How To Ace Your Third Interview

Updated July 11, 2023

A third interview could mean that the hiring manager is close to making you an offer, or someone at a higher position wants to meet you. Whichever scenario might occur, you need to be prepared. Your third interview should add a level of depth and understanding about the job, as you are now part of a smaller set of qualified candidates the company is seriously considering. In this guide, we discuss what the third interview is, how it works and, most importantly, how to prepare for it.

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Why do companies have third interviews?

Companies usually screen and evaluate many candidates through multiple interview rounds to find the best candidate for the job. While the recruitment process varies depending on the company and position, it usually includes the first interview, which you may complete over the phone (also called phone screening). Next is the second interview, which is done face-to-face to find out more about you following your initial interview and compare you and your skillset to other candidates. Finally, you will complete the third interview, which helps the hiring manager understand if you would be a great fit not only for a particular position but also for the entire company.

Congratulations! You've made it to the third interview. Only the top few candidates will make it this far, so preparation and presentation are critical due to the high stakes.

At this point, you may be interviewing with the same or more senior employees of the organization or a panel. If you are interviewing with people whom you have not previously met, be sure to answer questions in such a way as to provide background that you may have provided to previous interviewers.

Genevieve Northup, MBA, SHRM-CP, HCI-SPTD

A third interview a good indication that you are one of the top candidates for the job. However, you should be well prepared because the company or the hiring manager will conduct an in-depth analysis of how you would fit into the company's workplace dynamics.

Related: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

How do third interviews work?

Depending on the level of the position, your third interview may be carried out by a member of the senior leadership of the company, or, if it's a small or midsize company, by the chief executive officer (CEO). Sometimes, the person who conducted your first and second interviews will conduct the third interview. You will also likely meet several people in the office including prospective colleagues, and you may even have multiple interviews with these people.

A requirement of the third interview could be the demonstration of necessary competencies needed for the job. For example, if you are interviewing for a training facilitator role, you may have to create and facilitate a mini training on a provided topic for a small group. The group will critique your presentation as part of the interview process.

Genevieve Northup, MBA, SHRM-CP, HCI-SPTD

A third interview usually involves behavioral questions, as these allow the hiring manager to evaluate your fit for the overall workplace culture. It also involves intensive questions that reveal such things as your preference for working in a quiet setting versus a more animated setting, your ability to work in a team and collaborate across departments and whether you take a traditional approach to work or are a risk-taker.

Companies will also use the third interview to learn how you react in certain challenging situations such as how you prioritize competing deadlines, how well you manage stress and how you would react if you caught a coworker doing something unethical.

At the end of the third interview, you are expected to ask more in-depth questions such as "Who held this position before and where are they now?" and "What is the most challenging problem the person in this position needs to solve?" The third interview is also an appropriate place to begin salary talks.

Related: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

Tips to prepare for a third interview

To prepare for your third interview, you should think about yourself in the position and how you could contribute to the company. Take time to deepen your understanding of the job, the company and the problems they are trying to address. To do this, take the following steps before your third interview:

  • Review notes or recall information from your previous interviews.

  • Prepare responses to behavioral questions.

  • Research your interviewers.

  • Prepare some questions to ask your interviewers.

Review notes or recall information from your previous interviews

During your first and second interviews, it's likely that you learned more details about the job and expectations of the company. Compare what you learned in those interviews to your qualifications again and highlight areas where your qualifications and expertise are particularly useful.

Prepare responses to behavioral questions

During your first two interviews, you may have answered general questions such as "Tell me about yourself" or "Why do you want this job?" For your third-round interview, you should prepare for behavioral interview questions. Behavioral questions focus on how you handled a variety of work situations in the past. Your answers to these questions will reveal your personality, skills and abilities. Some examples of behavioral questions include the following:

  • Describe a stressful situation at your previous work and how you handled it.

  • Have you handled a difficult situation with an employee or coworker? How?

  • How did you handle a difficult situation with a client, with a supervisor or with another department?

  • How did you handle meeting a tight deadline?

Related: Behavioral Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Research your interviewers

You may be interviewed by the hiring manager, members from the department or team you will be joining or upper management including founders or executives. If you haven't received an agenda from the company's recruiter with your interviewers' names, ask them to send it to you. This allows you to do some research about your interviewers, which may help you plan your conversations. Focus your research on the initiatives or projects they might have led, some of their accolades or accomplishments, or anything that will demonstrate that you have done your homework.

