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.
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.
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