Preparing for an interview is relatively easy if you have enough time. However, interviews don’t always go according to plan: life happens, and for whatever reason, you may find yourself requested to attend an interview with extremely short notice — the next day, even!
How can you possibly prepare for an interview with only the few hours that remain after work, when you will already be tired from a full day? Can you really prepare enough with just 24 hours’ notice?
While you might not be able to conduct the kind of exhaustive preparation that would enable optimal performance, you can prepare yourself to perform at a pretty high standard, if you know how to prioritize.
If you do find yourself facing a short-notice interview, you might find these six tips helpful:
1. Avoid Buying Any New Interview Attire
You really don’t have the time to spend in checkout queues, buying shiny new interview clothes, so make the best of what you have. An iron and a bit of spit and polish should be sufficient to address most wardrobe malfunctions.
2. Get Home as Early as You Can
Avoid after-work drinks, pick up a healthy takeout meal so you don’t have to cook, and consider taking a taxi if it saves you waiting at a bus stop for 30 minutes. If you can get out of work early that day, do so. Your goal should be to get home as soon as you can, buying you as much time as possible.
3. Research and Preparing for the Interview (in 30 Minutes)
You’ll need to prioritize, as you really can’t do thorough preparation here. Ideally, you want to research the following information so you can demonstrate your prior knowledge of the business, which is what recruiters will be looking for. You’ll only have time for a surface scan, so prioritize the following information:
- Names of the hiring manager, department manager, and CEO, and one positive fact or piece of information about each of them.
- Names of the company’s flagship product(s), two of the company’s competitors, and at least one of the company’s differentiating features.
- Geography of the business and where main offices are located.
- How long the company has existed.
- What you like about the company’s business/products/employer brand.
4. Prepare to Answer Behavioral Questions (in One Hour)
You won’t know exactly what questions the interviewers will ask you, but you can be pretty sure they’ll ask you behavioral questions like, “Can you tell me about a time when you handled an angry customer?”
You’ll be expected to answer these questions in a STAR format, which stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result. This means: describe the situation you were in when you faced an angry customer, what your duties were, what action you took, and the outcome of the scenario – e.g., did you placate or satisfy the customer?
You’ll be able to find lists of typical behavioral interview questions online. Hunt down those lists and spend up to an hour practicing your answers.
5. Prepare at Least Three Questions to Ask at the Interview (in 15 Minutes)
You can’t walk out of the interview without asking some pertinent questions; failing to answer questions will reflect badly on you, making you appear disengaged. It’s best to prepare two or three questions to ask the hiring manager. Examples of good questions to ask are:
- What will be my key objectives for the first six months?
- What keeps you up at night at the moment, work-wise?
- Can I tell you an idea about how the product could be improved?
6. Planning the Journey (in 15 minutes)
Allow yourself 15 minutes to do journey planning, mapping out your route to the interview to ensure you arrive on time.
This shotgun-interview plan gives you two hours of study time, which you should be able to squeeze into an evening. This leaves you with the remainder of your night to prepare your interview attire, relax, and get a good night’s sleep, so that you are energized the following morning.