Obviously, being invited back for a second or third interview is a positive sign. If your first interview was with someone from human resources, and the person you will now meet with is your prospective boss, the interviewing process is really just beginning. If you are meeting for the second or third time with your prospective boss, a job offer may be coming, so preparation for salary negotiations is crucial.

If this is the first meeting with your prospective boss, prepare to sell yourself. Learn everything possible about the person and the position. During your interview with the human resources representative, you should have received a good overview of the position, but if not, you can call the HR person back to clarify some points. Be sure you know the name and title of the person you will interview with and the department. Write down questions about the position that you would like to have clarified.

If this will be a second or third interview with the same person, you should go into the interview with an agenda. You should identify the points you want to make in much the same way you should for a first interview. The difference is that you know much more about the position and the organization than you did at the first interview. You know what points you sold in the first interview, so you can prepare to sell additional skills in the next interview. You also know that there were areas in your experience that were not as strong as the employer desired. During this upcoming interview, you must do your best to sell whatever exposure you have in those areas.

By getting a second interview, you are already a finalist. Usually no more than four candidates are brought back for second interviews. A third interview usually means you are the number one choice and the interviewer is using one more opportunity to observe you and to see if anything about you might yet disqualify you. It could also mean that you are one of two finalists who are being brought back for a third interview. Continue to sell your strengths.


Nondirected interviews are generally conducted by untrained interviewers who are simply asking a series of questions without specific goals in mind—hence they are nondirected. To do well in these interviews, remember that while you do not control the direction of the interview, you do control the content. Even if the interviewer seems unfocused, you should be very focused. You should enter the interview with your own agenda, making sure you share the experiences that will sell you. Interviewers have been known to run out of questions during this type of interview. If this happens, you might take some degree of control by saying, “Perhaps I should share with you some of my strengths that should prove helpful in this position.” If the interviewer indicates a willingness for you to share this information, take it from there.


Conversational interviews are interviews that just seem to flow, as a normal conversation would. Questions come as a result of what you’ve just previously said. You’re often asked to elaborate on a previous point or experience. It appears that there is no prepared list of questions.

Conversational interviews come from two types of interviewers—trained and untrained. The trained conversational interviewer knows what he or she wants to accomplish and will find ways to take the conversation in the direction that will yield the necessary information about you. The untrained conversational interviewer has no plan and will probably not gain much insight from a directionless interview. With an untrained conversational interviewer you may need to give the conversation direction by offering to cover certain areas that the interviewer should probably know about. Most of the points covered here refer to an experienced conversational interviewer.

The conversational interviewer believes that rapport is crucial to a successful interview. The interviewer wants you to feel comfortable and will go out of his way for you not to feel pressure. The interview quickly takes the tone of two friends chatting and enjoying themselves. It often feels as if the interviewer is simply trying to get to know you better.

With an experienced conversational interviewer the goal is to get you feeling so comfortable that eventually you reveal things about yourself that you would not likely have shared in a structured interview. The conversational interviewer wants to get to know you as a person and uses conversation to get you out of the façade so many interviewees try to present. This interviewer wants the real you. Throughout the interview the conversational interviewer is trying to determine whether you’ll fit in the organization.

The danger in this type of interview is becoming too relaxed. An experienced conversational interviewer has a plan and knows the type of information he or she seeks. Keep in mind that you are continually being evaluated. The interviewer has an agenda, knows the information he or she wants, and has determined that the conversational style works best.

Remember, you also should have your own agenda and you should never forget that each time you open your mouth it is to sell yourself. Use the conversation to bring in examples whenever possible. You can say, “What you just said reminds me of a time when…”


In the panel interview, two or more people interview you simultaneously, usually taking turns asking questions. Sometimes the questions have been determined in advance. In other panel interviews you may be interviewed by five individuals who have their own separate agendas. In a panel interview you’ll often find that the only person really listening to your answer to a question is the person who asked it. Your primary goal is to make each member feel totally involved in the interview and totally involved with each of your responses. You can do this by resisting the tendency to make eye contact only with the questioner. Keep each person involved by looking at each one and making each one feel important and attended to.

Government agencies frequently use the panel interview to narrow a field of candidates down to three. The department head then makes a final selection from among those three.

John Caple, author of The Ultimate Interview, suggests that during a panel interview, you identify the person who is most in sync with you. That person will be nodding in agreement, smiling, even laughing at times, and will be listening intently. Once you have that person on your side, do your best to draw in another person and make that person an ally as well. Don’t be concerned about the relative power of these allies, they can often sway an entire group to be favorable toward you.

With panel interviews it is particularly important to be succinct. With long answers you will lose the attention of several panel members.

Do not be bothered if most panel members sit there with expressionless faces. This is typical. If you find one or two who are clearly involved, make the most of it, but don’t be surprised if they show little enthusiasm. Just continue selling yourself and maintaining your high energy level throughout.


In a group interview, you will find yourself amongst a group of candidates who are all vying for the same position. Although there will generally be a clearly identifiable person who is in charge of the process, there may also be other company employees in your midst who are pretending to be candidates. You won’t know who they are, but they’ll be closely observing what you say and how you behave. In some group processes the observers may be watching you from behind a one-way glass. In the group interview, the observers are trying to determine how you interact with people. They may divide the candidates into groups and give them a task to work on. They will then observe who the natural leaders are and which people actively participate in the group process. Generally, the candidates who offer the least to the group receive lower ratings. One question some airlines have used when interviewing flight attendants was, “Why would you make a better flight attendant than the person to your right?” The best way to answer that question, or questions like it, is not to put the other person down, but to emphasize your own strengths.


The series interview consists of consecutive interviews with two or more people in the organization. Four or five interviews in one day is common. Typically, the interviewers have not met to determine who should ask certain questions or even to discuss the goal of the interview. After the interviews are completed, all of the interviewers will meet to discuss each person interviewed. While you certainly want to sell yourself to each person, the person who counts most is the hiring manager. Be sure you know in advance who that person is. It is rare to be interviewed by fewer than two people for anything other than entry-level positions.

You need to muster lots of energy to go through a series interview. It can be grueling to meet with four people over a three- to six-hour period. There is a tendency to forget what you said to whom. You may find yourself wondering, “Have I already shared that accomplishment with this person?” Except for one or two significant experiences that you might share with each interviewer, try to share a variety of stories and examples.

Before the interviewing begins, find out from the person arranging the interviews who you will be meeting with, and how much time to set aside. This is particularly important if the interviews will require that you take time off from work.

The most torturous interview I have ever heard of was told to me by a client. He flew in for his interview on Wednesday, and beginning Thursday morning, he interviewed with ten partners in a law firm over an eight-hour period. That evening he attended a party at the home of one of the partners and was in the spotlight throughout the party. He got back to his hotel room after midnight. At 7 a.m., he hopped a flight to another city where he began the interviewing process all over again with six partners at the home office of the law firm. Except for his five hours of sleep, this person was either on the hot seat (during the interviews) or on stage (during lunch and at the party) for 20 hours. He survived the experience, however, and is currently with that firm.

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Second And Third, Nondirected, Conversational, Panel, Group, Series Interviews

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