An invitation to a short interview isn’t a sign of disrespect or disinterest. It’s simply a sign that your interviewer — probably your potential boss — is swamped and starved for time, which is very likely the reason they need to hire you in the first place. So instead of becoming annoyed or terrified when a company wants to do a speed date interview with you, embrace it. Organizing your thoughts in advance and being able to turn a rushed meeting into a productive learning session for you and your employer is the key to advancing to the next round. Here’s the strategy I’ve used to coach hundreds of candidates to success in even the shortest of interviews.
It’s all about time management. Divide your 30-minute interview up into three 10-minute sections. Have a plan for each. This will make the interview more effective for you and your interviewer. It’ll also give you greater control over the interview itself.
The First 10 Minutes: “So Tell Me About Yourself.”
We’ve said it before: whether you like it or not, this question is coming. Get in front of it by preparing an elevator pitch that’s customized specifically for this interview. When an employer asks you this question, it doesn’t mean, “tell me your life story.” It means, “tell me why your skills and experience are relevant to this job?” Start with the work experience that most closely addresses your interviewer’s needs. This is probably — but not always — your most recent experience.
Most candidates over-share at this point and end up burning through precious interview time blah-blah-blahing about themselves. Avoid this common mistake by keeping your pitch tight and relevant. Once you’ve done that, hit them with a questions of your own:
“I know we don’t have a lot of time, so instead of going really deep into my experience, I’d love to learn more about what success in this role is to you and then share my most relevant experience. What needs to get accomplished in my first six months? What about in my first year? And most importantly, what’s keeping you up at night?”
This strategy works for two reasons. First, it relaxes the interviewer and gets them talking about their goals and needs. Second, this is your chance to go beyond the boring old job description and see the real Inside Skinny. Then you can use this information to present experience that best fits the interviewer’s needs.
The Second 10 Minutes: Prove You Can Do the Job.
You should walk into every job interview ready to share five to seven small case studies that prove you can rock the job. Why so many, you ask? The simple answer: what’s important will differ from interviewer to interviewer, even within the same company. Having a variety of stories up your sleeve gives you greater odds for wowing an interviewer.
Assuming your interviewer comes clean and tells you where the pain is, share the most relevant story first. Many interviewees will save their best story for last, but that won’t help you if your interviewer is watching the clock. Move your best story to the front so you wow them early. And get to what you can. This section is paramount to making sure they feel confident you can get the job done.
Prepare for this section by writing your stories out in advance. And be sure to use the C.A.R. technique to differentiate you from your competition.
The Final 10 Minutes: Leave Time for Workshopping
Here’s where you go from candidate to contender. In the last ten minutes, come back to the biggest issue that your interviewer is facing — the fire they are fighting today. Do this by saying, “I have a few ideas that might help with that (insert burning fire here). Are you open to some suggestions?”
Most interviewers will love fresh ideas for solving their most pressing problem. Now you’re basically inviting them to problem solve with you. You’ve also got ample room to show them just how smart you are (REMEMBER: you can offer smart suggestions in a polite way without seeming like a smarmy know-it-all). If you brought work samples with you, now’s the time to bring out any that represent your solution to a similar problem. If they seem interested but say there isn’t enough time, suggest that you’ll follow up with ideas.
Of course, if they say “no” to hearing your suggestions, your Bad Boss Alarm should go off. Get out there and don’t look back.
This section will really help the interviewer quickly see you as a fantastic collaborator, and someone they might like to work with every day. Just like when you’re on a great date, if you begin finishing each other’s sentences, you know you’re going on to the next round.
This is all about thinking ahead and putting the right sound bytes into your brain so you can pull them out at the right time during the interview. However, don’t be so tightly scripted that you come off like a robot. Be organic and conversational. Don’t try too hard to keep each section to 10 minutes, either. Ten minutes is just a guideline to help you organize your interview better and achieve more in a short period of time. Good luck!