How to Prepare for a Job Interview on Short Notice

When you’re looking for a job and you get a call from a potential employer asking for an interview, the natural instinct is to drop everything and make it happen. This instinct is absolutely right. The last thing you want is to miss an opportunity because you were too “busy” to make it. But with a 24-hour period you should be able to properly prepare for an interview and impress the potential employer. Here are some tips for preparing for a job interview on short notice.

1. Prepare your clothing

One-hour Martinizing is your friend. If you don’t have time to do your laundry, take advantage of fast dry cleaning. The first impression is a key part of any interview. You need to look sharp. With a short time to prepare you won’t have a chance to get a haircut or buy new shoes that you would under other circumstances, but you can look good in your clothes.

2. Practice your elevator pitch

You should always spend time before interviews preparing responses to typical interview questions. When preparing on short notice, you might not have the time. Rather than rehearsing responses to a bunch of questions, do yourself a favor and finalize your elevator pitch, which is the one-minute message you want to convey about yourself. It should include your accomplishments and what you can offer the company. You want to have this near memorized, not to the point you recite it word-for-word, but to where you know exactly what you want to say. Review the job description and isolate the job requirements and demonstrate how your successes have prepared you to meet this company’s needs. When you have your pitch down think a bit about those typical interview questions.

3. Study the job description and your resume

Carefully review the various requirements in the job description. Since you are limited on time to prepare, spend the bulk of your time working through the job description. For every requirement you want to have an example of your own related ability—be it how you’ve succeeded at that task in the past or how your previous experience has prepared you. It can be helpful to put your resume right next to the job description and connect the dots. Focus on those elements that relate to the job description. Reread your cover letter in case it comes up.

4. Have 1-2 questions to ask the interviewer

Every job interview usually ends the same way, with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. This is the opportunity for you to show how well you understand the job and the company and how well you have been listening. Be sure you take the time to develop some insightful questions. Unless it’s a major concern or potential stumbling block, avoid the temptation of asking about salary, benefits and so forth. Focus on the job—expectations, projections, items that are unclear in the description, etc. The interview should be a two-way conversation. Have talking points for your interviewer.

4. Review for any front-page company news 

It’s always a good idea to get familiar with the ins and outs of a company before you go in for the interview. With a short time to prepare you’re not going to have a chance to read every press release and browse through every page of the company’s website. Review only the latest company press releases and search the web for any recent news regarding the company or the industry. Show your potential employer that you are informed. 

5. Finalize your schedule

Once you get the call you’ll have to make your schedule accommodate the interview. If you’re currently working, that’s going to be an issue. On short notice, you may have to call in sick. Use this as a last resort. Try to schedule the interview so you can leave work early or arrive late. If you interview before you go into work, wear clothes you would wear to work. You don’t want anyone to notice you have a job interview. If you dress like you’re going to a job interview everyday, great. Otherwise, bring a change of clothes.

6. Get some rest

Although you may feel the need to spend extra time preparing for the job interview, it’s also important that you go in fresh, rested, and ready to go. To this end, be sure to get a good night’s sleep before you go in for the interview. The rest will ensure that you make it to the interview on time and are sharp and ready to go.

If you end up dealing with a job interview on short notice, don’t panic. You won’t be able to prepare as much as you might like, but you’ll still have time to make a good first impression.