As a mature job-seeker, you already know this cardinal rule: If you want the job, you have to ace the interview. To do so means building rapport with your interviewers, targeting your responses to the needs of the position, validating your skills with specific examples, and presenting yourself as a confident, can-do professional. This, of course, requires adequate preparation.
You can research the company to determine how you could best present yourself as a skilled and qualified candidate. You can prepare a list of educated questions that display your knowledge of the organization's goals and direction. You can also practice your responses to the frequently asked questions common to most interviews. But in today's job market, these steps won't be enough. You will also have to prepare for event-specific questions.
A number of years ago, a new style of interviewing became all the rage. Interviewers grew aware that applicants could anticipate certain questions would be asked of them. In fact, it was a relatively easy process to compose their answers ahead of time. So employers came up with the idea of asking event-specific questions. These generally begin with something like: "tell me about a time when you..." or "what would you do if...?"
Given the nature of these behavioral style, event-specific questions, can you really prepare your responses in advance? Actually, the answer is a resounding "yes," and it is critical that you do so.
Here are three key tips to help you ace your interview:
#1 Thoroughly Review the Job Description
The first step is to review the job description in great detail. Identify the specific requirements of the job and then determine the types of behavioral questions interviewers are likely to pose. For example, if your responsibilities include leading a team, you will be asked about your leadership style. In this case you will want to create noteworthy examples that display your leadership skills: motivating reluctant team members, building a cohesive team, monitoring performance, giving necessary feedback, etc.
If you were a salesperson, you would want to come up with examples showing how you turned around a reluctant buyer, closed a major deal, made your presence known in a new territory, actively built your client base, etc.
#2 Be Prepared to Handle the Unexpected
There are even ways you can prepare to handle the unexpected questions. What if you (as a salesperson) were asked to give an example of a time you took a client away from the competition? This is an important question. Yet, you may not recall an example of when you did this.... not a problem!
Should it happen that you are asked about a situation you hadn't anticipated, you can say something like: "Nothing specific to your question comes to mind, but I can give you an example of a similar situation where I showed initiative." Then give the interviewer an example you've already prepared.
#3 Create Your Cheat Sheet
As you already know, it is important to bring several copies of your resume to your interview. You may be scheduled to meet with prospective coworkers and you want to give them a sense of your background. Even the hiring manager may have only conducted a cursory review of your resume so it is always a good idea to hand him or her a clean, well-formatted copy.
But here is a great tip to ensure you will ace the event-specific questions: bring a special copy of your resume for yourself! Then have it available for you to refer to quickly and easily. During the questioning, it is fine for you to glance down from time to time.
And here is the super secret--write keywords in the margin of your resume that will jog your memory as to the examples you want to be certain to highlight. This way, even if you get a bit nervous and your mind goes temporarily blank, you have the answers (the examples you wish to emphasize) in front of you! Your "cheat sheet" will help you feel better prepared and much more relaxed.
So, with a little planning, forethought and a well organized cheat sheet, you can handle most any behavioral style question that might come your way. At the very least, you will boost your confidence and appear more professional and composed. This attitude alone will go a long way to make that all-important positive impression and help you ace the interview -- including those unexpected, event-specific questions!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty plus years of experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!