There’s a lot of advice out there on acing job interviews — perhaps too much to digest when you’re in a hurry. And let’s face it, you’re in a hurry. No matter how committed you are to interview prep, the truth is that you only have so much time. This is especially true if you’re lucky enough to be looking for a job while you have a job.
The key is to use your time wisely and concentrate on the activities that will help you stand out from the competition. If you’re in a time-crunch, and need to prepare fast, focus your efforts here:
1. Show That You Value Their Time
Hiring managers are busy professionals. Waste their time, and you won’t get a call for a second interview.
How can you show that you value their time? Come prepared to make the most of it. That means arriving early, ready to discuss the job and why you’re the best choice. Research the company ahead of time and come to the meeting prepared to answer their questions and ask some of your own.
Above all, be positive and enthusiastic about the role. No one wants to spend an hour talking to someone who seems like they’d rather be doing anything else. (Even if that’s true.)
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2. Have a Real Conversation
Every experienced job seeker has been on that interview that feels more like an exam than an exchange of information. While you can’t make your interviewer better at holding up their half of the bargain, you can improve things from your end. How? By being ready to have a conversation, instead of waiting to be grilled (or preparing to grill the interviewer in return).
Concentrate on really listening and looking for points of connection with the interviewer. It’s not about knowing more than any other candidate; it’s about being the right fit and achieving the best results.
3. Avoid the Big Mistakes
The worst mistake interviewees can make is to show up knowing nothing about the job or the company. But even if you have all your facts straight, it’s possible to put your foot in your mouth by being inappropriate or over-confident.
At The Muse, Sara McCord talks about a time when an interviewee made an outrageous claim:
… to this day I still remember the person who could not think of one time—ever, in his entire life—that he’d failed. We sat there in silence, as he looked at me. I asked if, maybe he’d ever missed a deadline, taken a risk that hadn’t paid off, gotten a bad grade on a paper, missed making a sports team … anything. And his answer was no, he couldn’t think of a time he’d ever been anything but successful.
As far as my follow-up question, he’d also never once had to ask anyone for help.
Don’t be that person. No hiring manager will believe that you’ve never made a mistake … and no one wants to hire someone who’s clueless enough make the claim.
4. Expect the Unexpected
No matter how prepared you are, there’s always the chance that the interviewer will throw you a curve ball. When that happens, take a deep breath and gather your thoughts before you speak.
It’s also OK to ask for clarification … and admit when you don’t know the answer. While obviously you don’t want your whole end of the conversation to be an unending stream of “I don’t know,” it’s better to admit that you need more time than to get caught in a lie. You can always use your thank-you note to provide a thoroughly researched answer after the fact.
5. Send a Thank-You Note
And speaking of thank-you notes, definitely send one. In a recent TopResume survey, 68 percent of hiring managers and recruiters said receiving a thank-you note influenced their hiring decision. Nearly 1 in 5 said that they’d passed on a candidate because they hadn’t sent a follow-up note. It’s a small investment for a big potential payoff.
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