ask for any messages when checking into the hotel, since the employer may have left information at the desk. Be sure to schedule a wake-up call with the front desk and allow plenty of time to get ready and to check out of the hotel in the morning. Get plenty of rest the night before so you can think clearly in the interview.

Briefcase Necessities: Ask your contact for an agenda. Bring extra copies of your resume. Don't forget to carry a pen and paper. Bring extra cash/credit cards.

Meal Interviews: A company may invite you for dinner or a reception on the evening of arrival, to help you relax and get a better sense of the upcoming day's events. Your dinner host will be evaluating you on dress, etiquette, communication skills, and your ability to form relationships. As a result, you should demonstrate your maturity and professionalism. Avoid drinking alcohol. Typically the employer will pay, but if you find it appropriate, you can offer to pick up the tab. No matter who picks up the tab, be sure to thank your host.

Interview Day

The interview day may start as early as 7:30 a.m., and you may have three to five, half-hour or hour-long interviews. The day typically includes a lunch, and any may end sometime between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Don't expect to have a lot of free time.

It is extremely important to remain friendly and professional. Usually, various levels in the corporate hierarchy are involved. Three or four different people in back-to-back interviews may ask you the same questions during the day. Lunch may be reserved for interviews as well.

Remember, anyone you meet—even for a few minutes—may be involved in the evaluation process, and you will need to stay sharp and focused. The questions will be much more in-depth and geared toward your leadership and communication skills as they relate to the position and your long-range career objectives. In addition, you will be assessed on your problem-solving skills and ability to get along with the other people in the department. Listen carefully to the questions and then determine how you will respond. Above all, you should appear enthusiastic, ask questions, and take notes when appropriate. Jot down names, titles of people with whom you speak (if you have not already received an agenda), and important points.

If you are offered a break, take advantage of this time to go to the restroom or take a mental rest from this intensive process.

If a tour of the company is not scheduled, be sure to ask for one if time permits. If you have the opportunity to look around the city, you may feel more comfortable making a decision about an offer. Some companies plan a "city tour" for your visit; if they do not, ask for one or stay an extra day.

Before you leave, clarify the next step in the hiring process and discuss any reimbursement issues. Make certain you understand what action should follow the plant/company trip. After you leave, the interviewers will meet to discuss you and reach a decision about an offer.

After the Interview

Complete your expense report immediately: Reimbursement can take four to six weeks.

Increase your visibility by sending a "thank you" note to your host or each person with whom you interviewed, as well as the main contact person.

  • Highlight your qualifications one more time and make sure you personalize individual letters since they may all end up in the same file.
  • Recall something that impressed you about your visit to the office.
  • Restate your interest in the company/position.

Most employers will get back to you within two weeks of your visit with an offer or rejection. If you do not hear from the company within this time, call and speak with your host—the person who arranged the interview. Ask politely about the status of your candidacy.

If you receive a verbal offer, do not accept it on the spot. Rather, thank the recruiter for the offer and ask for an adequate amount of time for making your decision. Tell the recruiter when you will call him or her back with your decision. Contact your school's career center for advice on negotiating salary.

If you receive an offer in writing, respond immediately! As with a verbal offer, thank the employer and tell him or her when you will have your decision. Restate and confirm the terms of agreement in your letter: starting salary, job title, locations, etc. Contact your school's career center for advice on negotiating salary.

Some organizations may require a drug or alcohol test (after the offer is tendered and you have accepted) and your starting work is contingent on passing the test. Also, failure to submit to a drug test may end the hiring process.

If you are rejected, don't be upset! Perhaps this job wasn't an appropriate match. Were you, in fact, really enthusiastic about and qualified for the position? Did you convey your sincere interest to everyone you met at the plan/office?

If you wish to assess your marketability, you may call your host and request feedback in a nonconfrontational way. This information may be helpful for future interviews.


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