Mature job-seekers encounter special challenges when it comes to interviewing. But the good news is that many of the negative, age-related stereotypes can be dispelled through your nonverbal messages. As the interview books suggest, a firm handshake, good eye contact, energetic responses and a friendly face can go a long way to exude confidence in your abilities and enthusiasm for the position.
Nevertheless, there are two frequently asked questions that can prove difficult to answer and often act as stumbling blocks to your success. That is... unless you consider your responses ahead of time and plan to highlight your strengths and positive attitude.
Here are a few tips to help you frame your own answers to these troublesome interview questions:
What do you plan to be doing in five years?
This question is asking about your career goals and it can be particularly difficult for older applicants, because you may well wish to be retired in five years. However, that would not be your wisest choice of answers -- no humorous replies about rocking chairs, golf or sitting on the beach holding a drink garnished with little, colorful umbrellas. I always suggest that applicants "think politician!" Be positive and a bit vague at the same time, saying something like:
I like what I do and think I'm good at it. I'm sure a position such as this would provide me with many enjoyable challenges. I look forward to enlarging my skill set and taking advantage of any career opportunities that come my way. (Think: grow with the company/grow with the position.)
Aren't you overqualified for the position?
Actually, this question is asked far less frequently than you might think. You've already been screened as to your suitability for the position by your resume. So if this comes up during an interview, it might be a signal that someone on the hiring team may be feeling threatened by you. It's best to respond to this question in a positive and vague manner, much like the suggestion above:
My work gives me great satisfaction. I'm certain that working in a firm such as this will afford me many exciting challenges and opportunities for growth. Each organization is different and I look forward to learning new ways of doing my job and acting as a supportive member of your team.
I'm looking for a position where my skills and experience can contribute to the bottom line. Because of my years of experience, I'm sure I can hit the ground running and make a real difference to your team.
If, in fact, you've decided to step down a bit and take a job with less responsibility, you can say something like:
I've enjoyed my role as a manager but, at this time in my career, have come to the realization that I prefer doing the hands-on work myself. I get a real boost by seeing a tangible result from my efforts, so this position should be a perfect fit for me and my current career path.
So plan ahead, recognize these types of questions will be asked and be well-prepared. Above all, anticipate success. Nothing beats a confident candidate with a winning attitude!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Recently updated, it's packed with even more information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!