Trouble Getting a Second Interview? Here’s What to Do
Times are tough, with the coronavirus pandemic leaving no sector untouched. As of mid-August 2020, UK firms have cut more than 106,000 jobs and a report published by Pro Bono Economics, in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising and Charity Finance Group, says that over 25,000 jobs have been lost in the charity sector alone; it goes on to estimate that another 35,000 charity jobs could be lost by year’s end.
As you might imagine, the job market is quite uncertain these days, and making it to second-round interviews is going to be harder now than ever before, especially in the charity and not-for-profit sector.
In this article, we go through a few of the most important things to consider when wondering why you’re not getting follow-up interviews. Whether you’re working in fundraising, marketing, volunteer management or otherwise, you’ll hopefully soon be able to assess where you went wrong and ace it the next time around.
Here’s what to do if you have trouble getting past the first interview…
Follow up afterwards
After your first meeting, send your interviewer(s) a friendly email thanking them for their time and for considering you for the role. Not only is it common courtesy, but it will help solidify your identity in their memory and leave them with a positive impression of you before making their decision.
Then, follow up again!
If after a week or two you still haven’t heard back, send another follow-up email. Be polite and personable. Your time is valuable, and hiring managers know this; a follow-up inquiry like this will display your professionalism while also getting you the answers you deserve.
Ask for feedback
After several second interview rejections, your mind may begin wonder: What am I doing wrong?
Well, there’s no better way to find out than by asking the interviewer themselves. When you get a message from the recruiter or HR manager saying this particular organisation won’t have you for a second interview, reply to them.
Ask them politely where you could improve and request their suggestions so you can prepare for the next company’s first interview. Chances are they’ll empathise with you and be happy to give you a helping hand.
Ask more questions
When you get to an interview, whether it’s in the charity sector or otherwise, it is common to consider it as a sort of one-way affair. They’ll ask me questions, and I’ll answer them. However, a good interview shouldn’t work like this.
Ask them questions—good questions, thought-provoking questions and more than one.
When you have queries of your own to pose to the interviewer, it will change the way they look at you. Granted, it could go in either direction: asking them insightful questions will have them seeing you in a more favourable light while asking things that are easily answered on the organisation’s website shows you’re not very interested and couldn’t be bothered to prepare beforehand.
Our advice? Come prepared. Asking the right questions will leave them impressed, and you’ll be well on your way to a second interview.
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Polish up your interview skills
You’ve earned a first interview, meaning your CV, cover letter and background have intrigued them thus far, at the very least. So, it could very well be something you did or said at your first interview which turned them off.
Were you negative about your previous employer? Did you dress to impress? Did you come across enthusiastic about the position and this particular charity? Were there any questions which caused you to stumble?
If you’re not getting past your first interview, review your interview skills. Go back to the basics: practice the most common interview questions, show your passion and research their organisation beforehand. Pay particular attention to body language: sit up straight, make eye contact, don’t cross your arms and remember to smile!
Lose any interview nerves you might have, practice for any difficult interview questions you may be struggling with and know what not to do at your big meeting.
Brush up on your hard skills
A common reason you may not have landed that second interview is that you overstated your knowledge of a particular skill on your CV. Or, you might not have the level they’re looking for.
Most people include a short skills list on their CV, something which likely includes the top five or ten abilities they have related to the job they’re applying for. And that’s fine.
Let’s say you’re applying to manage a charity’s WordPress website. You list ‘WordPress’ in your CV’s skills section, and then they ask you about it during the first interview. However, they might want someone who can edit the theme’s template files and understand PHP, while your WordPress experience is more on the side of publishing and editing articles.
To not have this scenario play out during your next interview, study the job description thoroughly. The job advertisement is like a cheat sheet—it tells you exactly which skills the organisation finds valuable. If you do your research prior to your next first interview, you’ll be well prepared when the moment arrives.
Don’t get discouraged
Easier said than done, right?
After several rejections, despair may set in. And, in turn, this may cause you to doubt yourself at subsequent interviews, perhaps diminishing your confidence or enthusiasm, which can then lower your chances even further.
It’s a vicious cycle.
First, don’t blame yourself, and learn how to survive rejection. Assess where you went ‘wrong’ and learn from your mistakes for the next time around. If you think you did poorly on your first interview and haven’t received a denial for a second-round yet, send that follow-up email we discussed above. On it, explain you were having an off day, and you still could turn that ‘bad’ interview around.
Avoid thinking negatively, if at all possible, and don’t stop applying for jobs. We all go through slumps from time to time, and you may be in yours, but sooner or later you’re going to have a win. When you do, your lost confidence and enthusiasm will bounce back, and you’ll be well on your way to landing that job.
And that’s it! Remember, practice makes perfect, so the more you interview, the better prepared you’ll be. If you have any questions, feedback or other great tips for landing a second interview, let us know in the comments below.
Christian Eilers is a career and education writer with a focus on the topics of professional development, college entry, university life, and entrepreneurship. As the Content Lead for the Goodwall Blog, he covers subjects including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career advancement, fighting climate change, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Warsaw, Poland.