Last-Minute Interview Preparation: 4-Hour Strategies!

interview tips Mar 03, 2022

Last week, we discussed an outline and strategies you can follow if you only have one hour to prepare for a job interview. (Click here to read the full article.) Today, we want to expand our prep time a little more. What if you only had four hours to prepare for an important interview? It's more than an hour, but this is still a limited amount of time.

First, we will break our four hours into specific time intervals as we did previously. Given we do have three additional hours, we are able to allocate the time differently and add in a few new items to cover:

  •   45 Minutes: High-Level
  •   1 Hour: Behavioral
  •   1 Hour: Open-Ended
  •   15 Minutes: Cheat Sheet
  •   30 Minutes: Practice
  •   30 Minutes: Logistics

 Item #1—High-Level Details

Again, this 45-minute interval will be broken down even further to allow you to focus on specific items:

  1.   Research (10 min)—You will have more time to research the company, but still keep this high-level activity brief. Learn about the company and maybe take a few minutes to scan the news to see if there is anything you need to know about what’s happening at the organization.
  2.   Job Description (15 min)—Use this time to carefully read through the job description at least a couple times. Understand the position and the company’s needs.
  3.   Themes/Common Questions (20 min)—Finally, you will spend about 20 minutes using the information you gathered in the first two steps. Look for key themes with the job/company and correlate your skills and experiences. Think through some common questions that may be asked and why you are a good fit for this job. Remember the rule of three and take no more than 60 seconds to walk through each answer.

Item #2—Behavioral Answers

We are going to use the S.T.A.R. method (Situation. Task. Actions. Results.) once again, as it is a great tool for answering behavioral questions. Here’s how this one-hour interval should be broken down:

  1.   Actions (30 min)—Front load your time and spend 30 minutes on your actions. Put together a list of five really good examples and then go through the same exercise of identifying 3-4 areas where you had a significant impact. Try to find one mini action to support each major action, as well.
  2.   Situation/Task (15 min)—Start getting much more comfortable at introducing your role in the company, outlining the key stakeholders, the major challenges you were facing and the timeline to make it happen.
  3.   Results (15 min)—Identify one major result for each example, in addition to one repeatable process that was achieved. Don't forget the importance of quantifying/qualifying with numbers whenever possible.

Item #3—Open-Ended Answers

Your next full hour will be spent focusing on open-ended questions and answers. Always remember the C.F.A.S. method (Clarify. Framework. Assumptions. Solution.) for this exercise:

  1.   Clarify (15 min)—Use your time to think about general themes, as well as more nuanced topics. Dig a little deeper with your clarifying questions. What are the questions you always ask in your current role that would likely pertain to this new role?
  2.   Framework (15 min)—Expand your framework to include 10 concepts. Create a larger framework that you can remember and utilize during the interview.
  3.   Assumptions/Solution (15 min)—This is where you will start to tie in the extra time spent on the job description. Start to think holistically about projects and programs you worked on in the past and start to make some assumptions of what you will need to do in this position.
  4.   Cadence/Transitions (15 min)—Start to think about the transitions and cadence of open-ended questions. Understand the cadence of how you ask your clarifying questions, build in the appropriate pauses and response times, and then set up your framework based on the key concepts you’ve identified. Briefly think through your transitions from one section to the next. And, remember when you get to the end of your solution, it is critical to have a transition statement.

Item #4—Cheat Sheet

Now, you will use 15 minutes to create your cheat sheet. Focus on a few important items. Keep it clean and simple.

  1.   Themes (5 min)—Write down a few of those high-level concepts and themes that you think will be important to cover in your interview. 
  1.   Behavioral Titles (5 min)—Title your best behavioral answers. Come up with some sort of title that will be easy for you to remember when searching for the best example on your cheat sheet. 
  2.   Clarifying Questions/Framework (5 min)—Lastly, you will write down all your clarifying questions and framework concepts.

Item #5—Practice

With only four hours to prepare, you probably won’t have enough time to schedule a practice session with someone. Therefore, I want you to spend these next 30 minutes focusing on these key items. Look up common questions, set up your audio and video tools. Get to the point where you are comfortable verbalizing your thoughts and walking through all the critical steps

  1.   Two Behavioral Questions (15 min)—Identify two behavioral questions and examples that best reflect the main themes from the job description. Focus on these two questions for your practice.
  2.   Two Open-Ended Questions (15 min)—Likewise, you will do the same for open-ended questions. Focus on two that you think are most likely to be asked during your interview.

Item #6—Logistics

You will have 30 minutes left to prepare for your interview. I want you to use this time to get yourself ready, physically and mentally.

  1.   Setup (5 min)—Again, you will take a few minutes to setup and test your audio/video setup and get your space ready for the interview.
  2.   Grooming (5 min)—Spend a little time to get yourself ready. Comb your hair, put on a nice shirt, etc.
  3.   Meditation (20 min)—Now, you will take a full 20 minutes to shut down and regroup. You’ve put in a lot of work over the past four hours. You need a break to gather yourself before the interview starts

To see the full video on this topic (including the 1-hour and 8-hour interview prep strategies), watch below: 

Next week, we will be expanding our prep time to a full eight hours, so stay tuned.

For all your interview coaching needs, be sure to check out my YouTube channel, follow my blog or sign up on Practice Interviews for additional interview prep resources.


Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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