Prepare For Your Upcoming Interview!

In this episode of The Successful Encore Career Podcast, we welcome to our studios Debra Shinoskie, Project Director at the AARP Foundation SCSEP in Columbus, OH.

This episode is brought to you by Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging, and Nationwide Insurance.

The Successful Encore Career Podcast

Interviewing can be a very difficult step for mature job seekers, yet it is one of the most important steps any job seeker can make. They only have one chance for a great first impression. What are the basic steps you would suggest a mature job seeker take to prepare for an interview before the crucial day?

a. De-stress before the interview using relaxation techniques such as exercise, deep breathing, visualization, or whatever works for you (excluding alcohol).

b. Be sure your application materials (e.g. resume, cover letter) are perfect, references have been pulled together, and you have done your research on the company.

c. Ensure that you have a professional interviewing dress/suit in which you are comfortable. You should dress one step above what your supervisor on the job would wear.

d. Make a dry run past the location of the interview a day or two in advance so that you will know how long it takes to get there. Always arrive to the interview about 10 minutes early.

e. Practice your answers to commonly asked interview questions OUT LOUD. Mock interviews or informational interviews are a great preparatory tool. Reading and memorizing your answers is not good enough. Believe me, it is another ball game to have to answer out loud to another person in a high-stress environment.

Often mature job seekers have difficulty giving an employer a clear picture of the skills they have used in previous positions, how up-to-date their skills are and how they can provide value to the employer with their strong skills. We’ve talked about transferable skills in previous podcasts, could you give us your insights on the importance of identifying transferable skills for an interview and any suggestions you have for job seekers on utilizing transferable skills in such situations?

a. Employers want to know the skills you possess in today’s workforce (not what you did 20 years ago). Talk only about your accomplishments that relate to that particular job.

b. Transferable skills can provide the information needed to demonstrate how a candidate can fulfill the requirements of the job. Employers want to know that you are a good “fit” for the position, so be prepared to answer the question, “How will hiring you add to the success of our organization?” Compare your transferable skills to the position description and compile a series of quantifiable examples of how you can successfully complete the tasks of the job — showing the value you will bring to the employer.

A job seeker may have a whole list of transferable skills, and examples of their success/accomplishments relating to the job, but are there other skills they should also emphasize, (e.g. soft skills)?

a. Yes! Talk about your job stability, good attendance record, and good safety record

b. Additionally, others things to be mentioned are good communication skills, data analysis, and follow through

c. Lastly, it is always wise to point out your ability and willingness to learn new things, take on leadership roles, and work as a member of a team.

An interview can be nerve-wracking! What are some tips on mannerisms, behaviors, etc.

a. Make positive and consistent eye contact as you respond to questions. Do not let your eyes roll up or down. It is a red flag and shows lack of preparation.

b. Be focused and if you do not understand a question, or need a minute to think; repeat the question and/or ask for clarification.

c. Learn the current language and terminology for the field. Industry jargon may have changed since the last time you interviewed for a job.

d. Practice walking into a room and sitting down. When sitting, your body should be at a slight angle from the interviewer and not directly facing him/her. Relax and lean forward slightly dropping your front shoulder. This body posture shows that you are interested in what the interviewer has to say. The more you practice eye contact and body language the more confident, positive, and optimistic you will appear.

d. Maintain your poise and self-control. If you disagree with a question or comment, try to bring the conversation back to your skills and abilities — do not become flustered or angry.

e. Be sure to answer questions completely and honestly. Stay on target; do not stray from the

questions that are asked or ramble.

This brings us to what are the most common mistakes we all make in interviews — can you give us some examples?

a. Arriving late. Be sure you arrive neat and appropriately dressed for the interview

b. Other mistakes: Poor personal appearance (dress, hair, nails, shoes); Poor eye contact; Limp, fishy handshakes; Lack of interest or enthusiasm

c. Never apologize for your age or act as if your skills are inferior. Stress your ability to work with people of all ages and cultures.

d. Never say anything negative about former employers or co-workers.

e. Do not stress your “need” for a job; in other words don’t be a “job beggar.” Don’t say that you can or will do anything as it also sounds as if you are begging. Instead, be laser-focused on what you bring to the table that is of value for that particular position.

f. Do not discuss past experiences that have no connection to the job in which you are interviewing, or prolong an interview with ideas/issues/comments that are not applicable

g. Do not bring up compensation/salary during an interview and if the interviewer asks you for your salary requirements during the interview process try to sidestep the discussion by saying things such as: I would expect a salary that is commensurate with the duties and responsibilities of the position” or “What do you typically offer a candidate with my experience and educational level?” It is not appropriate to talk salary until there is an offer on the table. If you have tried to hedge the question and you feel pressed to give a response you must give a range. Make sure that you have done your research on what the going range is in that geographic area for that type of work. Then state something like mid-$30s to mid-$40s depending upon the level of duties and responsibilities of the position. Remember, the bottom number of your range must be a number you will be happy to accept because we always “hear or pay attention” to your bottom number. Additionally, do not ask for any special considerations (except those required by law) until you actually have an offer on the table.

The flip side — what are specific examples of things we need to be sure to do in an interview situation and as follow-up?

a. Always arrive prepared and have extra copies of your materials with you such as your resume, reference list, transcripts, etc.

b. Be sure that you have completed all of the application materials the employer has requested and that you have taken all tests required such as assessments, physical exams, background and drug screens , etc.

c. Always ask questions. Have a few canned ones in case the interviewer has covered almost everything. Some good questions to ask: What are the top priorities for this position in the first 3 months? What are the most important challenges you would like the person you hire to address? How will job performance be measured? And, if it has not been said, always ask when the interviewer will be making his/her final decision. As a job seeker, his is very important information to know.

d. Be sure to send an appropriate thank you note within 24 hours. It is smart to send an email with a thank you letter as an attachment the same day as the interview. Then you should mail a hard copy of the thank you letter within 24 hours. Doing both brings you to the interviewer’s mind, in a good way, twice instead of just once.

e. Follow up with the employer, one day after he/she said the final decision would be made to ascertain his/her decision or set up a second interview.

For more information about preparing yourself for your next interview, contact Employment For Seniors.

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