In a previous post, I shared five strategies for preparing for a job interview.
These techniques still apply if you get called back for additional interviews. However, the callback stage is different from the first round. If you don’t prepare for the nuances of callback interviews specifically, your interview performance will fall short. What you did before led you to this next stage, but repeating just that will not be enough to land you an offer. Here are five strategies to prepare for callback interviews specifically:
Prepare for pushback
Callback interviews will be tougher interviews because the prospective employer knows more about you from those initial meetings. Whatever hesitations they have about you will be investigated more thoroughly. A callback interviewer may even repeat something you said in the first round and ask for more details or challenge your judgment. Prepare by reviewing your earlier meetings – who did you meet, what did they ask, what did you say, what seemed to resonate, where did the prospective employer hesitate. Prepare to continue this same line of inquiry, but also identify additional areas in your background, skills or expertise that weren’t covered – these will also be probed.
Increase your enthusiasm
In later stage interviews, your energy tends to wane. Physically, you’re tired from all of your job search activity. Emotionally, you’re more invested in this prospective employer now so the stakes are higher. If this is your first or only callback interview, your nerves may be more active than usual.
Mentally, you’re vetting this prospective employer as much as it is assessing you, and you start to see potential problems: Do I really want to work here? Is this role really for me? Prepare to set aside these feelings and refocus 100% on succeeding in these callback interviews. Don’t assess the job; go 100% for the offer. Don’t get emotionally attached; continue with your other job search activity to maintain your leverage and confidence throughout this process. Don’t let on you’re tired; stay animated, upbeat, and enthusiastic during the interviews, however many there are.
Know your start plan
So, you up your enthusiasm and you answer any previous objections. Now you also want to show your prospective employer that you can fit right in and add value from your very first days. Have a new hire strategy for what you will do 30, 60, 90 days into your new job. Prepare to ask about key objectives in your interviews, so you can devise a relevant 30, 60, 90-day strategy.
Prepare to address what you will need to thrive in the new role – what skills do you need to acquire and how will you do that? What information do you still need? If you’re employed, prepare a transition plan — how much notice you will give, how you will tie up loose ends. You want the prospective employer to know you’re ready to get started.
Callback interviews, where you’ll likely meet with multiple people across levels and departments, is a great time to learn more about the role, culture, and company prospects. Prepare questions to assess the company, but emphasize curiosity in your approach, not due diligence. Curiosity is light and open-ended. Due diligence is trying to uncover problems.
While you may think you need to dig deep during callbacks, your tough questions may be interpreted as hesitation, lack of interest, or a belligerent work style. Remember that the prospective employer is still vetting you so you want the prospective employer to focus on your enthusiasm and ability to jump in and get started, not your possible objections.
Prepare your references
The final preparation tip is something that impacts your interview process but doesn’t actually occur during the interviews. In my recruiting work, I see excellent candidates derailed by lukewarm references.
For senior positions especially, references are not reserved for after an offer is extended. They very well might happen in the middle of the interview process, once the prospective employer decides it is seriously interested in you. Some employers view the references as information-gathering for the interview process – they may ask about outstanding issues that come up from the references in the callback interviews. Therefore, you need to prepare your references.
Know which people you will designate as references and explain the job in question. Outline what skills and examples of your work you’d like your references to highlight. This is not the same as telling your references what to say. You are simply reminding them of the work you did and letting them know what is relevant to this upcoming job. Your references are busy and have managed lots of people – they will welcome the advance notice. Your prospective employer will get the information most relevant to their role. You have done all you can to manage your brand and value proposition.