By Debora Weisbacher
So you’ve been unemployed for a good, long while, after being employed at the same place for most of your adult life. Now you’re trying everything just to get your foot-in-the-door of an employer for an interview. It’s frustrating! You’ve applied to a gazillion jobs, but to no avail. However, today, the phone rang and you have your first job interview in over 20 years on the calendar. What can you do to prepare so that you can ace this interview? You are ahhh, hem… over 50 and you will be competing with all those… youngsters!!
ARGUMENTS AND TRUISMS
Ageism is alive and well in the workplace! But so are a lot of other biases and somehow, we overcome them. The competition for jobs these days is fierce. Yes, but someone is getting the job offer, and it could just as well be you. Older job seekers face certain stereotypes, such as having a fear of technology or being stubborn or set in their ways. Perhaps, but you can combat these perceptions by making a deliberate effort to be flexible and willing to learn new ways – for example, by taking a computer class. These days, you must arm yourself with a hefty dose of reality and a good inventory of your skills and qualifications before you go forth into battle (translation: your interview), energized and ready to fight for the job!
It’s like your mom always said…
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
• Be prepared for your interview. Do a dry run so you know where you are going, how to get there, and you can arrive there fresh, on time or preferably a few minutes early.
• Good grooming is always in style! Look the part of an executive. Dress up, not down, even though the company may be “casual dress” every day. You have only one chance (about 8 seconds) to make a good first impression!
• Neither men nor women should overwhelm their interviewer with fragrance; this may be the only thing the interviewer remembers about you, but not in a good way.
• Do your homework. Go on the employer’s website. Research everything there is to know about the company and its competition. It may be what sets you apart from the rest of the candidates.
• Listen to the interviewer, make good eye contact and respond thoughtfully with clear, concise answers. While you may have decades of experience, speak only to what your interviewer is requesting. Make your ability to communicate well a highlight of the interview.
SOME THINGS GET BETTER WITH AGE
• Impress the employer with your body language: sit up straight, give a firm hand shake; have lots of confidence, energy and enthusiasm for the job and the company. Yawning is forbidden!
• Be professional and speak fluidly of your skills and accomplishments, not about old times, grandchildren or the make and model of your first car! This is not the place.
• Instead of showing your age, show your go-getter attitude about conquering the workplace challenges and your knowledge of the work and the position.
• Practice and prepare your answers to difficult questions so that you are not caught off-guard, under pressure. Also, ask intelligent questions about the company to gain more insight into the work culture, current projects and expectations.
• At the end of the interview, don’t hesitate to inquire about the next steps in the hiring process and when you might hear from the company or follow up with them. Get a business card from your interviewer. It is important to send a hand-written or typed thank-you note within a day of your interview. Write something that shows the interviewer you were listening. It just might get you the job offer.
Most importantly, stay upbeat throughout the process. Smiling has been shown to ease tension all around in an interview situation. Projecting a positive, can-do attitude will show that you are open to new ideas and up for any task. Focus on your unique accomplishments and qualifications, not your age. Age does not have to be an issue if you are articulate about your vitality, talent and work ethic.
By Debora Weisbacher, Employment Specialist, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
JCS Career Services offers career coaching to help individuals find and maintain employment; career assessments; resume and cover letter services; career development workshops and more. Call 410-466-9200 or visit http://www.jcsbaltimore.org. Jewish Community Services is an agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.