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Career Beat

Second Interviews: Overcoming the Hurdles in the Path to Your New Job

There are many sources that can help you to prepare for a job interview. However, most of this available information focuses on getting in the door - the first interview.

Interviewing for a specific job or position is a process. The initial step begins after a recruiter or manager emerges from the twilight zone, so to speak, after navigating his way through a résumé maze. During this phase, job seekers try to sell themselves in many different ways - some creatively, some strictly by the book and others outrageously.

First Cut

At any rate, if you were selected for a first interview, congratulations, you've made the first cut.

Of those individuals called for a first interview, many are solid, potential candidates. But in this batch, undoubtedly, there are some whose résumé-writing skills supersede their qualifications for the advertised position. These individuals may look good on paper, but lack the depth of experience required. Skilled interviewers can usually tell the difference between the sizzle and substance candidates. Once in a while, though, the recruiter/manager may have some misgivings but give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. This candidate is then granted a second interview.

In the situation described above, the purpose of the second interview is to focus on perceived areas of weakness or limited experience. This is called a behavior-based interview. For example, if a nurse is interviewing for a critical care position, she may be asked questions like, "Tell me what your role or function was in the last Code Blue you were part of on your unit." These types of questions require the nurse to demonstrate critical-thinking abilities and provide the interviewer with much more information about the candidate.

Quick Pat on the Back

When all first-interview candidates have been seen, it's time to make the second cut. If you are asked to return for a second interview, pat yourself on the back - and then quickly dig in and prepare for this next phase.

Strategizing for a job interview is essential at each step in the process. However, during the second interview, you will need to develop new strategies and prepare differently than you did for the initial interview. Let's talk briefly about how you do this.

For leadership positions - middle managers and higher - most organizations require several interviews before an offer is made to a candidate. The higher the position on the organizational chart, the more interviews you will have to ace before you make the short list of candidates.

Interview by Committee

Let's suppose you have decided to take the next step on your career ladder. You've applied for an entry-level nurse manager position. Your previous experience and solid performance at the first interview gained you a second interview. When the nurse recruiter called, she said you would be meeting with her and several nurse managers. How do you prepare for this experience?

First, you will need to do more research about the organization - its operations, procedures and management philosophy. Perhaps you approached these areas in the initial interview. Now, you want to use all your resources to delve into these areas in more depth.

Dual Purpose

As you conduct your research at this stage, remember you are not just doing this to demonstrate to the panel of interviewers that you know volumes about their organization and the basics of management. No, this is also a time when you want to take off the blinders. You want to see if there are any red flags that might indicate this position may not be a good fit for you. It's important for you to ask these questions at the interview and resolve these issues now. Asking your potentially future peers these probing questions is the best way to accomplish this.

To shed more light on the second interview process, I called upon Paula Hutchison, MBA, MS, BSN, RN, PHR, owner of Fulfillment Healthcare Recruiters, Middletown, DE.

"At most interviews, the applicant talks 80 percent of the time. The trick is for the interviewee to reverse the process and get the interviewers to do 80 percent of the talking," summarized the expert.

Hutchison provided a great example to apply this tip. As frequently happens in second interviews, when the interviewers are a committee of possible peers, the questions posed to the candidate relate to how she can demonstrate that she is the ideal candidate for the position. She is asked how she would respond to a number of real-life management or clinical scenarios. The panel takes turns asking the questions.

In an effort to market herself quickly and effectively, unfortunately, the candidate may go overboard in telling the panel about too many of her accomplishments. This overzealous self-promotion can be a put-off to the committee members, according to Hutchison.

"They [the nurse managers] may think this new person wants to come in and change everything in their facility. It's much better for the candidate, in this situation, to offer some information and then say, 'This is how we did it there, but tell me how you do it here?' Soon the interviewers are talking, and they sense the candidate's willingness to learn their ways," detailed Hutchison.

Even if you don't receive a job offer following a second interview, the process is a great learning experience - and another career-building skill.

Kay Bensing is senior staff nurse consultant at ADVANCE.

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