Job hunting after 50: Preparing yourself

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Job hunting after 50 - prepareBy Tony Lewis, Senior Recruiting Specialist, Insperity

In the first installment of “Job hunting after 50,” I wrote about performing a personal inventory of your skills, experiences and career dreams and making sure that you have the support from those closest to you as you search for your new opportunity. Now you have the core of your ever-evolving personal brand — your résumé. You’ll need to constantly help your résumé adapt to the specifics of the role for which you are seeking, so don’t hesitate to rewrite it as needed so that your personal brand always presents you as the solution for any prospective employment opportunity. In this installment, we’ll look at how to prepare yourself virtually, physically and mentally for an interview.

Prepare yourself virtually
Once you have created and polished your profile on professional and social networking sites, extend your “virtual presence” by joining related networking groups within those sites — ones that are associated with your targeted job and ones that people in that field would likely visit. After joining, watch the conversation flow between members for awhile, and then, when you have a fairly good sense of the conversational style, join in the online conversations yourself. Start by acting as more of an observer than a “guru” — at least until you are certain that you have a good sense of the “pulse” of the group. Once you are solidly in, you can extend your reach by not only commenting on other people’s topics but by launching a few of your own.

When you are comfortable, craftily let some of the members know that you are open to opportunities in their area, and seek the advice of key players within the group. Also use the job search features offered by many of the professional networking sites to your advantage.

Prepare yourself physically
Although you would like for any potential employer to value you for your mind, skills and talents, your appearance is important too. So take some time to look through your wardrobe and update it — especially the wardrobe that you plan on using in interviews. Does your hairstyle look like you have had your hair cut by a stylist or by your spouse with the kitchen scissors?  When you smile, do you want to flash your pearly whites, or do you tend to hide your teeth because of stains? If it is the latter, consider getting an inexpensive teeth whitening kit or brushing your teeth daily with a paste consisting of a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide and a teaspoon of baking soda. Of course your family loves you for who you are, but a future employer wants to see someone that will represent the company well in public.

Prepare yourself mentally
The best athletes have the ability to visualize clearing the hurdle, making it over the vaulting bar or crossing the finish line in such a way that their performance adapts and conforms to their “vision.” With this in mind, you must be consistently preparing for the inevitability of not only getting interviews but acing those interviews. Interviewing is a mental and physical game. You need to not only prepare your mind but also prepare your body (your mannerisms, eyes, body language, etc.) for these events so that you are ready for anything that comes your way. You will need to thoroughly research each organization and position so that you can use terminology familiar to the interviewer and show him that you are prepared and fully understand the position for which you have applied.

Not all hiring managers/interviewers ask generic interview questions such as “Why should we hire you?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” They may instead use a line of questioning known as “behavioral interviewing.” There is excellent preparation information available on the Web for this type of interview. There are also some sites that offer insight into the interviewer’s point of view. Additionally, you’ll need to prepare for different types of interviews. Not only do organizations have interviewers that are trained in behavioral interviewing techniques, but many of them conduct “serial” interviews, as well as team interviewing. Here are some helpful tips for both of these types of interview processes.

No matter what type of interview questions you may receive or the process by which interviews are conducted, you will need to be prepared to convince a hiring manager that you have the desired skills and experience and there is something besides compensation that drives you in your job search. Be prepared to address why you want to change jobs at this point in your career if you’ve been with one organization for a long time. You’ll need to address this in terms of loyalty and dedication but also that you have continued to grow and change all along and are a proven, lifelong learner. Also be prepared to deal with questions about how well you can adapt to changes in technology and differences in organizational culture.

Give your spouse or a friend some sample questions, and practice interviewing using the responses that you have prepared to some of the key behavioral questions. You need to run through mock versions of an interview so that you are able to handle the interview with grace, focus and poise. The person (or people) who will be interviewing you may be much younger than you. Can you successfully appear as flexible, patient, self-motivated and a team player, and exude a positive energy when the person interviewing you is half your age? Remember:  personal confidence is key, and your ability to handle stress effectively in a fast-paced environment is something that younger candidates with less experience may not be able to handle as well as you.

There is one final step in the process, and it involves placing yourself in situations that will allow you to “test drive” your chosen career “vehicle” — brief opportunities within the career path you have identified for yourself. This will be discussed in the final installment of “Job hunting after 50: Trial runs.”

Tony Lewis is a senior recruiting specialist with Insperity Recruiting Services and has been the top producer for Insperity Recruiting for the past five years. He is also an experienced trainer and performance management specialist and is a former public school classroom teacher. He currently serves as the team lead for project teams working with two of Insperity’s largest clients.

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