8 ways to ace the interview
You got the call… Now what? Your resume, cover letter and networking efforts landed you an interview. Now it’s your chance to show hiring managers why you’re the right fit for their team. It’s also an opportunity for you to learn more about the position, the team and the company.
For many people, the whole process can be a little nerve wracking — especially if you feel at a disadvantage because of your age. How can you make the most of this important opportunity? We spoke to Mary Eileen Williams, veteran career counselor and author of Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, for some of her top tips to help you ace the interview.
Give yourself an attitude adjustment
What’s the biggest mistake mature candidates make? “Feeling that you are ‘less than’ because of your age,” says Williams. Don’t let news reports about ageism get to you, she warns. Mature candidates bring a wealth of experience and skills to the table — attributes you should emphasize in the interview.
Consider the following scenario: when you’re job hunting, you’re marketing yourself as a product or brand. Would a marketer go into a meeting apologizing for their product? No, marketers know how to make the most of qualities like a proven track record of success.
“Don’t go in to an interview feeling apologetic for your age,” says Williams. “Go in thinking about all things you have to offer.”
Know the company
Even if you did your homework before you applied for the job, you’ll want to dig a little deeper now. Employers want to know what you have to offer, and you’ll be better able promote yourself as the right candidate when you understand their business and needs. Do some research online and tap into your network for advice. Williams also notes to look for current information like press releases.
Remember, part of the interview process is to size you up as a potential team member. Interviewers will be looking at personality and chemistry as well as qualifications. They know about you — and you can learn more about them too. Many hiring managers have profiles in LinkedIn, for example, or use other social networking sites for professional purposes. These sites offer a glimpse into their experience and expertise, and you can see what topics they are discussing and groups in which they are members.
When it comes to job hunting, we know customization is key — and that’s no less true for the interview than it is for the resume or cover letter. Not only will have you to be ready to tackle those introductory questions with style, you’ll also need to be equipped to handle behavioural questions like “tell us about a time when…” or “what would you do if…”
Williams suggests going back to basics: namely the job description and your resume. Grab a pencil and underline any keywords and qualifications you see in the job description and jot down examples of successes and experiences from your career. Try to think like an interviewer — what questions might you be asked based on the information you’ve provided? For instance, if you have management experience your interviewer may want to know more about your leadership style. How did you motivate a difficult team member? How do you evaluate performance and feedback?
Apply the same process with your resume: for every skill you highlight, Williams recommends having at least three examples for support. Don’t worry about trying to get every one down on paper — focus on the best and most memorable points.
Polish up your image
You don’t have to be young to convey a positive and “youthful” persona. For candidates of any age, that means appropriate attire, up-to-date make-up and accessories (like contemporary eye glasses) and good grooming. You’ll also want to make sure your pearly whites are ready to show off. (Williams recommends teeth whitening if you’re concerned about their appearance.)
What about grey hair? “Don’t feel you have to hide your age,” says Williams. Style and grooming is important, so do what works best for you.
Not sure what to wear? Williams advises to “dress for the job you’re after, but take it up a notch.” Even if the work environment is casual, a more formal look is still expected. When in doubt, a jacket never goes amiss — you can dress it up or down depending on the accessories (like a tie or jewelry).
Ultimately, showing energy and enthusiasm is critical — and your look is only part of the package. Consider non-verbal cues like posture, facial expression, a good handshake and good eye contact as part of your supporting cast.
Take an active role in the conversation
We tend to think of job interviews as a Q&A session, but Williams notes they should be more like conversations with give-and-take. Even the ubiquitous “tell us about yourself” question can set the tone for the exchange. Rather than reciting your biography, target your answer to the position and build on your resume. (It helps to draw on your brand statement or “elevator pitch” if you have them, says Williams.)
Next, it’s time to inject a question of your own, she advises — such as “Now that I’ve told you about my background, can you tell me more about what you’re looking for?”