Work & Purpose

7 Ways Older Workers Can Win at Job Interviews

How to make yourself the best candidate if you haven't looked for work in years

(This article appeared previously on MarketWatch.)

Finding work or changing careers when you haven't conducted a job search in many years can be a challenge. Here are seven good ways to identify opportunities and prepare for your interviews:

1. Interview with an employer that isn’t at the top of your list. Consider trying to get an interview for a job located a long way from where you live or a job you're overqualified for. This will give you an opportunity to practice your interviewing skills. You don't want to go to your first interview in a long time and make easily-correctable mistakes.

Every job interview you have will make the next one easier. A “bad” job interview, one in which you gave poor answers to questions asked, should be a learning experience. Everyone has experienced job interviews that turned out poorly for a number of reasons. Sometimes you are just not comfortable. Sometimes there is no chemistry between you and the interviewer. Sometimes you are not properly prepared.

(MORE: Tips for the Long-Term Unemployed)

2. Get information on the prospective employer before your interview. Research the employer using a search engine to see who its customers are, to learn more about their products or services and to examine the company culture.

You might also contact someone who works for the employer who attended the same college you went to, saying: “Hi. You and I went to the same school but graduated at different times. I'm interviewing for a position with your firm later this week and, before I meet with the hiring manager, I would like to test out a couple questions I have about the firm on you and see what you think the answers might be."

Network within the company in which you have an interest. A CareerXroads survey found that referred candidates have a 31-to-1 chance of getting hired vs. a 500-to-1 chance for candidates that come via other means.

(MORE: Where to Find Seasonal Jobs Now)

3. Consider having your resumé rewritten or updated by an expert. Chances are, the one you cobbled together years ago is no longer appropriate. You should also have your resumé on your computer so you can modify it, highlighting the experience appropriate for the job you are seeking.

Also, a single general resumé for all interviews is not the best way to get hired. Click here for free resumé writing help.

4. Offer to get hired on a project basis at first. Telling the employer you are willing to start working this way, or as a consultant, often gives you a leg up on younger workers who are often unable to accept that kind of employment.

Temporary or consulting work can often lead to a full-time position. Check here for resources for executives, professionals and managers interested in project assignments.

5. Volunteer with a charity or nonprofit. Although in most cases there is little or no monetary compensation going this route, volunteering is often excellent experience. It might lead to employment with an organization seeking someone who has done what you did (even if you were unpaid) or that appreciates your work ethic. For information on volunteering click here.

(MORE: Best Employers for Workers Over 50)

6. Assess your situation today versus what you were doing years ago. Here are some questions you might ask yourself in preparation for a job interview:
  • Who am I, now? 
  • What do I want? 
  • What are my values? 
  • Do I need to make a difference or make big bucks? 
  • What are my core strengths?

7. Plan your interview and be prepared to present yourself. These "Five Ps," and their accompanying questions, can help you prepare:
  • Product - What skills and contributions do you offer? 
  • Price - What is your value? 
  • Promotion - What messages convey your skills? 
  • Place - How will you get your message out? 
  • Position- What differentiates you from others?

Present yourself with concrete examples of your role and accomplishments. Here are some questions you might be asked, with examples of how you can work your accomplishments and skills into your answers:

What was your role, title, team type and position within the team? 

“As Director of ___ I …” 
“I was responsible for …” 
“As a member of the product team, I …” 
“When I taught I …”
What did you do? 
“I created, led, initiated, designed, developed, simplified, organized, facilitated…” 
”I developed a plan that …"
”I created a process that…"
”I led the team that…"
What was the result of your efforts? 
"I increased, improved, reduced, achieved…”
"I reduced vacancy rates 30 percent"
”I improved test scores by 20 percent"
”I achieved highest-ever attendance levels"
”I increased call efficiency by 10% for 3 consecutive quarters"
If you feel this is too much information to remember as examples of work you've done, practice explaining them with a friend or family member before your next interview.
Advantages of Older Candidates

Don't be concerned that as an “older” professional, manager or executive employers are not interested in you. Employers have found that, compared with younger workers, older ones, in general:

  • have less turnover
  • are more reliable
  • have less absenteeism 
  • display a higher level of commitment 
  • have more experience 
  • are more productive 
  • have a better understanding of the company culture
  • are more punctual
  • show superior customer service skills

With these qualities, this demographic is attractive to many companies and the focus of recruitment efforts, particularly for project assignments.

Art Koff is the founder of RetiredBrains.com, a site that serves boomers, retirees and people planning retirement; he’s also the author of Invent Your Retirement: Resources for the Good Life, published by Oakhill Press. 

By Art Koff
Art Koff is the founder of Retired Brains, a website that provides information about retirement for boomers, retirees and people planning to retire.@artkoff

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