What to Expect from a Final Round Interview (and How to Stand Out)
If you’ve just been invited for a final round interview—congrats! You’ve clearly done a lot of hard work to get this far, and the hiring team believes there’s a good chance you’d be a fit for the role.
But not so fast—the final round means you could be up against some stiff competition, as less strong candidates will have been weeded out in earlier stages. Solid preparation, including understanding what to expect when you go in for this round, is therefore extremely important.
Know what you’re getting into
There’s no formula for final round interviews, particularly if you’re targeting startups, which may have incredibly varied hiring processes. On the one hand, companies may use the final round as a cultural fit interview and chance to get to know potential colleagues, whereas other hiring teams may keep the most difficult technical tasks until the last stage.
This can make it challenging to know what to to expect, so don’t be afraid to ask. From the company’s perspective, it’s in their best interest to help you perform well (and for them to make an offer)—and this is even more the case if your point of contact is a recruiter, whose performance will often be gauged by successful hires.
Regardless of who’s facilitating your interview process, if they haven’t given you a good sense of what to expect, simply ask them how your time will be spent during the interview, whether there will be a technical challenge, who you’ll be meeting with, etc.
Expect you’re not the only one
It can be easy to get over-confident when you reach the final round, but you should expect that the company is performing the same interview for a few other candidates who are likely just as qualified for the role. It’s therefore important to strike the right balance between confidence and humility—confidence in your ability to be great in the role, and modesty to avoid sounding like you’re showing off.
That said, don’t be afraid to emphasize your accomplishments—particularly those which build your case for future success at the company. Even if they’re on your CV and you’ve mentioned them in the past, you may have new interviewers, and even those you’ve already spoken with may have forgotten your qualifications after interviewing dozens of candidates.
On the flip side, it’s important to show self-awareness about where you have room to improve. While you may outshine other candidates with some skills or experiences, chances are they’ll beat you on others, and being able to identify which of those gaps you’re hoping to fill with this new experience demonstrates maturity and commitment to personal growth.
Use it a chance to reposition earlier mistakes
While you certainly don’t want to use the final round to make apologies, think about where your previous interviews with the company could have been stronger, and how to reposition those weaknesses if and when they come up.
If you forgot to mention a relevant experience (and decided to let it go rather than bringing it up after the fact), for example, this round is your opportunity to incorporate it. If you stumbled over a question in a past interview, remember what it was and why you struggled with it—and practice it relentlessly before going in again. In many cases, companies will use the final round (at least in part) to poke at your weak points, so covering those bases is an important part of your preparation.
Focus on building rapport
In the final round, your interviewers are likely to be strongly considering how it would be to work with you—so while your skills and qualifications are important, the make or break piece of the decision may come down to personality fit. Even if it’s not explicitly a cultural fit interview, it’s still important to develop a connection with your interviewer—so put effort into the softer side of the interaction (body language, facial expressions, etc.) as well as the actual answers you give.
Remember it’s a two-way street
Importantly, your final interview is also your last chance to interview the company in order to determine whether the role would be a good fit for your personality and skills. If you’ve noticed any red flags in earlier interviews, this is your opportunity to test for those potential weaknesses—and equally to evaluate whether the team you might soon be working next to is one you’d enjoy spending the majority of your days with.