Q: Next week, I’m going to my first job interview in about 20 years. I have been working full-time all of that time, but recently the company closed down. I am nervous about the interview, because I really don’t know what has changed since I was last in this position. I’m 41. Any tips? (Tony, email )
A: If it’s any consolation, Tony, you’re not alone. Many of the clients I meet are in the exact same boat. There are people out there today doing interviews who thought their days of interviews were over and done with.
The same basic rules apply now as did back then: the employer has a job to give out, and you’ve got to convince them you can do the job. Bear that in mind all the way through: sometimes we lose sight of that simple fact.
Obviously (or maybe I should say hopefully! ) you’ve matured quite a bit since you did your last interview. I often feel that, at 21, you can behave as if you are going to change the world – at 21, you might still believe you are.
You can show unlimited passion for the job and it will be dismissed as endearing, youthful enthusiasm.
At 41, you have seen more of the world. The expectation is that the passion and enthusiasm you now have is tempered by what we will call practicality. It’s not that the enthusiasm isn’t there, but it’s more controlled, and you should be able to express it in a way that is a lot more self-assured than the giddier, more excited approach of your early 20s.
Show that you’ve learned from being around. Show that you know ‘how the world works.’ Show that you can be trusted, that you appreciate the requirements of the job.
Show that you will do a good job because you know what’s needed. Try to arrange your experiences of the last 20 years in such a way that makes sense to the employer: see where you experiences, be they work or personal, will help you in this next job.
Focus not on the exact chronology of the last 20 years, but the highlights that will be most relevant to the employer.
Virtually everyone who goes through that door that day will be nervous. Nerves are a good thing. Don’t build the interview up too much in your mind, as if it is the last interview you’ll ever do. That kind of pressure may affect your ability to perform.
Trust yourself to go in there and give as good an account of yourself as you can. That’s all you can do.
This week’s quick tip from Sli Nua Careers
Harvard Business Review reported last week that some US companies are tiring of hosting interns. Even though interns work for free, the business of managing them can be quite demanding.
One contributor argued that interns must bring real value to a company, rather than just coming in to learn the ropes.
It’s quite a requirement, but it’s worth taking the broader lesson on board. Ultimately, everyone who steps through the doors of a company must understand what value they bring. And they must be able to articulate it in their CV or interview.
What value can you bring to the job you’re applying for? Above and beyond doing the job outlined in the advertisement, do you have other worthwhile ideas that will help the company? When preparing for interview, set your standards high: aim to be the one who really catches the employer’s attention with an idea or an observation about their business.
Even if it’s not relevant to the role you’re seeking, they’ll remember you for the insight. And that might play a part in helping you get the job.