It's always good news when you're called in for a job interview. But the real challenge is to get the call to come back for a second interview.
Initial interviews are typically designed to screen out candidates. Job offers are generally made after a successful second (or even third) interview. Of course, your ability to land second interviews is determined by how effectively you perform during your first. Scoring that second interview takes more than just showing up the first time. You have to engage and think critically about how you can stand out from your competitors.
What can you do to boost your chances of getting a callback? There are specific strategies you can use before, during, and after your initial interview to help improve your chances of moving on in the screening process.
Before the First Interview
Before your first interview, look at the job description and carefully dissect all of the job's requirements. Compile evidence of how your skills and experience will help you to excel in the position for which you're applying. Most importantly, back up assertions about your skills and qualities with concrete examples of how you have applied those strengths to achieve results in the past, and how you envision doing the same in the future.
Reach out to any connections who work at the company and let them know about your candidacy. Uncover second-level contacts at the organization on LinkedIn and through college alumni networks. If possible, find a way to meet with them before or during your interview visit. These insiders might decide to endorse you if you have a chance to make an impression.
It's also critical to take some time to polish your interview skills. The more effectively you interview, the better your chances are of getting selected for the second round.
During the Interview
During your initial interview, make a clear case about how the job appeals to you and fits in with your long-term career plan. Many candidates are screened out after initial interviews because they didn't seem highly motivated to pursue the job. If you're truly interested, clearly express your passion for the company and the job.
As you answer questions and interact with your interviewers, do your best to exude warmth and engage everyone in the room. Don't let nerves or shyness hold you back. If your interviewers like you as a person, they'll be more likely to support your case and vote for you to move on in the process.
Also, find out as much as possible during the first interview about what each interviewer considers to be the most important qualifications. Tailor your responses to highlight how your qualifications match up. This will also give you a framework for preparing for the second interview, should you get the call.
Inquiring about a pressing problem or challenge that might come up on the job always shows that you're thinking a step ahead. If relevant, present a work sample from your past or draft a document that showcases relevant knowledge and skills. As you finish up your interview, suggest that you would welcome the opportunity for interviewers to review some of your work samples. Offer a link to a portfolio page such as a personal website or your LinkedIn profile.
Don't convey an assumption that you'll be invited back for a second interview. However, if you do get a positive vibe, you can mention that you're readily available to talk more about the position or answer any other questions that arise after the initial interview.
After the First Round
Make sure to draft follow-up communication as soon as possible after your first interview. If you delay your email or letter, it might arrive after they have already made decisions about the second round.
If you've met with multiple interviewers, reach out to each one after the interview, rather than sending a group email. First and foremost, thank them for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the position. Think about how the role you're applying for relates to their positions, and how you think your work will help them excel in theirs.
Your follow-up correspondence is a good opportunity to share any specific examples you have of how you'll excel in your duties. For example, say you discovered in the first interview that the preferred candidate would need to analyze companies and present a rationale on whether to buy, sell, or hold on their stocks. Prepare a brief on a stock of interest and include it as an attachment to your follow-up letter.
Before the first interview, you should have alerted your references that your interviewer might be reaching out. After the interview, remind them again, and inform them of any key concerns that became evident during your meeting. If you feel any weak spots in your skillset or experience became evident, ask your references if they would be willing to affirm their confidence in your ability to succeed. Share the names of the interviewers—your references might know them or at least volunteer to reach out to them informally to endorse your candidacy.
In your follow-up, be patient and professional. It usually takes about a week or two after the first interview for hiring teams to decide about second-round interviews. Focus on sending thank-yous and helpful information, not nagging them about their decision timeline.
Do What You Can
Keep in mind that if you don't get a second interview, it might not be because of you. There are many reasons that candidates don't move forward in the hiring process and some of them have nothing to do with you. Concentrate on the factors you can control to give yourself your best chance of getting invited back. And keep looking for other job opportunities until you've accepted an offer.