Once More to the Interview Chair
Things have changed since the last time you interviewed for a job. Here's how to ace it.
(MONEY Magazine) – Just because you're older and more experienced doesn't mean you don't have to sell yourself in a job interview. Just the opposite, in fact. You're no longer the low-priced talent. You're fighting to hang on to the salary you're used to. The person interviewing you might be much younger. And you've got more to prove, not the least of which is that none of that stuff people say about older workers applies to you--except the part about being a seasoned pro.
Tout Your Age Sure, age bias exists. But your years of experience are proof that you're capable. Even Google's twenty-something founders hired a chairman who has two decades on them, and they seem like bright guys. Still, it's up to you to put your age in a positive light, says Cathy Fyock, an employment strategist who works with older workers, and who is a former HR director for KFC. Is the company trying to grow sales, cut costs or recruit new clients? Tell 'em how you tackled similar problems. You're likely to have deeper management experience and a more diverse network to draw on. When you're asked open-ended questions like "Tell me about yourself," recall successful projects you headed or contacts you have and how you'd apply them to the job you're gunning for. That's one thing 26-year-old whippersnappers can't do.
Talk About iPods In a survey of 423 hiring managers performed last year by the Society for Human Resource Management, 50% said the biggest disadvantage of hiring older workers is that they don't keep up with technology. Weave examples of your technology savvy into the conversation, even if it's something as simple as mentioning an industry blog you read or a recent webcast you downloaded to your iPod, says Emily Allen of AARP. Bring electronic copies of your work--reports or presentations you prepared. If you're e-mailing your résumé, send it as a PDF so the formatting isn't scrambled. On a related note: Older workers can be perceived as resistant to change. Show your free-wheeling spirit by mentioning a change you made to streamline things, and that you're comfortable working with people of all ages.
Look the Part Like it or not, people make judgments based on appearance. Wear a suit that's up to date (not trendy), and dispel any notions that you may not have the energy to do the job. "People get a gut-level impression within 15 seconds. If you're 50 pounds overweight or wearing a 20-year-old suit, that's going to say something about you," says Dave Opton, CEO of ExecuNet, a recruiting site for executives. If you have any active hobbies--cycling, skiing, whatever--find a way to mention them. (And if you don't, think about taking one up. Good for the heart.) And watch references to pop culture that might date you, says Anthony Medley, author of Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed. References to The Mary Tyler Moore Show won't go over big. Mention The Office instead. Seen it? It's good.