As today’s job hunters know, getting a face-to-face interview can sometimes feel like an accomplishment in itself. It probably means you’ve aced through numerous e-mail and phone screenings, and are in a terrific position to sell your skills and experience to a new employer.
But you’re not home free. Career experts say midlife job seekers have some blind spots, and can be prone to subtle, sabotaging slip-ups. You may assume that you’re already pretty good at interviews. You’ve probably done a lot of them, and have likely been on both sides of the desk. But just because you’ve been in hundreds of interviews doesn’t mean you’ve got this in the bag.
Let’s brush up on your skills and take a look at what you should never say during your interview.
“Am I over 18? You’re kidding, right?” While interviewers can’t ask how old you are, at least not legally, they are allowed to ask if you’re over 18. Many do so, just to see how sensitive you are about your age. Of course it’s a silly question, but even if you think a quirky response makes you seem relaxed about how old you are, save it for the next time you get carded at Publix. Instead, just smile, and say, “Yes. I am over 18.”
“I’m ready for a change.” As true as this may be, it’s a terrible way to sell yourself to a potential employer, especially in this uncertain job market. It gives the impression that you are bored, your experience is growing stale, and you are unmotivated. Otherwise, why would you have stayed in your field so long? So when the interviewer asks why you’re looking for a new job or exploring a new field (and they probably will), answer with something that shows you’ve given this a lot of thought, without any negativity. You don’t want to sound like someone who copes with an unsatisfying job by bailing out.
“I’ve got 25 years of experience.” While you may think such statements make you a shoo-in, they are more likely to make you sound like a dinosaur. What the interviewer hears is `I’m so bogged down in what I believe I already know that I’ll be difficult to work with’. You paint yourself as unfriendly to learning new things. Besides, in many industries, what was happening even 2 years ago is ancient history: Concentrate on your most recent experience, and how it applies to this company.
“I love Tweeting!” You’ve no doubt heard that admitting you can’t master your iPhone marks you as tech dinosaur, and that’s an ongoing complaint employers have about applicants of a certain age. But touting your tech skills in ways that aren’t relevant may seem like you’re over-compensating. If you’ve used social media in the past to boost sales or create employee engagement, highlight it as part of your professional skill set.
“I see myself staying in this job until I retire.” While you might think such a statement demonstrates your commitment, avoid putting the r-word in their heads. Employers rightfully want applicants with plenty to give, not someone looking to coast through the last few years of their career.
“Tell me a little about the benefits.” “Think of a job interview like running for the Presidency. You must appear vibrant and healthy, able to bring energy to the job regardless of your gray hair. Asking about healthcare too early in the process may knock you off the short list.
Also, don’t be shy about talking around your age in constructive ways. One of the great things about older workers, for example, is that they often have older or grown kids, and the ability to be more flexible in scheduling. If that seems like it’s important to this job, by all means say so.
Now let’s talk about your appearance. I know this can be a touchy subject to women of all ages, but in all honesty your image is your first impression walking into that interview. You don’t want to give the impression you are older than you are because of your wardrobe and hairstyle.
Your Hair – A tired or outdated hairdo will age you visually. Many women find a look they like at a young age and stick with it. Decades later, times have changed but their haircut hasn’t. Even snipping an inch or two can make a dramatic statement without appearing too trendy. Got greys? If you currently dye your hair consider coloring with highlights and lowlights, not just one color. This will help give your hair dimension and avoid that “I’m dying my hair just to hide my greys” look. A simple change and a slightly new look will also have potential to boost your confidence.
Your Skin – Even-toned, uniformly pigmented complexion advertises health, youth and beauty. Having a daily skin care program that includes exfoliation, brightening and sun protection will help improve the appearance of your skin. Talk to your dermatologist or esthetician on what products or treatments they would recommend. Having your makeup done by a professional will also help you discover new tips and products to use you would have never thought to pick up. Embracing your own natural beauty and using the right products for your skin will help give your skin it’s life back.
Your Wardrobe – Clothes can immediately date a job candidate. I hate to tell you this, ladies, but heavy, nude pantyhose are 100 percent obsolete. Take your cue from talk show hosts and news anchors — if they wear any stockings at all, they’re either colored, or the sheerest, most invisible type available. Throw out your fuchsia blazer with the massive shoulder pads and create fresher looks with new items pairing them with what you already own. Try stopping in Ann Taylor or Banana Republic to find some new pieces you can add to your work wardrobe.
Your Smile – Age, smoking, and coffee cause teeth to yellow and become spotted, which can make you look older in an interview. Fortunately, it’s easy and inexpensive to counter this problem. Over-the-counter teeth whitening products ($25 to $50), brighten up a smile dramatically. Never underestimate a nice white smile, it’s the best accessory at any age!