Second interview questions to ask candidates

Interview questions

Which questions should employers ask candidates when they return for their second interview?

The initial round of interviews is useful for establishing a shortlist of candidates where you spend more time drilling into the detail of whether they would be the right fit for a role. The second interview questions you ask can offer the insight you need to decide the best candidate for the role and your company; but only if you ask different – or at least more detailed – questions.

Here are a few second interview questions to ask your short-listed candidates to better assess whether the individual is the right fit for the position and for your company culture.

First off, ask competency-based questions

A second with a shortlisted candidate gives you the perfect opportunity to ask more detailed and specific competency-based questions relating to various aspects of the role. While competency-based questions will most likely have come up in the first interview, the second interview is also a chance to ask any you may have missed. 

Here are some competency-based questions to ask during the second interview:

  • “Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a challenge and how you went about it.”

The goal here is to obtain an idea of how a person acted on their own initiative and demonstrated their problem-solving skills to achieve an objective.

  • “Have you tried to encourage your team to adopt new policies and procedures at work?”

This question will highlight a candidate who is proactive and willing to be an agent of positive change in an organisation if they respond accordingly. A desire to contribute and innovate shows they are thinking about the bigger picture, rather than just collecting their pay cheque each month.

  • “Describe a time when you have been highly decisive at work?”

This is an opportunity to find out details of a time when a candidates has made a snap decision in the workplace, the thought processes they went through at the time, and the outcome of their actions.

  • “When have you taken key decisions independently and without consulting your manager?”

This question outlines how a person acts and reacts to solving a problem on their own. Candidates who respond about a time when they used their initiative will give context to how they operate in the workplace.

  • “Have you made an unpopular decision that delivered good results?”

If the job you're recruiting for is one where tough decisions need to be taken and a thick skin is required, ask the candidate how they handled the situation. Their response will tell you a great deal about a person's character.

  • “How have you coped with changing processes and circumstances at work?”

Many organisations go through changes, so finding out how adaptable and resilient the candidate can be important. Employees who are adaptable and resilient often keep their morale, productivity and motivation through change, where employees who aren’t can have a negative influence on the team.

  • “How have you made sure you've complied with all the rules governing your previous responsibilities?”

Every industry has to abide by various rules and regulations, so asking this question gives candidates a chance to demonstrate their awareness of the importance of risk and compliance within their industry and if they consider it when they go about their work and take decisions.

Secondly, learn more about their soft skills

It's a misleading term in a way as soft skills are often downplayed in importance, but they are vital in almost every job. Whether a candidate has the required communication skills, industry knowledge, company fit and personal qualities will determine if they will be successful in the job. Here are some example second interview questions:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you worked successfully as part of a group?
  • How do you prepare for internal and external meetings?
  • How do you deal with members of staff who aren't contributing 100 per cent?
  • When have you had to be empathetic to others at work?
  • Explain a time where you have had to ask for help?
  • How have you resolved a conflict with a colleague?
  • Are you willing to delegate and trust others or do you prefer to deal with tasks yourself?
  • When have you had to take the lead and inspire others? How did you do this?

Understanding how a candidate relates to other people and their preferred method of working is essential to recruiting the right person. They might have a comprehensive CV but if they aren’t likely to fit the company culture and team then they may be less desirable to hire.

Lastly, follow up with some of these additional interview questions:

  • “What skills do you think are required to perform this job effectively?”

Asking what skills are pertinent to a role provides valuable insight into whether or not an applicant understands the skills required to be successful in the job – giving valuable insight into whether or not they are the right fit.

  • “Do you prefer following instruction or acting independently?”

A candidate’s response to this question will provide insight into how they operation and what kind of management and leadership brings out the best in them.

  • “What is your ideal team structure to work within?”

This can help you further determine if the candidate is a good cultural fit. If the traits they are listing could be used to describe your workforce, chances are you've found someone who will fit in well with your other employees and you company culture.

  • “Where do you want to be five years from now?”

Finding out about someone’s ambitions helps you find out if they are looking to develop their career at your company or see it as a stepping stone to somewhere else.

  • “What are the first three things you would do if you were hired for this position?”

This gives candidates a chance to show they have done their homework on what they deem are important aspects of the job and where they might add value.

  • “What are your salary expectations?”

If the topic arises about salary expectations, it’s at the hiring manager’s discretion to discuss what’s on offer. However, it can be beneficial to work with a recruitment agency to negotiate a remuneration package that meets both parties’ expectations and demands.

With a healthy mix of relevant questions, a second interview can be a great way to separate those names on the shortlist you can't choose between and can go a long way in helping you to pick the best person for the job!