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Career-Life Times, Issue #39--The Second Interview
August 02, 2007

Issue 39, August 2, 2007

Ready to GET HIRED, GET NOTICED, and GET AHEAD? Read on...

In This Issue:

  • You Made It to the Second Interview! Now What?
  • Turning Down An Offer Gracefully
  • Don't Send a Cover Letter
  • Resources
  • Worth Quoting
  • Just for Laughs
  • Random Rants & Ramblings

    You Made It to the Second Interview! Now What?

    If you’ve made it past the first round and been invited back for a second interview—congratulate yourself, celebrate briefly, then come back down to earth and start getting ready for the next round.

    Are second interviews different than first interviews? Yes and no. And it depends.

    Where I work, for instance, first interviews are conducted by a panel of people from outside agencies. (This ensures a fresh perspective and zero favoritism for internal candidates.) Then the second interview is with the hiring supervisor, and sometimes with members of the team with which the new person will be working. On rare occasions (depending on the position), the hiring supervisor's manager will also participate in the second interview.

    In other companies, the initial interview (sometimes a telephone interview) is done by someone from HR, and the second interview is a panel interview that includes the hiring supervisor.

    Different companies handle first and second (and sometimes third, fourth, and fifth!) interviews differently.

    But here are some tips that should be helpful in all second interview circumstances:

    1. Prepare even more carefully. Making it to the second interview is a great accomplishment, but never assume it means you’ve got the job. Everyone who makes it to the second round is a top candidate—you have to prove you’re the best of the best!

    2. Polish your performance based on your first interview. Were there any specific things you did, said, or asked at the first interview that you’d change if you could? Now’s your chance. Did you forget to shake hands? Did some questions catch you off guard? Did you forget to mention something important? If you can recall what you did or said that impressed them the most, “repeat” those elements during your second interview. Replay the entire first interview process in your mind and focus on how to improve your performance and make an even better impression than you did before.

    3. Expect the same—and different—questions. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked many of the same questions as in the first interview. There may be different people questioning you, or they may be looking for more detail. There will also be totally different questions. Typically the first interview focuses on basic qualifications to ensure you’re capable of doing the job, and the second interview focuses more on your fit. They’ll want to know things like whether your personality will allow you to work well with other team members and whether you’ll enjoy the job. There also may be specific questions about the work environment, such as will you mind working overtime or traveling? Another topic that may come up is your salary requirements. You should know the going rate for the job (if necessary, do research at sites such as and decide on the minimum amount you’d accept. But if possible, avoid discussing salary until you’re offered the job.

    4. Show your expanded knowledge. By the second interview you'll have had more time to do research about the company and the position (and hopefully you learned a thing or two by listening carefully at the first interview), so be sure to demonstrate your expanded knowledge if the opportunity presents itself. You can do this by having some good questions prepared, such as "I was pleased to learn that XYZ Company recently contributed one million dollars to charity. Would I be able to participate in any company fund-raising events?"

    5. Be flexible with your time and expect a long day. Your second interview may actually be several interviews--with managers, department heads, and/or prospective team members. You may also be given a tour of the building and work areas. (Wear comfortable shoes.)

    6. Don’t forget to learn more about THEM. The second interview is a great opportunity to learn more about the job, the company, and the people you’d be working with and for. After all, you are judging them as much as they are judging you. After the second interview, you should have no problems deciding whether or not you'd enjoy the position.

    7. Recap your best qualities. Remember how you impressed them at the first interview by communicating the benefits associated with hiring you? Recap those benefits and make sure they understand why YOU are the person they need.

    In summary, follow the same important steps as for your first interview--do your research about the company and the job, anticipate likely questions, prepare and practice your answers, dress appropriately, arrive early, let your enthusiasm show, maintain eye contact, provide succinct and to-the-point answers (don't ramble), etc. And don't forget to send thank-you notes to everyone. (Even if some of the people were in the first interview and received thank-you notes from you then.)

