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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 some time.

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

Don’t get sucked into someone else’s sense of urgency if you don’t have to. The fact that the recruiter wants you to interview tomorrow at 8 AM doesn’t 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 yesterday, so she’d feel better getting you in tomorrow morning. By all means, empathize with her – and try to get the time you need.

But let’s say your excitement took charge of your brain and you said yes. Or maybe the recruiter said 8 AM tomorrow is the only time they can meet with you. 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 travelled 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? A half hour at the end of the evening? Another half hour on the train tomorrow? Okay, so you have an hour and a half.

Prioritize & prepare.

Here are the crucial things you need to do to prepare for an interview at the last minute.

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 don’t have? Any other possible negatives? Plan how you’ll address those.

See anything unfamiliar in the posting–tools you’ve never used, jargon you don’t recognize? Take five minutes to look it up. You won’t be an expert, but at least you’ll be somewhat conversant.

Prepare for some of the most common questions. Here are some top priorities: 

  1. “Would you tell me about yourself?”, a.k.a. “What experience do you have that qualifies you for this role?” or any other broad opening question. Prepare an answer that highlights your key selling points.
  2. “Why do you want to leave your job?” or “Why have you left?” Plan an answer thats brief, positive and future-focused.
  3. “Why do you want this job?” 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.” Do some salary research beforehand so you have some idea what’s reasonable.
  5. Whatever other question you’re most nervous about.

Ask questions.

When you’re offered the interview, ask questions:

  • who you’ll be meeting with (their full names, roles and email addresses for later followup)
  • the address of the site (and don’t assume it’s at the main office)
  • where you should park how long the interview will be
  • whether there will be any testing
  • whether you should bring anything other than (several copies of) your resume
  • what the appropriate interview attire is
  • whether it’s a newly created position and how long it has been open

Voila, already you’ll be much more prepared.

Once you’re there, just before the interview begins, ask the interviewer a question like, “Before we start, may I ask you a quick question? What is your top priority for this position?” or “What made you want to interview me?” The answer may enable you to give better answers for the rest of the interview.

Get a good, concise interview guide & skim for crucial tips.

Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview has been praised by Forbes as “excellent” and is easy to use as a quick reference. Skip ahead to whatever topics are most important to you. Use the “Index of Interview Questions” at the back to zero in on the tips you need. This resource is available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.

If you listen while driving, please, keep your hands off the device, pay attention to your surroundings and be safe.

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

Your previous work experience–or your education and life experience if this will be your first job–must have prepared you, or you wouldn’t 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.

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