Savvy job-seekers know that there are several ways to prepare for the job interview. Applicants must thoroughly research the company, understand the competition, and be knowledgeable as to the current conditions of the industry/field. They also need to develop a keen awareness of the challenges faced by the hiring manager and the department as a whole. Even more, successful job-seekers must be able to speak to all aspects of their resume and demonstrate ways their skills and experience will make a substantial contribution to the team.
Yet there is one critical piece that most applicants overlook -- and this essential element can make or break your chances for success. In addition to all the other ways to prepare for this vitally important conversation, you'll have to be able to articulate and highlight your personal strengths. The good news, however, is that job-seekers over 50 possess these sought-after characteristics in spades!
Personal strengths have long been defined by corporate America using the somewhat disparaging term: "soft" skills. However, once you're engaged in the interview process, these vital traits are the distinguishing features that will determine whether or not you'll land the job.
You've already been judged an appropriate candidate by the (hard) skills you have presented on your resume and the way you've responded to questions in the phone screen interview. Once you get in front of hiring managers and coworkers, you'll need to show your positive attitude, your professionalism and the ways they can count on you to become a contributing team member. In other words, stress your added value by highlighting the qualities and strengths that you, as a unique individual, contribute to the workplace.
So, as you prepare for your next interview, take some time to consider the following:
- Which qualities distinguish you from the competition?
- How do you generally approach problems and deal with people?
- What personal talents tend to come naturally to you?
- Are you a people person: friendly, cooperative, easy-going, sociable, tactful, a consensus builder?
- Are you a leader: bold, dominant, confident, dynamic, outspoken, assertive?
- Are you a creative type: innovative, inventive, expressive, intuitive, resourceful?
- Are you someone who can diagnose and solve problems: analytical, objective, critical, mentally astute, theoretical?
- Are you good with details, schedules, and follow-through: conscientious, orderly, efficient, thorough, organized?
- Are you physically fit: active, energetic, robust, vigorous?
If you really want to land the job, moreover, ask your networking partners to put in a good word for you by citing your soft skills. Employers want to know as much as possible about new hires to eliminate bringing in any dreaded bad apples who might spoil their team. Equally, if not more important than work-specific (hard) skills, personal traits such as integrity, a willingness to cooperate and a strong work ethic are prized. These kinds of strengths are given considerable weight if your recommendation comes from a trusted colleague or valued employee.
So the next time you're getting ready for an interview, remind yourself of your positive qualities -- those soft skills that set you apart from others. Prepare well, exude warmth and professionalism, share examples of your unique talents and traits, and anticipate success. With a little luck, you just might ace the interview and land a job where you can truly shine!
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. Updated in 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need 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!