Quick! — A Cheat Sheet For Last Minute Preparation For An Interview

You're a busy person. What are the quickest steps you can take to prepare for an interview, with the biggest payback? ... Here are 5 things you can do to maximize the benefit of your preparation time if you only have an hour to get ready.

Note: there is a lot more that can be said and done around each of the following points, but this is my best recommendation for last-minute prep. The fastest and most impactful way.

  1. Come up to speed on the recent history of the company, their latest news, and where you think they are headed moving forward.

    Don't spend too much time on this. It's easy to get lost in research and web surfing. Spend just 20 minutes to understand what is going on with the company at the moment. News. Press releases. Their blog. Do they have new products recently released or coming out? Who is their biggest competitor? Can you determine what they are trying to do as a company going forward? How do the company's goals align with the goals of the department (and the people) you will be interviewing with? ... Think about these things, and write down a couple questions to ask in your interview concerning what you have learned from your quick company research.
  2. Quickly learn about the people you will be meeting with.

    Look at their LinkedIn profile to understand their work history. Write down something you can mention about them personally to connect with them during the interview. Look at their twitter feed or google+ if they have one. Think about a question you can ask them related to their experience, and how that experience has helped that in their current position.
  3. Totally understand the job you are applying for.

    Carefully read the specifics of the job description to try to determine the projects and initiatives they have slated for the new position — and think about what it is they want to hear from the ideal candidate. What do you think they will be looking for, based on the specifics of the job posting? ... Remember, they are trying to solve a problem by hiring someone. What problems are they trying to solve? — and how can you explain (by using examples) that you are the right person to solve those problem? Write this down.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the behavioral competencies that make a good employee, a good manager, or a good executive.

    Remember, whether they know it or not, all HR people and hiring managers are looking for certain behavioral competencies. For example, there are certain behavioral competencies related to customer service. They may also try to expose certain competencies by asking management interview questions. Other questions focus on your project management skills.

    Brush up on behavioral competencies, then read the job description again and you will probably be able to "read between the lines" and discover the behavioral indicators (a prediction of your future performance on the job) that they will be looking for. Now brainstorm examples from your work experience you can use show specific behavioral competencies.
  5. Have your STAR Statements ready to go.

    As you probably know, STAR stands for Situation / Task, Action, Result. Review my formula for answering behavioral interview questions.

    Now — this is super important — I suggest you spend the bulk of your preparation time on this: WRITE OUT at least 3 or 4 STAR Statements that relate to the behavioral competencies they are likely to be looking for. Now rewrite them. Now PRACTICE RECITING THEM out loud. Now rewrite them again until you are comfortable delivering them.

Writing out and practicing your STAR statements is the most important thing you can do if you are pressed for time and need to prepare fast. This is my advice to you. Just start writing. And write it out fast. If anything, this exercise will get you to think about the position more and what you are going to say. What you think they are looking for. Write some stuff down. You’ll remember it better.

Sure, preparation for an interview does begin with research ...

… but research can be a wormhole and a time-suck that can feel like you are accomplishing something — but are you really? If you’re in a hurry (like most of us are) then I suggest just doing enough research to understand the company, the people you’ll be interviewing with, and the specifics of the position.

Trust yourself when you feel like you know enough. Then MOVE ON to writing out STAR statements that will highlight your behavioral competencies. Using examples is the best way to get hired … Get started now, you only have an hour!

Your Action Items For Last Minute Prep:

— Limit yourself to 20 minutes of research about the company, industry, and people you will be interviewing with.

— Spend 10 minutes carefully reading the job description (and others like it) and try to determine the behavioral competencies they are after.

— Take the remaining 30 minutes to write down examples from your work experience (star statements) where you have demonstrated desirable behavioral competencies. Add metrics (% increases / decreases, # of hours saved, $ amounts earned) to all your examples.

PS: Here’s another example STAR Statement for you to copy and use as a model!