Main image of article Surviving the Final Interview
So you’ve managed to ace the coding test, wow your future teammates, and outshine the competition. At this point, the only thing standing between you and a job offer is the final interview. “It’s surprising how many people make it to the final interview and blow it,” said Katherine Burik, a career coach and talent acquisition expert based in Canton, Ohio. “It may be your job to lose at that point, but it’s not a slam dunk.” What makes the final interview different, and what are the keys to succeeding at it? Here’s a look at everything you need to know to clear the last hurdle:

Let Your Guard Down Just a Little

Since you’ve already established that you can do the job, a final interview usually has a different structure, feel and purpose than its predecessors. Instead of asking questions, most hiring managers use a conversation to confirm that you’re a good fit for the team and the environment. “It’s important to sense the transition and shift out of interview mode,” explained Vijay Ingam, vice president of career services for Interview SOS, a Los Angeles-based interview prep and résumé service. “Managers try to forge a personal connection with candidates during the final interview so they may shoot the breeze or discuss personal information,” he added. “Basically, they’re playing it forward to see whether the two of you can work together 40 hours a week.” Given the intent, a final interview tends to be more casual than other interviews, and that’s why a lot of tech pros mess it up. For instance, it’s OK to voice opinions or share some personal information—so long as you’re professional and don’t act like you have the job in the bag. “The mantra is to be calm, confident and courageous but not overly confident or cocky,” Burik said. “Let your personality come through, smile and relax a bit, just be aware of your surroundings.”

Be Ready to Talk Turkey

Hiring managers also let down their guard during the final interview. In fact, they tend to be quite candid about the challenges you’ll face and the problems you’ll need to solve. Show that you’re ready, able and willing to accept the position by asking insightful questions that demonstrating familiarity with the issues. Reiterating your experience and even briefly outlining a solution can also help. “The conversation switches from qualifications to expectations during the final interview,” Burik said. “The manager may have alluded to problems during previous interviews so be ready to dig into the issues and provide some solutions.” Crafting a 90-day action plan that outlines three or four strategies to address the manager’s most pressing issues is one of the most powerful tools you can bring to the final interview. It proves that you are committed to success and that you’re ready to hit the ground running. Even if you have great chemistry with the hiring manager and ace the final interview, don’t take anything for granted. Ask for the job and be prepared to discuss compensation, but wait until the hiring manager brings it up. “Don’t leave anything to chance,” Burik advised. “State that you want the job, you know you can do the job, and that you’re ready to accept an offer.”