Get ready for some tough sledding. It’s a buyer’s market out there. That said, there are still things you can do to make the job-hunting process easier. And, even though you’re no spring chicken, employers really do value your experience.
You simply have to find a way to present the value of that experience in a way that doesn't threaten your potential employer — particularly if you’re older than she is.Younger managers can freak out if they think they’re interviewing someone looking to replace them in a year or two. (In this employment market, forget that idealistic claptrap about the secure manager who is actually inviting someone to replace him eventually. You’re no longer in Kansas, Dorothy.) So let’s get to it, and look at some things you can do and say to make an interview go better.
Do your homework before you interview: In the age of the Internet, you have absolutely no excuse for failing to check out the company about to interview you on the Internet, as well as researching its managers and principals on LinkedIn. The thoroughness of your research reveals the intensity of your interest. Going into any interview, always expect that the first question you’ll have to answer is “what do you know about us?”
Even though you’re no spring chicken, employers really do value experience.
Ask questions: If you feel you’re over-qualified but you really need the money, strategically asked questions can help you make a case for yourself. That way, if the employer broadsides you with the question “why do you want this job?” you can say something like: “well, as my resume makes clear, I've worked in non-profit development for over 20 years, but I've never worked in the area of health care before. I consider this an opportunity to refresh my development skills in a completely new area.” In other words, in addition to pointing out the value you bring to the table, stress how much you’re looking forward to learn. (Hint: Wrong or right, learning is traditionally associated with the young. Dwelling on this notion a bit can actually make you appear younger.)
Avoid the confessional: C’mon now! This is a potential employer you’re talking to, not your priest or rabbi! If you just took early retirement with a publisher which, say, Bloomberg had bought out for three times the value of its stock, you don’t want your employer to know you made out like a bandit because you were sitting on fifty thousand shares. Let your interviewer assume anything he wants, but he needs to feel you need the job. A confessional red light should go on for you when the interviewer starts any question with the words “Just between you and me…” This doesn’t mean you can’t leave behind an intriguing bit of personal history — like the fact that twenty years ago, your mother was the CEO of the firm’s arch competitor. Just pick and choose the message or bit of history you choose to relate. Stay in control, and maintain your professional distance at all times.
Compliment your potential employer on something: It’s called “schmoozing.” And there’s no reason you have to be insincere or sickeningly sweet about it. Look at this way: everybody has something personal that’s interesting. Your research should have revealed that there’s something provocative about the company — a challenge or bit of corporate history that makes you want to work there. One thing’s for sure, the other twenty candidates for the job will probably neglect this one critical phase of the interview.