Preparing for the Final Interview

The final interview is usually what the name states, your final or last interview.  It is the last data point gathered before a hiring decision is made.  In many cases, if you do well on the final interview, you will get an offer.  So here are some tips to prepare for a final job interview to give yourself the best chance of securing an offer.

1. Check in with your recruiter

Before the final interview, let’s strategize. Every company conducts final interviews differently so there is not a “one-size-fits-all” method to prepare.  Your best strategic move is to ask lots of questions as you think about how to prepare.

For example: “What should I emphasize going into the last interview?” or “What strengths of mine do you think I should elevate when I interview with XYZ?” or “What advice do you have for me going into the final interview?”  “If I am given an offer, how should I handle it?”  “How will I know what compensation package is fair for me and XYZ?”

2. The potential employer will probe for weaknesses

The hiring manager may bring up your weaknesses or places where there’s room for improvement, so put a positive spin on it by focusing on the steps you’ll take to improve on those areas, according to Roseanne Donohue, an executive recruiter, resume writer and career coach who worked previously at J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup.

The most important thing to remember about final interviews is that the employer knows a lot more about you by now, according to Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach and the founder of Expect them to probe on the areas where you fumbled before or might be at a disadvantage, for example, if the role requires experience with middle market lending, but your background has been in business banking.

“Practice how you’re going to address probing questions so you appear confident and not defensive,” Ceniza-Levine said. “Review what you were asked before and who you met, so if your interviewer asks who you’ve already seen, you can answer quickly and sound like you are organized.”

3. Reinforce what they like about you and stress cultural fit

By the time you’re invited in for a final interview, you’ve probably gone over a lot of the technical aspects of your, skills and experience. For estimators, they may have provide you a set of blueprints and asked you to create an estimate.  Take some time to reinforce those aspects of your background.

Ultimately, though, the final stage of the recruitment process comes down to cultural fit, according to Bianca Rasho, associate vice president of global talent acquisition at GQR Global Markets. “Candidates should offer up a reflection on the type of firm they’d like to join, demonstrating an understanding of the company’s bottom line and mission,” Rasho said. “In finance, hiring managers want to hire someone who can do the job well, connect with their clients and also a person they’d like to have a beer with after work,” Rasho said. “Cultural fit is important, so focus on what they’re looking to hear to indicate that you would fit in well at the firm.”

4. Be a man or woman with a plan

Lay out what your 90-day plan would be for the job – the actions you would take and the goals you would want to achieve – so they can get a flavor of what it would be like if they hired you, how you think and strategize and prepare in advance, according to Hallie Crawford, the founder of Career Coaching.

“Outline your steps toward progression, what you want to accomplish over your first month, first quarter and first six months on the job, whether that’s contacting a certain number of clients or completing XYZ auditing projects,” Rasho added. “Once certain candidates get the job their momentum dies down, but specifying a plan of action shows the hiring manager that the candidate holds themselves accountable, will get the job done and has goals for advancement.”

Ask thoughtful questions related to the nitty gritty of what you’d be doing on a day-to-day basis, such as the types of projects you’d be working on, which shows you’re imagining yourself in the role in a level of detail, Donohue said.

5. Even if it’s in a more casual setting, keep it on a professional level

Do your due-diligence research on the people you’ll be interviewing with to enhance your chance of building a stronger personal connection. A little Googling may tell you if they enjoy XYZ hobbies and you can see if you have any overlap or commonalities with their background or interests.

A lot of companies will do more of a casual final interview, for example, invite a candidate out to lunch, dinner or drinks. That’s not just to flatter the candidate, but to put that person in a more casual social setting to see how he or she reacts, Rasho said. “If the hiring manager orders a drink, it’s ok to follow their lead, but don’t order one if they don’t do so first,” she said. “They’ll look at your interactions with the wait staff, and they’ll want to see how you interact with them and other people after a beer or two.”

6. Take it one step at a time – don’t get ahead of yourself

Finally, when you know it’s the final, you may find yourself thinking too far ahead – will the offer be a good one? Will I take it? What about that other company where I’m still in early stages – can I stall? “Your extraneous thoughts will come across as hesitation or worse, disinterest. Just remind yourself that you’re there to get the offer,” Ceniza-Levine said. “You 100% want to receive the offer – you can always say ‘No’ later.”

7. Be prepared to discuss compensation and benefits

While you typically shouldn’t bring it up yourself unless there’s an offer on the table, being prepared to talk about and negotiate salary is important, Crawford said.  “Have your bottom line, the lowest-you-can-go number, as well as industry-specific salary research handy and your list of qualifications relevant to the job so you can talk about why you deserve X salary,” she said.

In advance of a final interview, schedule a few minutes with one of the Highland Consulting Group recruiters working with you to determine what the norm is and what you can ask for. If you are entering a new industry, you probably won’t be able to ask for as much as a seasoned employee. Aside from your salary, find out what benefits the job offers. This could be vacation time, health insurance, daycare or education that the firm will pay for.

8. Ask for the job

At this point you should have had plenty of time to reflect on the opportunity and how it fits into your long term career plans.  You have to demonstrate a high level of interest in joining the firm.  “Really show that you’re excited about working there and joining the team,” Donohue said. “Reiterate your interest in the position and the company.” Don’t beat around the bush. Ask for the job. “Tell them you’re very interested in the position and why,” Crawford said. “Ask them if they have any hesitations to moving you to the next step or making you an offer, so you can address any possible questions or concerns they may have.”

If an employment offer is made, the hiring manager is going to expect you to be able to respond fairly quickly to their offer.  Asking to delay your decision by more than a day or two gives the impression that you are not interested in an offer from them, or worse you are going to use this offer to negotiate a better offer somewhere else.  So work with your recruiter and be prepared to respond to the prize that you have been working for throughout the interview process.