In a search for a new member of our team, we have narrowed our choice down to two outstanding candidates. I want this second interview to be more informal and conversational than the first, and I don't want to ask the same questions. I really want to know if they will be a good fit for our organization, and if we will be a good fit for them as well. I'm posting on Manager Tools because I figure I could get some examples of good questions to ask on second interviews. I can find the "theory" of second interview questions on the internet, but some examples would be nice. Advice from members would be greatly appreciated as well. Thanks everyone! -Ross

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Gary King's picture

One of the most telling questions I have ever asked in an interview was "Tell me about a project or task where you failed." Everyone is prepared with the details of where they had success, but no so much for discussing where they did not. You are more likely to see the real person rather than a coached answer. Everyone has failed at one time or another. If they claim they have not, I would suggest they are not being truthful.

DavidB's picture

I hope it is not too late to help, but here are a few opinions I have for the conversational interview.

1. I ask them to describe their last project.
A. Who were the users?
B. What went right, what went wrong?
C. Describe your involvement?
D. If you were your manager, how would you improve it?

2. Describe a situation in which you used influence to achieve your goal.

3. This one is tougher. Find a question in which they should answer 'I dont know'. If they do know it, great. Then they are smarter than you thought. If not, and they said they did not know - thats a good sign. I find that candidates that can say 'I dont know' are significantly more likely to quickly identify a gap - and that makes it quicker to correct.

4. I also like to ask how they find answers to question they dont know. I look for answers like my peer network, trade magazines, books, google, anything other than I just hack at it till I get it.

There are others, but this is the basic gist of it.


Mark's picture
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Great post, great question. Thanks for asking it.

I would take a slightly different approach than you are thinking, but I don't want to argue with your interest in securing a good fit.

My approach is:

1. Interview them again, using behavioral questions. Just ask different questions. Since you're comfortable with their first set of answers, LISTEN DIFFERENTLY. On your question sheet, where you write their answers (of course, every manager does this, right?) write down, "How would that fit HERE?""Who does it that way here?" "What's the common way of doing that here?" What techniques does she use? Are they like ones that are successful with your firm? Behavioral interviews are RICH opportunities to learn about both behavior and attitudes.

Please understand that done right, my idea of a behavioral interview is ABSOLUTELY conversational. And if you think he/she will slip and relax and be themselves if you don't interview them, think again if they're good. They'll just sound more colloquial while giving you correct answers.

There are very few questions you can ask when someone is trying to get a job offer that are naturally conversational and that will be perceived as informal.

My favorite conversation starters, though, are all questions that start with, "What do you think about?" After their answer, I usually follow up with, "Okay, but what about this...?"

[Not knowing what you do, it's hard to come up with questions!]

What do you think about The World is Flat?
What do you think about Wal-Mart and unions?
What do you think about agile development?
What do you think about the World Cup?
What do you think about digital convergence?


You cannot "do" much to help them like you more (assuming professional minimums here). The danger in that approach is that you lower the bar. You're trying to reduce the chance of a false negative, when what you must avoid IN INTERVIEWING is false positives.

There's a ton more here... but I think I've touched on your question as directly as I can.

Let us know what you do and how it goes.