Prepare some questions to ask your interviewers

In addition to preparing answers to behavioral questions, you should also prepare to ask questions. Asking questions helps the hiring manager gauge your interest in the position. Intelligent questions show you have prepared for the interview and know the company and the position. If you have already asked a lot of questions during your first and second interviews, you can ask the same questions during the third interview if you have a different interviewer. This allows you to get another perspective.

Some good questions to ask an interviewer include the following:

  • What does it take to be successful in this position or company?

  • What are the shared characteristics of your most successful workers?

  • What are some of the challenges that the company/department is facing right now?

  • Can you describe the culture of the company?

  • What are the company's expectations for this role during the first 30, 60 or 90 days?

Related: How to Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

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How to do well in a third interview

Here are a few steps to complete your third interview:

1. Don't assume

While you should be proud that you have made it this far in the interview process, don't assume that you will receive the job and that this third-round interview is a formality. You still need to present yourself as the best candidate for the job without seeming arrogant. Always be alert, even if the interviewer and the environment seem more relaxed. Treat the third-round interview with the same professionalism and seriousness as you did for the previous interviewers and continue to promote yourself as the right choice for the role.

2. Dispel misconceptions

If there were things in your first or second interview that seemed to be a concern for the interviewer, address them in the third-round interview. For instance, if the hiring manager noted that they are concerned about your lack of experience with a specific application or software, or about how long it would take you to relocate, you should be proactive in talking about it in the third interview. For example, you could say:

  • "As I know you were concerned about my limited experience working in QuickBooks, I signed up for a three-day training program at the local community college to make sure that I am ready to work immediately, should you hire me for the job."

  • "I realize that this position would require immediate relocation, so I met with a real estate agent yesterday to discuss how quickly I could get my house listed for sale, and also visited several neighborhoods out here to see what type of temporary housing is available. Based on all I have done, I think I can be here by the end of next month with no problem."

  • "I know I have limited experience in social media in my work, but I have used social networking sites to promote the charities I volunteer with on weekends, and have increased their followers by 15% and their donors by about 10% in the previous year."

3. Act as if you belong in the job

Part of persuading the hiring manager that you are the right candidate for the job includes helping them envision you in the position. Change your language from a "you" perspective to a "we" perspective during the interview. Feel free to broach operational or internal subjects that might have previously been proprietary or off-limits. For instance:

  • "I reviewed our annual financial report and I noticed a decrease in earnings related to electronic sales, but a dramatic increase in accessories sales and membership subscriptions. Can you tell me what could be the reason behind it, and how can we address that from a marketing perfective in the coming year?"

  • "I understand that our company is launching a new product next year. Has the marketing department started developing a roll-out plan or is that something I would be involved in developing?"

  • "Are there particular concerns or issues that I could prioritize in the first 60 days?"

4. Negotiate salary

A third interview is often a final interview, so there's a good chance you will talk about salary and perks. You may even receive an offer at the end of the interview. You should be prepared by researching the average pay for the job and deciding what figure you need to say yes.

Let the hiring manager or interviewer bring up salary and benefits first. You may know the salary talk is next on the agenda, but as a professional courtesy, you have to allow the interviewer to direct where and when it happens. Also, keep in mind that you don't have to decide right away. You can ask clarifying questions, but it is also appropriate to delay your final decision.

Hiring managers will likely understand if you thank them for the salary offer and ask for time to think it over. However, if the salary offer exceeds your expectations and you are satisfied with all other elements of the offer package, then don't hesitate to accept the offer.

Here are a few response examples:

  • "Thank you for the offer, I am very flattered, but I would like to talk it over with my family. Can I get back to you tomorrow?"

  • "That's a very fair offer. I am very happy with the overall package, and I would be thrilled to join the company. Could I ask for the details in writing?"

  • "I appreciate your invitation to join the team, but I'm afraid the salary is below what I expected. Is there any flexibility in the number you offered?"

Related: How to Talk About Salary in a Job Interview

5. Send a follow-up note or email

After your third interview is over, send a follow-up note or email to your interviewer. A follow-up note shows good manners and allows you to mention anything you forgot to say during the interview. It also allows you to give a quick review of why you are a good fit for the role. It also helps the hiring manager remember who you are.

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