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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

Surprise! How to Get Ready for an Interview—in Less Than an Hour

Every once in a while, it happens: the surprise interview. You were hoping for a call back, sure, but you may not have expected to be asked in the same day—much less within a few hours.

In these situations, it’s easy to get intimidated. A meeting you thought you’d have days, if not weeks, to stress about is now about to be played out in a manner of minutes!

But, don’t hit the panic button just yet. The unexpected interview may be, well, unexpected, but it doesn’t have to be the cause for angst. After all, you already know your resume is in top shape, because you landed the interview! The next step is nailing the interview, and really, all you need is an hour to psych yourself up for the task. Here’s your minute-by-minute guide to boosting your confidence and getting ready for the big event.

Step 1: Breathe (30 Seconds)

This one is easy—you’re doing it right now, in fact! But seriously, whenever you’re hit with some exciting news, it’s always a good idea to take a few moments to focus. Getting yourself centered and in the zone is an easy first step to ramping up your confidence, but not something everyone takes the time to do. And it shows the instant they walk through the door for an interview!

As soon as you’ve heard the good news, find a quiet place without any distractions. The restroom is perfect for this. Close your eyes, relax, and just breathe. Try not to think about anything else except the fact you’re about to nail an interview.

Do this for 30 seconds, then move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Tell a Friend (5-10 Minutes)

It may seem odd to add socializing into the mix when prepping for an interview, but believe me, the encouragement and excitement of a good friend can give you a lot of mileage in the confidence department.

We all have friends who have our back, and this is exactly the type you’ll want to call before a surprise interview. When you tell them the great news, they’ll be ready and eager to share in your excitement, and they'll help pump you up by reminding you how talented and awesome you are. Aren’t friends great?

Note: Just be sure to keep this call short. It’s easy to get excited and want to share every little detail of what went down, but don’t forget, you need to get the job first before the real celebrating can begin.

Step 3: Review Your Kudos (10 Minutes) 

After you’ve shared the good news with a friend, it’s a great time to really remind yourself how you got here in the first place.

Regardless of how long you’ve been in the workforce, you should have a nice pile of “atta-girls” or “atta-boys” in your possession. Maybe it’s a note from a professor, praising your analytical skills in your senior thesis, or a thank you note from an important client, expressing his gratitude for your above-and-beyond service. Wherever you save those little reminders, now’s the time to dig them up and read through every one.

Sometimes we forget how hard we’ve worked to get where we are, and nothing helps jog our memory like hearing it from someone else!

Step 4: Review Recent Accomplishments (10 Minutes)

Similar to reviewing your kudos, running through a list of recent accomplishments is a great confidence booster, as well.

Skim through emails or the notebook you keep at your desk, and pick out a handful of accomplishments you’ve made over the past few months. This can be anything from finishing a project before its deadline to passing an important exam to even handling a tough client with extra-special care.

On a daily basis, these things may seem like small details, but when you pull them all together, it’ll be clear how capable you really are. Reminding yourself of what you’ve done is a great way to psych yourself up—not to mention collect some talking points to share with the interviewer about what you can do at your new job. On that note:

Step 5: Review the Job Description and Your Resume (10 Minutes) 

Now that you’re sufficiently reminded of how perfect you are for this job, it’s a good idea to run through both your resume and the job description, one more time. After your accomplishments and commendations are fresh in your mind, it will be easier to draw connections between the job description and your resume and remember anything you may have left off that you’d like to mention.

Jot down a few notes about the key skills, experiences, and accomplishments you really want to highlight so they’re fresh in your brain. You can also use them to refer to during the interview.

Step 6: Look in the Mirror (5-10 Minutes)

It’s no secret your appearance impacts your confidence, and ultimately, your performance. But, what do you do when you don’t have the luxury of planning out your wardrobe the night before?

Well, here’s a tip: If you’re sending out resumes, you should always be prepared as much as possible for a surprise interview. This not only assures you’ll look great at a moment’s notice, but it has the added benefit of throwing off your current employer to the fact your midday “doctor’s appointments” are actually interviews.

Regardless of how prepared you are in the fashion department, though, make sure you give yourself a once-over in the mirror before your interview. You’ll have to work with what you’ve got, so make the best of it. Tuck in your shirt, smooth your hair, and please, please, brush your teeth! The last thing you want to do is show up with spinach stuck between your pearly whites!

Knowing you look great (and won’t knock someone out with your breath) is a surprisingly powerful confidence booster.

Step 7: Crank Some Tunes (3-5 Minutes) 

This is something I do anytime I want to amp myself up, and I can’t think of a better reason than a job interview. You can do this on your way to the interview itself, and it’s a great way to take your mind off your nerves and get it engaged in something positive before the big event.

But, don’t take my word for it. Studies show that listening to upbeat music can improve one’s mood, so pick something that puts a smile on your face—and maybe even a spring in your step. By the time you arrive at your interviewer’s door, you’ll be cheerful and confident, which is exactly how you want to start off an interview.

One of the most important things you can bring to an interview is your confidence. And, while success might not happen overnight, you only need an hour to put yourself in a position to succeed. So take a breath, set a timer, and get ready to nail that interview!

Photo of woman at interview courtesy of Shutterstock.