Great news! A hiring manager called and wants you to come in for an interview—this afternoon. You can move your schedule around and tell your boss you have an emergency dentist appointment , but in all reality, you only have 30 minutes to prep.
Yes, you could’ve asked about rescheduling (and for future reference, that’s actually a good option), but in your enthusiasm you said “Absolutely!” and requested the address of HQ. And you know that calling back and asking to change the time is a no-no, because it’ll make it seem like you struggle to think on your feet.
So, here it is: Your guide to prep for your upcoming interview in 30 minutes.
Minutes 1 Through 10: Read Up
If you’re interviewing for an actual, posted position, you’re going to want to read through it with a fine-toothed comb. If you can print it out (i.e., you’re home), do it and circle keywords that jump out to you (think: “strong communicator” or “experienced manager”). If you’re reading it on your phone or tablet, take screenshots so you can review it on the move if you have extra time.
Then, read up on the company. Look at the about page and mission statement, click through social profiles or a blog to see what news or events the company is currently pushing. Google the organization and see what comes up first.
No, you’re not going to have time to read article after article. But just clicking through headlines and getting a sense that the organization’s annual charity fundraiser is next week or that it’s doubling in size will make you feel less like you’re playing catch-up when you arrive at your interview.
Minutes 10 Through 20: Make Yourself a Match
OK, so here’s what you learned in minutes one through 10: The organization is in transition and the role is for a strong communicator who works well with others. And here’s what you’ve learned in every interview up to this point in your life: You’re going to be asked to talk about yourself and the interviewer is going to want to know why you’re the best fit.
In your arsenal, you should have a few career stories. Muse writer Kat Boogaard suggests six key types , including examples of times when you solved a problem, acted as a leader, and were the ever-sought-after team player. For now, look back through those screen shots or that marked-up position description or the notes section of your phone and see what you highlighted.
Since collaboration and communication are the two keys for this role, you’re going to want prepare strong examples that show how you epitomize those traits. Alternatively, if the role called for someone with killer attention to detail and the ability to work independently, you’d recall the time you completed a massive client presentation while your boss was on a phone-free vacation.
I know 10 minutes doesn’t feel like a lot of time. But if you zero in on keywords and spend that time thinking about how you can show you’re an experienced manager (or problem-solver, or innovator), you’re setting yourself up to hit the right notes. This will help you nail the obvious questions and bolster your confidence through any questions you’re less prepared for. And when you’re unsure, go back to these traits to underscore how you’re a match.
Minutes 20 Through 30: Find Something Unique
You know that the most qualified candidate isn’t always the one who gets hired. Because if the interviewer can’t really remember an applicant, she’s not going to hire him. So, now that you’ve thought through all of the by-the-book ways you’re a fit (e.g., “You want someone with five years of experience in the field and I have six…”), think through what’s going to make you memorable.
For starters, do you have transferable skills or other qualifications other candidates are less likely to have? Maybe your marketing mindset will make you an asset to the tech team. Or your people skills will help you fit into an office that recently had some pretty major shifts in management or direction. Those additional facets of your candidacy will help build out the stories you tell.
Finally, remind yourself that unless this is the very first interview of your life—or, scratch that, the first time you’ve ever interacted with professional contacts—you’ve had more than 30 minutes of prep time. If you met a friend of a friend, you could explain what you did each day. You could share what your strengths are and why you’re drawn to a certain field of work.
So, stop focusing on the fact that you’re time-crunched, and instead spend your 30 minutes taking the steps above. That way you can go into the interview telling yourself you can do this, because you can!
(P.S. Need to update your resume in just 30 minutes as well? Here’s how .)
Photo of multitasking courtesy of Shutterstock .
Sara McCord is a freelance writer and editor, who most frequently covers the career beat. For nearly three years, she was an editor at The Muse, and she's regularly contributed career advice to Mashable. Her advice has been published across the web (Forbes, Newsweek, Fast Company,TIME, Inc., Business Insider, CNBC and more). Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. Learn more and send her a note through her website, or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author