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How to Determine Who Comes Back for a Second Interview

by Ruth Mayhew, studioD

In a fully-staffed human resources department, a recruiter could be solely responsible for vetting candidates for second-round interviews. In other organizations, an HR generalist handles everything from reviewing resumes to deciding which applicants will get second-round interviews with hiring managers. Regardless of your HR department structure, a combination of HR screening and communication with the hiring manager is an effective way to select which applicants come in for that second interview.


You can't reasonably decide who is coming in for a second interview until you create a timeline for your selection process. Look at the dates your job posting is advertised and conduct preliminary interviews no later than a week after you stop accepting applications for the position. If you're manually reviewing applications and resumes, instead of using an applicant tracking system, it will take more more time, depending on how many people apply for the job.

Preliminary Interview

Conducting preliminary interviews via phone is an efficient way to determine who makes the first cut. During the phone interview, ask the applicant if he's still interested in the job, describe the company and give the applicant more details about the job. These steps -- applicant interest and job details -- could eliminate some applicants, but don't count on it, especially when unemployment rates are high or if your company has an outstanding reputation. Ask identical questions of all applicants about work history, education, credentials or professional licenses, and so forth. This enables you to fairly assess each applicant.


Providing information about salary could be useful in narrowing the list of applicants for the second interview; however, there's always a chance you'll find a gem of a candidate whose salary requirements are a little steep, but worth every penny. If the salary you can offer is carved in stone, ask the applicant to give you a salary range. If he's far above what you can pay, then you know his name probably won't be on the list of second-round interviewees.


Naturally, there's more to determining who gets a second interview than who's interested in the job, whether they meet the basic requirements and if their desired pay is in line with your compensation structure or budget constraints. Select second-round interviewees based on how well they articulate their work history, whether their past experience suggests they can meet your organization's needs and the level of confidence they convey during your phone interview.

Hiring Manager

If you're the hiring manager and followed the sequence of steps that a recruiter would, review your interview notes, applications and resumes once more before you decide who you want to meet with face-to-face. If you have a tight window for hiring a new employee, acknowledge it, but don't eliminate potentially good candidates just because you need to quickly fill the vacancy.

Cultural Fit

If a recruiter assists with the vetting process, listen to her recommendations and the results of her preliminary interviews. Describe the type of employee you're seeking. Aside from skills and qualifications, decide whether you want a go-getter who demonstrates initiative or if you prefer an employee who takes instructions well and focuses on exceeding your performance expectations. You can't determine which applicants will actually fit the workplace culture before the second interview, but your recruiter's recommendations and phone interview results are helpful clues.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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