In an ideal world, you’ll have a few days to prepare for that all-important interview. Plenty of time to conduct your research, carefully match your achievements to the job requirements, think up some brilliant examples of where you can demonstrate that you have shone, and perhaps set up a few mock interviews with willing volunteers.
But what happens if you only get 24 hours’ notice? Or worse – the HR department calls and wants you for an interview—this afternoon! Is it possible to get yourself prepared to showcase the very best of your abilities in just a few hours? Well, particularly if you are already working, it’s a challenge – but not an impossible one!
Use your time wisely
When you don’t have long to prepare, you need to focus and prioritise. Think about when you can fit in the preparation work – can you use the time whilst travelling, or make the most of lunch breaks? Too early to call your recruitment agency before you leave for work in the morning? Set off a bit early and make the call from the carpark when you arrive. Look for pockets of time that can be used productively to help you prepare.
First things first
You need to understand the company who is offering the job. Great sources for this include:
- Your recruitment consultant
- The company website – especially the ‘about us’ and ‘our mission’ sections
- Social media sites
- The company’s blog
- First few results on Google – use the ‘time’ and ‘news’ tools to find recent news related items
You won’t have time to read multiple articles in full, but a scan of headlines and a more thorough read of a couple of recent pieces should give you a feel for the company – is it growing, moving into new markets, restructuring? Another tip is to use the time waiting in reception to read the company magazine or digital signage boards if they happen to have them.
Understand the role
This is crucial. You must find time to read the job advert or specification carefully. If possible, print out a physical copy. That way, you can underline key points that they are asking for and think about how to make yourself relevant.
Now, you know that one of the things the interviewer will ask is how you can contribute to their organisation. So, ensure you spend a few minutes matching up your experience to the main points of the job specification. If they have asked for someone with strong leadership skills, have a couple of examples of where you have deployed such skills brilliantly. Zoom in on those key words you have underlined – whether they are communicator, collaborator, innovator, problem solver, etc. – and make sure you can present yourself as a great fit in each of the areas.
Try to find something that makes you different
This is a good one to think about whilst doing something where you can’t access technology, such as walking the dog or sitting in a traffic jam! Many of the candidates will fit the job description – what can you offer that’s different? Think outside of work – for example, your experience as a charity trustee might give you extra empathy with those who need support.
Plan your journey
Spend ten minutes ensuring you know where you are going. Double check the address, look it up in Google maps and save the location, pre-book train tickets, save all the details, including the company contact and phone number, in your phone. And of course, don’t forget to make sure your phone is charged.
Spend another ten minutes on your outfit
To perform well, you need to feel good about how you look. If you are actively seeking work, it makes sense to keep an outfit that you feel comfortable and professional in pressed and ready to go, along with any accessories you need. If you have thought in advance about this, then this part is easy. If not, choose something you know makes you feel good, give it an iron (or if you are really pushed for time, a quick steam), grab some neutral accessories and ensure your shoes are clean.
Ultimately, there is a limit to how much you can do in a few hours. Focus on the important things, then try to relax. After all, a lot of what you need is already in your head. If you were chatting to someone in a bar, you’d be able to talk about what you love about your job and why you are drawn to a certain industry. Approach the interview in the same way, and you’ll be fine.
Have you ever had to attend an interview at short notice – and if so, do you have any tips to pass on? We’d love to hear from you.
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