    You’ll do great!

    Turning Down An Offer Gracefully

    Q: Dear Bonnie… Thanks to your book, I got 2 job offers, both from attractive companies! I told the first I would take the job, but 2 days later, I got an even better offer from another company. I now need to tell the first company I’ve changed my mind, but don't want to make any enemies. I am sure they will understand, but it worries me so much. I have a right to choose, right? What should I do? (From Helena)

    A: Dear Helena…What a wonderful dilemma for you to have to choose between two attractive companies!

    Yes, you do have a right to choose. You also have a right to change your mind.

    This happens quite often, so don't worry that the company you turned down might get upset. If they're professional, they will understand. If they do NOT understand, they are not professional and you wouldn't want to work for them in the future anyway.

    Here's what I suggest you do: Write a nice letter to the company you turned down, explaining that you appreciated the opportunity to compete for the job, that you enjoyed the interview process and meeting everyone involved, and that you know whomever they hire will be fortunate to become part of their team. However, after careful consideration, you accepted a position with another company that is a better fit for you. Thank them for their time and consideration, and that's it.

    You don't owe them a detailed explanation of why you chose the company and job you did. But a nice letter would be a classy way to show you really did think highly of their company and their offer. They will appreciate your taking this extra step, and will not think negatively about you or your decision. They may be disappointed about not gaining you as an employee, but as I said before, they will understand.

    Don’t worry—enjoy your new job!

    Don't Send a Cover Letter

    (This is a guest article by Kevin Donlin)

    As a rule, I hate reading cover letters. Nearly all are what I call, 3B: Bland, Boring and Banal. In fact, most cover letters are such formulaic exercises in boredom that I suggest you stop sending them altogether.

    That's right. Don't send a cover letter.

    Send a “sales letter” instead. After all, your goal in writing to employers is to "sell" them on hiring you, right?

    With that in mind, here's a recent success story that will help you stop sending cover letters, and start sending sales letters that get job interviews.

    Paul D. from White Bear Lake, MN writes: "I met you at the Star Tribune job expo and I wanted to comment on your tip to write a sales letter rather than a cover letter. I took your advice and, after sending the new cover letter to apply for two jobs online, I had one call the same day for an interview! The other call came the day after."

    So, Paul batted 1.000 with the two cover letters he sent out. Better yet, he emailed me his cover letter, which offers three lessons that can get you hired…

    (1) Get Attention by Asking a Question. You must get employers' attention at the start of your letter and compel them to read. An easy way to get attention is to ask a question. Why? Questions are hard to ignore--they engage and involve readers. Paul took my advice and wrote a new cover letter that began like this:

    “Dear Mr. Peterson:

    “Are you looking for a professional marketing person who has demonstrated analytical and problem-solving ability, practical project management skills and excellent written and verbal communication skills?”

    Paul's question gets attention and causes the reader to answer, Yes. And if you can get employers to nod in agreement while reading your sales letter, you've taken a giant leap toward getting hired.

    (2) Emphasize Specific Results. Which of the following statements is more interesting?

    (A) I'm a hard worker, honest and reliable, with excellent attention to detail.

    (B) I saved my last employer more than $10,000.

    It's B, of course. B makes a specific claim, while A is a list of generalities. All things being equal, the candidate who sprinkles results throughout his/her letter is more likely to get hired. Because employers think if you've delivered the goods before, you'll likely do so again. That's what Paul did in his letter--he included specific results like this: “I saved more than $10,000 for my company in 6 months by finding and correcting inaccurate registration forms.”

    (3) End with a Provocative P.S. Here's where Paul hit it out of the park. Remember, you want to send a sales letter, not a cover letter. And what do all sales letters have? A P.S. at the end. (Go read your junk mail right now to verify that I'm right. I'll wait....) Good sales letters have a P.S. because good copywriters know the P.S. always gets read. Include a P.S. in your sales letter that's so intriguing, employers will have no choice but to call you to learn more. That's what Paul did. Here's the P.S. he wrote, following my advice:

    “P. S. - Please call me if you would like to learn how I produced over $70,000 in grant money for the Minnesota Trucking Association last year.”

