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How to Ace the Job Interview

Don't be afraid to sell your strengths

Interviews are stressful at any age, but much more so if you are bogged down by fears of age bias. The secret of having a good interview is in selling your strengths—and that means being positive and parking your baggage at the door.

See also: Write a winning resume.

If you take time to research the employer, to anticipate questions, and to prepare your talking points, you’re well on your way to success.

What to Expect

  • De-stress yourself before the interview. Use relaxation techniques, such as exercise, deep breathing, visualization, or whatever works for you (excluding a stiff drink!).
  • Employers want to know you’re a good fit. Be prepared to answer this question: How will hiring you add to the success of our organization?
  • If you can, find out who will be interviewing you and whether it’s an individual or a group interview. Know that there’s a good chance the interviewer will be younger than you.
  • You may be asked how you would respond to specific situations (often referred to as behavioral interviewing). For example: “Tell me about a time when you were faced with making a difficult decision.” Cite examples from recent jobs.

What to Say and What Not to Say

  • Focus on skills and achievements rather than on your many years of experience. Talk only about your accomplishments that relate to this particular job.
  • Respond to questions directly, but limit your answers to what was asked. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question.
  • Learn and use the current language and terminology in the field. Industry jargon may have changed since you last interviewed for a job.
  • Never say anything negative about former employers or coworkers.

Next: How to tackle age-related questions. >>

Anticipate Age-Related Questions

  • “Aren’t you overqualified?” Explain why you’re interested in this job and this employer at this time in your career. Focus on what you bring to the job.
  • “Will you be comfortable working for someone younger?” Stress your ability to work with people of all ages, with examples from your recent work history.
  • “You haven’t worked for a long time. Why is that?” Be matter-of-fact in explaining employment gaps. Emphasize skills gained through volunteering, raising a family, or caregiving.

What About Salary Issues?

  • Do not raise the issue of salary unless the interviewer brings it up.
  • If asked about your salary history, ask what range the employer is working with for the position.
  • If the interviewer presses you to say what salary you are looking for, you can say “negotiable,” or use a range rather than a specific number. Be prepared by researching salary levels for similar positions in your area.

Act the Part

  • Be on time. If you’re extremely early, it can signal that you’re overanxious. But absolutely do not be late. Know where you’re going ahead of time, and map your route if necessary.
  • Dress appropriately and professionally. Better to dress up than to look too casual. Update your wardrobe and replace that interview suit from 20 years ago!
  • Walk tall, speak clearly, use eye contact, and smile. Practice your handshake; it should be firm—neither a wet noodle nor a vise grip.

Follow Up After the Interview

  • Send a thank-you note or e-mail immediately.
  • If you don’t hear anything in the expected time, wait a few more days. Then call once more to check in.