Keeping focused during the second interview

Q: After eight months searching for a job, I’ve finally got to the second interview stage. I’ve got a whisper from somebody inside the company that, in fact, I more or less have the job wrapped up, and that the second interview is just to run me by the MD before the appointment is made. The MD didn’t attend the first interview. How should I approach this interview? I’m particularly worried about how the whole question of salary expectation might impact on the interview.

A: First off, well done. It’s very encouraging to be called back for a second interview, even if nothing comes of it: it tells you that you have performed well and that will give you confidence for future interviews – though, of course, hopefully you won’t be involved in any of those for a while if you get this position.

The first piece of advice we would give is to approach the second interview as professionally as you did the first one. Presume that it will be a full interview. Don’t count your chickens.

Research accordingly. Know more about the company than you did the first time you met them. Re-establish rapport with the people you met the first day: use their names, say ‘nice to see you again’, and let them feel an emerging, developing relationship. Be warm and friendly to anyone you’re meeting for the first time.

Even if the company appear more informal and relaxed this time, don’t let your guard down too much. By all means, show that you are personable, and also that you are enjoying being back there, but remember you are still on trial until you sign on the dotted line.

The overall approach is to continue to convince them that you are the person they are looking for.

If the salary expectation question comes up, what you need to watch most of all is when the interviewing stops, and the negotiation starts. If they ask what you ‘would’ consider to be an appropriate salary, you’re still in ‘interview’ mode: I would be inclined to kick for touch with something like “I am not exactly up to speed with current market scales, but I’m sure it’s something we can discuss.”

If they press, but only if they press, I would only give a range – “I presume you are talking somewhere in the €40,000-55,000 range.” And make sure that you are prepared to take €40,000 – don’t mention a price below what you would expect to make. Let it be clear, too, that that’s a figure just plucked from thin air, rather than a firm statement of your position.

I would certainly not get bogged down in salary, or anything that might interfere with your desire to prove to them that you are the most suitable candidate for this role. Negotiation comes after the process of proving yourself has been successful: not while the process is still going on.

However, if they move from interview to direct negotiation, everything changes. Once you have established that this is a job offer, you are entitled to roll up the sleeves and bargain. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you think you’re worth: they will respect someone who has a value on their abilities. Plus make sure not to sign up there and then, but rather ask for a couple of days to think about: again, all done in a bright and breezy way that makes them feel you will be back in a few days to tie up the loose ends.

At all times, keep them keen on you. Be wary of making closed remarks that could create a problem. Let them feel that these negotiations are just one more step along the way, and that you fully expect to surmount any obstacles. If the obstacles can’t be surmounted, there will be time enough at a later stage to withdraw from the process. Best of luck.