In today's job market, employers know what they want and can afford to be picky. This doesn't necessarily mean they will overlook a seasoned applicant in favor of a younger job-seeker. But it does mean that older candidates need to clearly demonstrate their fit for the position, the ways their skills and experience will benefit the manager's goals, and how they, as unique individuals, will add value to the organization.
In "Resume Tips for Your Post 50 Job Search," I addressed the importance of reflecting back the keywords from the posting so that your resume will pass through the screening process. If you don't take the time to customize your resume by highlighting the skills requested in the ad, it won't make it beyond either the applicant tracking system (screening software) or a recruiter (human screener).
Yet, even if your resume moves past the initial screening process, you'll still need to customize your approach. Should you be selected for an interview, you'll want to frame your responses to the specific requirements of the position. You'll also want to keep the objectives of the hiring manager, the department, and the organization in mind.
Here are some points to consider:
Do your homework from a particular perspective. Any job-seeker is aware that he or she needs to perform some basic company research prior to the interview. But think beyond the obvious by asking yourself, "How am I uniquely qualified to add value to this particular position? How will my personal strengths and qualifications match the goals of the manager, the department, and the organization as a whole?" Take notes and be precise. Your research will form the basis for how you'll direct each of your responses during the interview.
Focus your elevator speech. Focus your introduction to spotlight the skills requested in the job description and how you've successfully performed them in your previous positions. Think of issues and problems you've resolved, the specific skills you used (similar to those in the posting), and the positive results you achieved.
Use targeted examples to prove your points. As you respond to questions during the interview, remember to direct each of your answers to the specifications of the position. As you do this, be certain to provide examples that underscore what you're claiming. By fleshing out your replies using concrete examples of you performing the skill sets described in the posting, you'll be proving (as much as possible within a conversational setting) that you've got exactly what the position requires.
Customization counts! If you focus your interview responses to the specifics listed in the job posting, the goals of the manager, and the needs of the organization, you'll be presenting yourself as the ideal candidate. You will become the problem solver they've been looking to find.
So take the time to prepare well and give them what they want. In all likelihood, this extra effort will have you well on your way to landing your next job. And remember to anticipate success -- nothing beats a prepared and 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 helps you turn your age into an advantage. It's packed with information providing mature applicants with the tools to successfully navigate the modern job market and gain the edge over the competition. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!