It always helps to know the correct steps in the interview process so you don’t fall flat on your face. By Steve Hart.

Landing that dream job normally involves something that can be likened to a dance; a two-step followed by long waltz with trip wires.

The first interview is normally held to shorten the short-list; so if you've been invited in for a quick jitterbug based on your CV and cover letter, you've got a ticket to the dance. Survive this filtering process with your wit and charm and you have a good chance of being invited to the ball.

The second interview is a complex waltz in which you have to cope with numerous people wanting your attention, and it could also involve the thought police digging deep by way of a psychometric test.

The way to navigate the second interview and have the best chance of coming out on top is to find out up-front how your potential next employer intends to play this game of musical chairs. You do not want to be left standing when the music stops, so there's nothing wrong in asking what the interview process will be. It shows you are interested.


David Trought, a partner at Auckland-based career coaching firm Clear Path Careers, says a lot of people aren't inquiring about the interview processes and are taken by surprise when they don't make the crucial second shortlist.

"When you get called to an interview, the firm basically knows you can probably do the job based on your CV," Trought says. "So they've already got some idea. Then they want to know — do you want the job? How motivated are you to work for that company. They'll also want to see if you will fit in — and that's a key bit."

Trought, who has a UK diploma in career guidance and 27 years in the career-planning industry, including time at the AUT Faculty of Business & Law, says the second interview is when pressure mounts..

"The second interview is definitely going to have more technically specific questions; it will cover the specifics of the role," he says. "You're also likely to meet the person who's going to manage you — if you didn't meet them the first time."

Trought recommends searching LinkedIn to find out about your potential future manager. You can see where they are in the company, how long they've been there, and what they were doing before.

"You'll also find out what they're passionate about and what they do at work, "because that gives you a bit of an angle and perhaps some common areas of discussion".

"If you're looking on their Facebook account, that's stalking. But if you're looking on LinkedIn and finding out what they're really interested in, I think that's fine."

However, he says the section of the second interview that tends to floor most people are the behavioural questions.


"You can predict most of these because you know you're going to be asked about when you've had to deal with difficult people; and talk about when you've worked as part of a very effective team.

"So you've got to have these stories ready in your head, waiting to answer those questions. Things like how you handle conflict, making decisions, problem solving ... you're going to get questions like this. If you try to think them up on the spot, you're probably going to mess it up."

However, just knowing the scenarios to draw on may not cut it for candidates wanting the job.

"The issue is knowing how to answer them," Trought says. "And to be honest, I'd recommend anyone who's going for an interview to Google the Star technique — STAR. That will help people structure very clearly how to answer those questions.

"Because then you will know how to describe the situation or task and what you had to do. And then the meat in the sandwich is the action, what you did? And often people trip up at this, because they then talk about what 'we' did. Or they get too theoretical.

"But what [the interviewer] wants to know is what you did in that situation. That's what people need to be prepared for. If you can do that you're probably in the running — because that's where most people will fall over."

So does the best person get the job, or the best-prepared person?

"At a second interview they will still be looking at how you come across and your interpersonal skills," says David. "But at the end of the day, there's an assumption that if you want this job you'll have prepared for it. And those behavioural questions, I think, are the really hard ones. If you're not ready for them, that's where you'll fall over."

For those who prefer to turn up with their fingers' crossed ... Trought's advice is to think again.

"Some personality types have a tendency just to wing it. And if you do that, well don't. Because you're not going to get it. You'll need to do more preparation than you think if you're wired like that."

Another question to prepare for is the 'have you any questions for us?'. David says that even if the interviewers have answered all the questions you had prepared to ask; touch on them anyway. "If that happens, you say 'the questions I was going to ask were this, this, and this' to show that you were prepared."

If your preparation has paid off and it's all smiles as you head for the exit; there's one more thing you can do to clinch the job, says David.

"It could come down to a couple of people who are really close, and you want it to go to you rather than someone else.

"And that could hang on whether you really want it. So I always think it's a good idea to leave them with a hook. Don't go over the top, but you could thank them for the interview, say you really enjoy it (even if you didn't); and then say you'd like to make it clear that it's actually 'you guys I want to work for, I don't just want a role in this industry, it is you I want to work for'.

"And that's going to stick with them. If it's close, that might be enough to get you over the line.It's an emotional hook."