Crucial to job interview success is scrupulous attention to your preparatory homework. You really should not ignore this part. Think about it. If you are, like my friend Johan, participating in an MBA course, you are stretching your budget and even the most affordable online MBA will set you back at least 20K, so when you pay this kind of money for your education and get a job interview, you want to maximize this opportunity, right?
Interviewing for a new career opportunity in middle age, especially if considering a career tangent, can be a little daunting. Here are some tips for success. Today’s focus is pre-interview preparation. Review of posts of the past 10 days or so will provide more background information on some of the issues mentioned here.
Crucial to success is scrupulous attention to your homework. Ask yourself how many exams you failed in your student days when you were well prepared? None; right?
Exactly the same applies with job interviews. Provided you prepare in advance, and are as realistic as possible about whether the fit is right, you’ll interview successfully and succeed in your new career role.
The Homework Stage
1. Consider every exchange with a potential new employer or supervisor as a part of the interview process – thus whether via telephone, email or conventional mail, be on your toes. Consciously or not, you are laying out the opening bars of an impression. Are you courteous, responsible, punctual, and articulate? Do you appear informed, interested, and positive? In a reciprocal fashion, what are you learning about them?
2. Remember to have completed your earlier assignments with respect to networking, identification of unique abilities and transferable skills, preparation of a resume and an elevator pitch.
[a] Networking opens up interview possibilities and allows you be informed about both the particular job opportunity you are exploring and more general industry trends, opportunities and challenges.
[b] Your unique abilities and transferable skills allow you articulate in a dynamic manner what you can specifically add to an employing organization.
[c] Your resume points to the career trajectory you’ve followed and the logic of this new career opportunity in your ongoing professional evolution. Tie past accomplishments to future responsibilities.
[d] Your elevator pitch allows you answer a common opening gambit in an interview along the lines of “briefly tell us about yourself”.
3. Rehearse a particular listening and answering style so this appears natural at the interview. Practice with your spouse/partner or a close friend. Talk out loud to yourself in the shower or car.
Listen attentively to the interviewer’s questions or comments for clues as to what they think is important. Your answers should affirm that you heard their message.
Your responses should be to-the-point and draw straight lines between your past experiences and your expertise and your potential new responsibilities. Avoid verbosity which risks being interpreted as a lack of self-confidence.
The Interview Proper Stage
There are specific ‘of-the-day’ considerations to address which I lay out below. I’m not here to tell you to wear a suit and tie, shake hands firmly, to smile and be friendly. You’re middle-aged, you know all that stuff.
1. Allow yourself the right to be nervous, and flub an answer or two. Would you want to work for an individual or organization who expects you to be superhuman?
2. Consider the formal interview as a dialogue, not a trial. Most of the time it is reasonable to assume that you meet the basic qualifications of the role you are a candidate for. Now at issue is ‘goodness-of-fit’. This has to be a two-way street.
3. Bring your best mindset to the table.
[a] Project energy and enthusiasm.
[b] Emphasize the positive and the possibilities.
[c] Be assertive without being aggressive.
[d] If asked, convey an awareness of your biases and blindspots.
[e] Frame discussion of challenges you’ve overcome as “problems-actions-results”, and try to link how your experience of conquering these challenges enhances your professional expertise and would add value to your potential new role.
4. Discussion about salary makes most of us nervous. You can reduce this anxiety by framing matters differently.
[a] Use the word compensation in lieu of salary.
[b] Enquire about your “compensation package”- thus monthly income, benefits like healthcare insurance, bonuses, incentives (usually geared to individual performance whereas bonuses may be more broadly applied to the success of a company or division), support for ongoing professional development and your opportunities for career advancement.
[c] You have an income range in mind. This is a product of your networking work discussed above. Unrealistically high or low-income expectations will raise a red flag that you are not well informed.