MT candidate blog v3

How to prepare for a final stage interview when it’s down to two candidates?

Two weeks ago, you met the hiring manager over Zoom. You completed a successful first stage interview, all from the comfort of your home office. A week ago, you visited the office for a second-round interview, you had a brief tour of the office before delivering a sleek presentation. Cut to today, and tomorrow you have a final stage interview. This time it is with the CEO and your recruitment consultant has informed you its between you and one other. So close, yet so far!

Learning that the hiring manager is down to considering you and one other person can be nerve-wracking and may create unnecessary pressure. In this blog we look at hints and tips for interview preparation when it comes down to two final candidates. How can you stand out from the competition, and make the best impression?

Just the two of us

In your previous interviews, you probably answered questions related to your skills and qualifications, meaning you probably won’t reencounter them in your final interview. During this interview, the CEO, or senior leader, may want to measure whether you will fit in with the company’s culture and have the emotional intelligence required for the role. Look at the LinkedIn profile of the interviewer in advance, you will understand a little more about the person ahead of walking into the interview room.

Be yourself

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Unless you have a crystal ball, or have some serious insider intel, it’s unlikely you will know who you are up against. And, that is a good thing. Your skills, knowledge and personality will have guided you to this final stage interview. Of everyone else who passed through the assessment stages, the employer saw something in you and only one other person that made both of you worthy of consideration.

When skills and experience are equal, hiring managers will be looking at the following:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Candidate fit for the company culture
  • Personality
  • Commonalities with the interviewer
  • Presentation
At the interview

Technical and operational questions are likely to be at a minimum, if asked at all.  For example, if you’re interviewing as a software engineering, project manager, financial analyst and you are interviewing with a CEO, do you think they will really understand your job that much? It’s more a case of compatibility and demonstrating your enthusiasm for both the role and organisation. Remember to ask the interviewer engaging questions throughout the interview too.  

Almost hired but not quite

Consider how many other candidates you beat, in order to get to the point of being one of two candidates up for serious consideration. That in itself should give you confidence. However, it can feel a little like watching your favourite team miss out on penalties at a cup final!


Hearing criticism is never easy, even when it’s constructive. Here at Meraki Talent, we will always seek feedback from line managers and provide it constructively to our candidates.

It is up to you to consider whether the constructive criticism is valid. If you take an honest assessment of yourself and don’t agree with what you have heard, the position and company may not have been a good fit for you anyway.  Otherwise, take the feedback under careful consideration and look to learn from it.

In truth, at a final stage when it is between only two candidates it’s likely to come down to company fit and/or the ‘click’ between the interviewer and candidate.

Onwards and upwards

Perhaps the role was a passive interview you were going for, in that you are quite happy where you are currently but the role was one you wanted to explore. Conversely it could have been an entry level role in your chosen profession, or you might be actively job seeking post redundancy. Whatever stage you are in your job search, interview stages provide good practice for the future. You win some, you lose some, but the right opportunity is waiting for you.

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