Be Ready for an Interview at a Moment’s Notice

If a recruiter calls you with a particularly interesting position, delivering your resume in a few minutes rather than scrambling to revamp it at lunch can give you an advantage. It demonstrates that you’re serious about moving on and up, and that in turn makes employers more serious about you.

Be Ready for an Interview at a Moment's NoticeEven if you’re content with your current job and don’t plan to leave any time soon, remember that the best way to take advantage of opportunities is to prepare for them. That means having your resume, pitch, business cards and even interview clothes ready.

The Resume

The rule of thumb is to keep it up-to-date. When you’re actively looking for work, you’ll customize it to emphasize your fit with a job. When you’re not looking, keeping a generic resume on hand and tweaking it regularly will make it tighter and better prepare you for your pitch.

The Pitch

This is nothing more than a 30-second description of yourself – where you’ve been, your skills, interests and ambitions. You may use all or just part of it, but it eases the challenge of talking unashamedly about yourself. For example, it’s a handy thing to have rehearsed when meeting a colleague’s former supervisor at lunch or a conference.

Another advantage of a ready pitch: It gives you something in your pocket for those recruiters or hiring managers who call you unexpectedly, at home or in your cube. Some manages enjoy catching candidates off guard. It may not be fair but it happens all the time. Your pitch gives you time to collect your thoughts and secret yourself sway from nosey cube-mates, barking dogs or rambunctious kids.

Business Cards

Effective cards are printed on simple white stock and include your name, title, e-mail, social media addresses, and blog. Keep it simple, though. Cards shouldn’t look like an advertisement for everything you. If in doubt your name, title and e-mail will do. In an age where information is fluid, a card can be like a Trojan Horse (the non-viral type) that’s pulled from a shirt pocket at the end of the day.

The Clothes

Happily working – or not so happily working your job search from home – you may have relaxed your wardrobe. You’ve stopped wearing the tie or are getting away with a pullover and jeans. Stop this for two reasons. First, you’re not immediately presentable for a spontaneous interview, and those do happen occasionally. Second, and more importantly, dressing up for a quick interview at lunch will raise alarm bells to anyone who sees you at your current job. Always dress well at work. Dress as if you’re going to that interview.

The job market is coming back, albeit slowly. To take advantage of it, be prepared.

Originally published Dec. 10, 2010

No Responses to “Be Ready for an Interview at a Moment’s Notice”

  1. Reality Check

    This repeats the usual one-sided “advice”. Workers are told to “customize” resumes for every position. This is highly unrealistic to expect someone to rewrite their resume time after time. Most recruiters and HR departments lack the courtesy and business ethics to reply to resumes that are sent in. Many admit they don’t read resumes unless provided by “a friend”. They throw out resumes collected at job fairs. A well written resume highlights your strengths and details your experience. It is unlikely you will be an exact fit, so don’t waste your time on an individual posting when the time is better spent looking for another possibility.

  2. Reality Check

    The article is so one-sided against the realities of being a worker. HR & recruiters admit that they don’t bother reading most resumes, and they admit they throw out anything they collect at job fairs. A well written resume highlights your skills and experience. It is the ego of HR that demands that you customize a resume for each job when your time is better spent seeking as many valid opportunities as you can. If HR people were technically competent, they would understand the resumes being provided instead of looking for key words and phrases. I’ve even had companies demand that I rewrite my resume into their format. I give them a choice; pay my hourly rate for the rewrite or have their secretaries do it.

  3. @Reality Check, I’m sorry, but the truth is if you’re not customizing your resume and cover letter, you’re hurting your chances of landing a job. I know you don’t like it, and yes it makes things more difficult, but the bottom line is you’ve got to do something to get the manager’s attention, and you’re not going to do that with a generic resume. Your time is better spent customizing your approach, as opposed to blasting out a bunch of resumes blind. And, as a hiring manager, I can say I DO read what I get – but when I first go through them it’s the customized ones that stand out, and which I pay the most attention to.

    I wrote a post about this a while back. It’s here:


  4. I agree with Reality Check. Create a well written resume, maybe a few resumes customized to different types of positions you are interested in. I have be getting I few interviews a week despite not customizing my resume and most of the time not even sending in cover letters. I am becoming convinced that recruiters are word searching resume databases. Customizing resumes and most of the time creating cover letters is time better spent looking for another better opportunity and being prepared for the interview. Have your pitch and clothes ready. My standard resumes have been generating interviews and my interviews have been going well. But, employers have their choice of candidates in these market and you just have keep going until you hit it off with one employer.

  5. I also agree with Mike and Reality Check, especially Mike’s thought on a few resumes customized to different types of positions you are interested in. And, that employers have their choice of candidates. I appreciate Mark’s comments. However, the reality for the unemployed is that a person can’t customize resumes for all of the jobs you are seriously interested. For the long-term unemployed, the process is increasingly frustrating and the countless number of unanswered responses from HR areas. My hope is dwindling.

  6. @Niles – Not that I mean to be difficult, but this is one of the tough parts of job hunting. You WANT to send out as many resumes as you can, figuring it’s a numbers game and the more you send, the better your chances of getting a reply to some of them. But I once talked to a guy who sent out 3,000 – yep, 3,000 – resumes and didn’t get a single response. Of course, he was sending the same resume over and over again. I hear from a lot of people that theyr’e doing much the same thing, and getting no response. So why not try a new tactic. You’d be better off spending less time mass mailing and more time customizing for the jobs where you think you’d be a good fit. The people who do that seem to be the ones who get the jobs.


  7. Very Good Developer

    I suppose i’m the only one that challenges the “conventional wisdom” that you need to dress nice for an interview.

    I dress business casual at best, and I have no problem getting work.

    As a software developer, and as someone who has been on both sides of the interview table, clothes play no role.

    Real talent in technology is hard to come by. Hiring managers know it. We’re a commodity, we don’t need to dress up for our masters.

    The hypothetical situation of “two people with all the same qualifications came in, but one was dressed better……” is ridiculous.

    Hiring decisions are not made that way, and more importantly, you don’t want to work for people who think like that.