- Will I be perceived as old, disinterested and lacking energy?
- Am I going to be eliminated solely by the lines on my face and the gray in my hair?
- How can I assure the hiring manager that I've kept current with my profession and have what it takes to make a positive contribution?
As legitimate as these concerns are, however, there are ways you can prepare to meet these issues head-on and present yourself from a position of strength and confidence. Here are 3 tips that will go a long way to positioning yourself as the winning candidate:
Make your nonverbal messages speak loud and clear. The fact that you've made it to the interview stage means that they're already interested in you by virtue of the skills you've highlighted on resume, your LinkedIn profile and other social media sites. Of course you'll need to speak to these skills and substantiate them with examples of you performing your work at its best, but the interview represents far more than a rundown of your skills.
Your goal in this decisive interaction is to show enthusiasm for the position and how you can contribute; your fit with the department and the organization; and to give the impression that you'll be a positive and professional presence who's a pleasure to work with. Moreover, most of these critical attributes are displayed through your nonverbal messages. So be aware that your posture, eye contact, facial expressions, handshake and more are all important factors that could work in your favor... or not.
The same holds true for your choice of dress. Your clothing is an unspoken, albeit significant, sign that you fit with the organization and the department. Your interview outfit also represents your level of professionalism. So plan to dress for the job but take it up a notch or two. Moreover, it's especially critical for older applicants to make certain that you've updated your look--and this includes eyewear and accessories. If needed, whiten your teeth, as you'll want your smile to be an asset.
Anticipate objections and prepare your responses. Mature applicants know that employers may hold unflattering opinions about them due to their age alone. Yet, unless your interviewer is woefully inept, these potential objections will remain unspoken. So plan ahead and create some proactive statements that will counteract objections they may be holding but keeping to themselves.
For example: "I thrive in diverse environments and derive a lot of benefit from interacting with people of all ages. In fact I've reported to younger bosses many times in the past and have always enjoyed a positive working relationship."
Or: "I'm one of those types who enjoys learning new things and pride myself on keeping current. In fact, many of my younger colleagues come to me for help with their technical issues."
Gather insider information. Every jobseeker knows you'll need to prepare for an interview. But the more information you can gather about the particulars of the position, the department, and the issues facing the hiring manager, the better you can sell yourself to their true needs. So plan to research beyond the company website and get a real understanding of what they're truly looking for in a candidate.
To obtain this insider information, you can use your personal network and ask for referrals to employees within the organization who'd be willing to speak with you. You can also go to social networking sites such as LinkedIn to find out more. Plus there are websites that provide testimonials from current and former employees relating their experiences working inside the company. These sites also feature reactions and suggestions from people who have recently interviewed at various firms--a real goldmine of information for applicants. One of the best is Glassdoor.com. (Be sure to look at their "Interviews" section.) Another you'll want to check out is Vault.com.
So prepare well, anticipate objections and get ready to address them proactively, and update your look so that you present the entire package. Moreover, as much as possible, psyche yourself up to win. Come from a position of strength and take pride in what you have to offer a future employer. With the right attitude, confidence in your abilities, and a little luck, you just might land at the top of the candidate list!
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 February 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!