Career Path

How to Ace the Callback Interview

From one interview to the next, the biggest challenge is keeping things fresh for yourself, says Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison.

You just got that callback you’ve been waiting for since your first interview. All that nail biting and second guessing – “I wish I’d answered that better” – are over. You made the cut, at least for now. The hiring manager wants to bring you in for follow-up discussions with other team members and even with the hiring manager’s boss.

The fact is multiple rounds of interviews are becoming more common these days, even for a junior position. But after a while, it can become exhausting. When things drag on, the gaps in between interviews can feel like the “dog days” of waiting with little activity. Don’t lose your energy or your focus!

From one interview to the next, the biggest challenge is keeping things fresh for yourself.

The fact is interview prep is largely a mental game. You want to be well-prepared so you can bring your best self. When you make it to the next level with more interviews, that’s certainly good news—but don’t declare victory prematurely. In many ways, the latter rounds matter even more because you’re up against candidates who are also a cut above the rest.

From one interview to the next, the biggest challenge is keeping things fresh for yourself. It’s natural to begin to wonder, “Didn’t I say that already?” I remember this feeling from my days in investment banking, when I was part of a road-show team doing investor presentations. 

Sometimes we’d meet with eight different investment groups in one day, fly at night to the next city and start all over again in the morning. No matter that it was repetitive for us, we had to make each presentation seem as if it was the one and only.

The same applies to you when you’re in the third or fourth (or more) round of interviews. Don’t think you can skip the preamble because the various interviewers have already traded notes. (Guess what—they haven’t.) Even when interviewer No. 6 asks you, “So, tell me about yourself,” you need to answer that question as if it’s the first time you’re hearing it. And always remember your ACT: be authentic, make a connection and give others a taste of who you are.

Interviews are all about connecting with others. So, when you’re doing rounds of interviews, this is the Golden Rule time! Treat everyone the way you wish to be treated and you’ll never go wrong. This is especially important if, as part of your interviews with the team, you meet with someone who is more junior than you are. Sometimes this surprises more-experienced individuals who don’t understand why they are meeting with someone who could be reporting to them. Often this is a way to probe if it's a culture fit.

As the selection process continues, you may be given an assignment. For example, you could be asked to provide your thoughts about the role or the strategy. You may have to prepare a written document, make a presentation, or both. At some point in the process, you may be given an assessment to determine your strengths and areas of development. Sophisticated companies may use the assessment results to tailor questions in follow-up interviews. 

Companies want to make sure that you’re right for the job and for the culture. Just as your prospective employer wants to know as much as possible about you, you’re also gathering information about them. These are the people who will have an enormous impact on your success over the next few years. 

Ask yourself: Is this the boss you want to work with? How will you feel about spending more time every day with this team than you do your own family? The fit factor goes both ways.

Interviews can be a grind and they may feel like a test of endurance. But, even if you’re describing yourself for the 20th time, or meeting the same people, again and again – you need to be your best self, each and every time. 

A version of this column appeared on Forbes.com.

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