Interview tips for mature-age workers
Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun
Now that you’ve gotten over the first hurdle – nabbing an interview – you may be feeling a little nervous if you’re out of interview practice. As a mature-age worker you may worry about age discrimination, especially if you have experienced it in the past. But don’t let that faze you. Here are some tips on approaching the interview with energy and strategy so you can shine and prove that you are the right applicant for the job.
Preparation is the key to a successful interview. It is vital that you research the company which is interviewing you so you can answer their questions from an informed position and project the right image to align with their culture and the role that you’re applying for.
Read up on possible job interview questions and prepare your answers using concrete examples from your past. Make notes and be sure to reiterate and elaborate on the strengths you’ve highlighted in your resume and cover letter. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you will be able to feel on the day.
Practise answering the interview questions aloud, and conduct mock interviews with family and friends. You’ll be amazed by how much this will help you to articulate when you’re in the actual interview.
And don’t forget that every interview you have will provide you with valuable experience. Like everything, they get easier with practice.
The importance of first impressions can’t be overemphasised. This means paying close attention to grooming – because whether you like it or not, instant judgments will be made based on your appearance. That means wearing professional-looking, pressed clothes, having neat, clean hair, clean fingernails and polished shoes. The devil is in the detail.
To state more of the obvious, be sure to arrive on time and prepared, armed with an extra copy of your resume and any other supporting documentation you may require. And be sure to turn your mobile phone off before you go into the interview!
Even if you feel disadvantaged by your age, don’t let it show. Walk into the interview with a confident smile, stand tall, give a firm handshake, and exude positivity and energy so everyone can see that you are confident, competent, willing to learn and embrace change, and will work well with others – including younger colleagues.
When you walk into an interview, ‘employers can spot frustration and despondency a mile off,’ warns Phil Hatchard of Adage, a website which caters to mature-age workers and mature-age-friendly employers. ‘Presentation is vital once you have a foot in the door, so stay fit and healthy and keep the energy levels up.’
If you’re not used to it, ‘selling’ yourself can feel foreign and uncomfortable. But downplaying your assets and being overly modest will do you no favours. You don’t have to be brash, but be able to sell your skills and suitability to the role, and state your strengths with confidence.
- Refer to your strengths and achievements as outlined in your resume and cover letter, and tie these in to business outcomes – make it tangible.
- Talk about what you have achieved in the past and how you can easily transfer your skills to the new role. Stressing the transferability of your skills is particularly important if you have been in the same job or industry for some time.
- Don’t forget about all the skills you have acquired in your personal life too, such as time management and forward planning, if they can be applied to the job.
- Stress your points of differentiation: what actually sets you apart from others in the marketplace? What makes you unique and what can you offer that no one else can? How can you add value to the company? Back these claims up with examples from your past. Remember, you can use your added experience to your advantage by emphasising the depth and breadth of your experience, and your ability to adapt to different environments – especially if you are up against younger and less experienced candidates.
- Don’t be afraid to mention qualities that may not be part of the job description – it could be the added ‘extras’ that you bring that set you apart and nab you the job.
- Also use specific examples from the past to demonstrate how you would handle a situation or task in the future if selected for the job.
- Emphasise your willingness to learn and take on new responsibilities, as well as your open-mindedness and flexibility.
- Think about questions that you want to ask the interviewer. Remember, it’s not all about them – you, too, have to decide if this is the right company for you.
- Even though interviewers aren’t supposed to ask questions about your age, be ready to field questions which may be indirectly (or inappropriately) age-related; you may have to politely and diplomatically decline answering or turn such questions to your advantage by explaining how your extra experience is an asset.
Always follow up after interviews, thanking your interviewer for taking the time to see you. Even if you don’t get the job, try to get feedback and constructive criticism that will help you for future interviews. And you just never know – even if this wasn’t the right role for you, the company may keep you in mind for other positions down the track if you leave them with a good impression.