    This is simple and brilliant. Just as the opening question of Paul's letter forced readers to nod and answer Yes, the P.S. forces them to say, Huh? Then pick up the phone and call.

    In Paul's case, he got two calls in two days. And one new job. Here's the rest of his letter to me:

    "I finished the second interview yesterday and was offered the job the same day! Best of all, I was able to negotiate a raise and I am convinced that if I had not rewritten my cover letter, this would never have happened. Thank you!"

    So, if your job search is sputtering, stop sending cover letters and start sending sales letters. Follow these three tips: open with a question, emphasize specific results, and include a P.S.

    Now, go out and make your own luck!

    Kevin Donlin is President of Guaranteed Resumes and the creator of GetHiredNow.TV. Since 1996, he has provided job search assistance to nearly 10,000 people. Author of "51 Ways to Find a Job Fast -- Guaranteed," Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, CBS Radio and others. Check out his latest resource, The Instant Job Search System.


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    Worth Quoting

    "What is the recipe for successful achievement?
    To my mind there are just four essential ingredients:
    Choose a career you love,
    give it the best there is in you,
    seize your opportunities,
    and be a member of the team.”
    (Benjamin F. Fairless)

    Just for Laughs

    Mistake Test

    See if you can do this. Read each line aloud without making any mistakes. If you make a mistake you MUST start over or it won’t work.

    This is this cat
    This is is cat
    This is how cat
    This is to cat
    This is keep cat
    This is an angry cat
    This is idiot cat
    This is busy cat
    This is for cat
    This is forty cats
    This is seconds cat

    Go back and read the THIRD word in each line from the top.

    Now send this to a coworker you want to make fun of.

    Random Rants & Ramblings

    Moving. I hate moving. I’ve had to do it at least 20 times, so I’ve got it down to an organized chaotic science—but I still hate it. Well, let me clarify that. Relocating never bothered me. After living in one place for a few years, even if I loved the location, I began itching to go someplace new and different. Perhaps there’s a little bit of Gypsy in me. But the physical aspects of relocating—the packing, transporting, unpacking, organizing, etc.—are things I dreaded. If only I could use a Star Trek transporter!

    Speaking of… (I have to share this)… what if Scotty had a mischievous sense of humor? Imagine Captain Kirk down on the planet. He whips out his communicator and says to Scotty, “Beam me aboard, Scotty.” A few seconds later, you hear the transporter tones and see the shimmering lights…and a two-by-four board appears next to Kirk! Hah!

    OK, back to my rambling rant… here are some lessons I’ve learned about moving:

    (1) Never rely on professional movers to use common sense. If you don’t want them to pack something, put it out of their reach… like in you’re neighbor’s house. Otherwise you’ll be unpacking things like trash bags full of trash and ant farms.

    (2) Always expect to pay more than you expect. The advertised rate for the movers I recently hired was $99/hour, “packing material not included.” The move took 7 hours. The bill was $1,900. Cardboard and bubblewrap are apparently precious commodities and much more expensive than I anticipated.

    (3) The number of boxes you pack at the house you’re leaving will mysteriously multiply by a force of 10 by the time they reach your new house and need to be unpacked.

    (4) There’s no such thing as “unbreakable.”

    (5) Don’t expect labels like “Fragile!” or “This End Up” to be understood—even by movers who speak fluent English.

    (6) Despite all of the above, doing it yourself instead of hiring professional help is a bad idea. (Never believe a husband when he says “Don’t worry, it’s not that heavy.”)

    (7) Remember that, after everything is done, the reward is worth all the effort!

    So, what did you think of this issue? Any suggestions? Topic ideas? Questions? I really appreciate your feedback. Please send me a note at

    Please forward this to your friends!


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