May 19, 2022

No time to prepare for your job interview?

A recruiter calls you today – late in the afternoon – with a “dream job” opportunity. Here’s the catch: they want to interview you at 8 AM tomorrow. You’ll have no time to prepare! What do you do?

Try to buy time.

If you have not already agreed to it, tell them you’d love to but you’re not available tomorrow. How about later in the week?

Do not get sucked into someone else’s sense of urgency if you do not have to. The fact that the recruiter wants you to interview tomorrow at 8 AM does not necessarily mean that’s your only chance. It may just mean that, although she does have time slots at various times in the week, her boss wants to fill this position yesterdayso she’d feel better getting you in tomorrow morning. By all means, empathize with her – and try to get the time you need.

At the same time, use your social intuition. If the recruiter’s tone of voice tells you that their “maybe we can get you a later time” means “we’ll never speak again” –you’d better agree to 8 AM!

So let’s say 8 AM tomorrow is the only time possible – and you have no time between now and then.

Redefine “no time.”

Even if it’s now 5 PM, the interview is 8 AM, tonight is your great-grandfather’s 90th birthday and he’s traveled 9,000 miles along with 18 other relatives to spend the evening with you – do you have a half hour on the train before you get home for the birthday dinner? Fifteen minutes for a quick review before bed? Another half hour on the train tomorrow? Okay, so you have an hour and 15 minutes.

Prioritize & do some quick prep.

Here are the crucial things you need to do to prepare for a short-notice interview.

Read the job announcement again – carefully. Compare it to your own background. In what ways are you just the person they’re looking for? What experience, accomplishments, qualifications or skills can make you stand out from any competition? These are your “key selling points” or “unique selling proposition.” Think of examples and stories that clearly communicate these factors.

Is there anything they want that you do not have? Any other possible negatives? Plan how you’ll address those.

See anything unfamiliar in the posting – tools you’ve never used, jargon you do not recognize? Take five minutes to look it up. You will not be an expert, but at least you’ll know what they’re talking about.

Think through a few of the most common questions. Here are some priorities:

  1. “Would you tell me about yourself?” Ideally you’d take a few hours to work on this most important question, but if you’re short on time, just make sure your answer includes your top three selling points.
  2. “Why do you want to leave your job?” or “Why did you leave?” Plan an answer that’s short, positive and future-focused.
  3. “Why are you interested in this job?” Be ready to emphasize the ways in which it’s a great fit and express enthusiasm.
  4. “What are your salary expectations?” Try asking them to tell you their budgeted range, which you can then assure them is “a reasonable ballpark, and I’m sure we’ll be able to agree on the compensation package.”

Ask questions.

When you’re offered the interview, get clear on the following. If you forgot to ask, email or call the recruiter to confirm:

  • the interview format, ie, video or on-site, one-on-one or panel
  • who you’ll be meeting with (their names, roles and email addresses for later followup)
  • the address, if it will be on-site (do not assume it’s at the main office), and where to park if you’re driving
  • how long you should expect it to last
  • interview attire (or, if you know how you’d be dressing on the job, dress somewhat more formally than that)

And remember, you’ve been preparing for this interview longer than you think!

Crazy schedule, job interview, no time to prepare – but think about this: The fact is, your previous work experience – or your education, if this will be your first job – must have prepared you, or you would not have been offered the interview. Keep that in mind as you turn “no time to prepare for this interview” into value-packed minutes that give you the best possible shot at getting that job. (This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.)

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