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10/26/2009

Job Interview

“So, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?” Are you ready for this most popular interview question? For that matter, are you ready for all the other questions you might be asked? If you are not ready, you are probably more nervous about interviewing than you need to be. It could be worse however. A while back there was an individual who had the unfortunate habit of fainting during interviews. He would wake up with an offer of more water or coffee but not too many job offers.

The good news is that interviews are predictable. Like an open book exam, you can know what will most likely happen and what questions you will be asked. Since you can predict the interview you can then prepare, practice and perform at your best. If you know the three P’s (prepare, practice and perform), you will do well.

In the preparation phase, you should research the company and its industry on the Internet, and if you have time, at the library. You should also list all the questions you think the interviewer might ask, particularly the questions you are most afraid you will get, and prepare a short answer to each question.

You should then find an “interview buddy” and practice, practice, practice. Buy a deck of three-by-five cards, put each question on a card and have your friend drill you just like you’re learning the multiplication tables with flash cards. You might also practice a few short stories about your accomplishments to back up claims about your skills.

If you have learned your lines well your interview performance will be effective. This is particularly true if you are positive and enthusiastic, saying nothing negative about prior employers. If you remember nothing else, remember that enthusiasm sells in the interview.

There are books, articles and web sites on interviewing to help if you have particular questions or concerns. However, the typical interview will most likely consist of a warm up phase where you and the interviewer establish some chemistry. Remember, enthusiasm sells. There will then be a Q&A phase where the interviewer asks questions and, hopefully, you have a chance to ask a few of your own. Then there will be a wrap up phase where you might be able to ask additional questions and also express your interest in (and enthusiasm for) the position.

As an older worker, there are a couple issues you should be prepared to address. You may or may not be asked directly, but be prepared to deal with the “over qualified” question. There are a couple of reasons for this question. One is that the interviewer might be concerned about your salary requirements. Before you go into an interview, have some sense of the salary range (try salary.com). Explain that you have evaluated your financial situation and are comfortable with competitive compensation for the position. Another concern, which may prompt this question, is that you might become bored and leave. Here you might be prepared to talk about potential changes in the job, department, company and industry which will keep you engaged, and that you are looking forward to these changes. Another concern is that you might not be perceived to have the energy level to keep up with the demands of the position. Here, be prepared to talk about your outside sports and exercise activities.

You might also prepare for a question about your technical skills. First, be sure they are current. Second, have a story ready about how you have recently learned a new skill (and may even be currently teaching it to younger workers).

If you sense a concern about these or other age related issues, you might offer to start as a consultant (at a higher hourly rate to cover benefits) or to work for a defined trial period.

Getting back to the “Tell me about yourself?” question. You might present yourself as a young thinking, high energy, reliable worker with a positive attitude and strong work ethic. You should also emphasize that you have a range of skills and experience to draw upon, that you learn and contribute quickly, and that you are a real bargain at any price.

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