Older applicants: Job interview mistakes to avoid

WASHINGTON – As unemployment continues to be a reality, many job seekers are finding it more pressing to nail their job interview, even if it’s not their dream job. But there are five mistakes most applicants make that can be easily avoided.

Andrea Coombes from Marketwatch.com found a pattern in job seekers’ five flubs, which she says mature workers struggle with more than younger applicants.

No. 1: Talking about your experience

Oftentimes, applicants offer up experience that does not fit the job they are going for. In her reporting, Coombes says job seekers are generally too vague about their experience and need to tailor it more to the job at hand. That way, the manager can see how you would be the right fit for the position they need to fill.

Experts say mentioning specific skills and strategies helps paint a picture of how you would thrive in the position.

“They expect the interviewer to understand how that experience will help this company. That’s wrong. You need to translate it for the interviewer. Tell them specifically how what you’ve done in the past can help that company solve its problems, challenges,” Coombes says.

“That means job seekers really need to take a good look at the job descriptions, understand what that company is looking for.”

No. 2: Focusing on the wrong skills

It may seem like the right thing to mention your integrity, communication skills and ability to problem solve, but Coombes says managers are not looking to place basic skills.

“You might say on your resume or in the interview, ‘I’m very good at x.’ You need to be prepared to offer a concrete story and example of how you used that particular skill at your previous job,” Coombes says.

No. 3: Unrealistic salary expectations

Older workers generally deserve a higher pay for their experience, but managers reported mature workers’ biggest mistake was too high salary demands.

Coombes found it’s best to research the going rate for the position before heading to the interview. Visiting salary comparison sites likes Salary.com, Glassdoor.com or CareerBuilder.com will help you understand the parameters of the position.

No. 4: Underprepared for the interview format

For many older applicants, it has been years, if not longer, since their last job interview. It’s a situation that can lead to unexpected questions that leave them caught off-guard.

Also, Coombes found that managers often run into age-blocks. Older applicants should watch for what could be dated references. They should prepare to be interviewed by panels, by multiple people looking to learn about their range of skills and how their experience is applicable to their office.

“It’s so much easier these days. There’s LinkedIn, there’s all those website out there. You may know someone who has worked or has interviewed at the company. Find people who know about it, who may be able to warn you about what the interview is like,” Coombes says.

She says not to focus on the amount of time you’ve put into your career, rather the skills you learned along the way and the experiences you took away from it.

No. 5: Not doing your research

You can never be too prepared. This applies to the job search. Coombes reports that beyond knowing the company history and expertise, applicants should have a good feel for the company’s needs before arriving for an interview.

Knowing a bit of background on your interviewer is always a good idea, if not only to break the ice, but to reflect how much you have learned about the position, Coombes says.

“Look up that person, maybe you went to the same school. Maybe there’s some connection you have. If you can bring that up in the interview, it shows you’re technologically savvy, you sort of have this can-do attitude … it might help to set you apart as the person that interviewer was able to connect with.”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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