Whether you have enjoyed a long-term hiatus from your workplace or are facing circumstances that make changing careers a necessity, the prospect of returning to the “interview stage” can be intimidating. Particularly if you are among the 22 million Americans without a job during the pandemic, you are likely trying to foresee the next phase of your career — even if it’s a complete 180 from your most recent position. Unfortunately, highly-positioned employees are not immune to this sudden wave of unemployment. After spending an extended amount of time in your last job, you may not be up-to-date on the latest interviewing strategies. However, your return to interviews does not have to be stressful and overwhelming — simply keep reading to learn more about the steps you should take before diving back into the world of interviews, as well as the numerous resources that are at your disposal to lead you to success.
Practice Leads to Confidence
The age-old expression “practice makes perfect” could not be more appropriate for those returning to interviews after an extended period of time. Because it can be challenging to know what to expect of your interviewer, build up your confidence by asking friends, family, or fellow professionals to conduct mock interviews with you. Each person will naturally take a slightly different approach to your interview, thus preparing you to communicate with many types of people. All in all, do not underestimate the power of preparation to put you at ease for an interview. With various answers and examples at the ready, you’ll be poised to make a lasting impression.
Another necessary step to prepare for an interview is to reflect thoroughly on your past work experiences. Consider the challenges you faced, the strategies you used to overcome them and the skills you gained. This will allow you to clearly articulate what you bring to your next position. When updating your resume, try to consider how a potential employer might perceive it. Are there any gaps or particularly short periods of employment? Your interviewer may ask about these “trouble” spots, so it’s a good idea to be able to explain why a position didn’t work out or what activities occupied your time during periods of unemployment. By staying positive and keeping an open mind, your interview is more likely to be a success.
Prioritize Your Employer’s Needs
It is not unusual to face feelings of anxiety when interviewing for a job, particularly when you have not done so in a long time. While you may struggle to put aside your own nervousness, focusing on what your employer wants may actually put you at ease while making you a more desirable candidate. Start at square one: the job description. It may seem obvious, but be sure to read the entire job description carefully. If you start off the interview with a question that was answered in the description’s first line, you run the risk of appearing unprepared and disinterested. By familiarizing yourself with the company and job description, you will be in a position to ask about deeper topics like company culture and team dynamics.
Ultimately, it is human nature to think of one’s own needs, and interviewers are no different. Once you understand the basic roles that will be expected of you, consider the character traits that your employer is seeking. Presenting yourself as a reliable, confident, knowledgeable and resourceful person will make you a desirable asset to a company and increase your chances of getting a second interview or call back. Show enthusiasm for the position and be sure to thank your interviewer for their time. Simple courtesy and genuine interest will go a long way in making you a prime candidate.
Up Your Tech Game
There’s no denying the growing presence of technology in today’s workplaces. Not only do most jobs require basic to moderate computer skills, there are a large number of employees who now work remotely in the wake of the coronavirus. Even if your interview is in person, being computer literate will surely prove useful along the course of your career. It will only benefit you to brush up on your electronics skills and familiarize yourself with online meeting platforms like Zoom or Skype. If you’re not sure how to get up-to-snuff with computers, try asking a student to walk you through the basics of Microsoft Office, your email and simple applications like the calendar, calculator and search engines.
To show that you’re serious about the job you’re interviewing for, make a point to tailor your resume to the skills required. For example, if you know that the job you want will require giving presentations, note on your resume that you have experience with PowerPoint and Excel. If your previous job experience did not require use of these types of tools, take the time to get educated on their ins and outs and become comfortable using them. As previously mentioned, a student, coworker or fellow professional will likely be able to help you take your electronics skills to the next level, making you even more well suited for your next position.
Update Your Wardrobe and Salary Expectations
You wouldn’t go out and buy a car with the same specifications as your 15-year old vehicle, so why seek out a job that doesn’t upgrade your income? WorldatWork’s 2019-2020 Salary Budget Survey shows that on average, salaries increased 3% over each of the last three years. If you rely on your previous salary as a benchmark for your new wage, you are likely to sell yourself short of a reasonable and appropriate income. Take the time to research what employees in your position make by looking at resources like Indeed, Salary.com, Glassdoor and many others. There, you’ll find current information about professionals in your field, including their salaries and benefits. You can even read employees’ reviews about their experiences working at particular companies.
Next, when preparing for an interview, keep in mind that what you may have considered appropriate for your last job may not be in keeping with this new job’s dress code. For example, if you worked in a “business casual dress” setting, don’t assume that this new position is the same. Better to arrive overdressed than to stick out like a sore thumb in casual clothing. On top of that, dressing up for an interview will show your interviewer that you are serious and are willing to make an effort. Because first impressions last the longest, take the time to look professional in your interview attire.
In today’s day and age, the Internet is an extremely rich resource for anyone going back into the workforce or making a career change. Not only can most of your questions about a company, position, and interview etiquette be answered online, you can also discover numerous valuable forums that make the job hunt easier. For example, the Women’s Job List is a great place to start if you want to filter job offers based on location, keyword, and hours (full time, part-time, hourly, and work from home). Employers and job seekers alike can take advantage of this website to find their perfect match and employees can even use this site to upload and edit their resumes.
Women For Hire is a similarly abundant resource that offers a “Job Board” to find employment. This site also features an “Advice” tab that includes information about preparing for interviews, negotiating salary, and starting a business. The benefits of this forum are endless with online seminars, events, resume and cover letter templates, and more. Lastly, LiveCareer is an excellent place for women to find information about job opportunities, articles, tools, resources, and even a spectacular question forum. Here, you’ll find real-life users who post about current employment topics that might resonate with your own uncertainties about your job search.
You may already be familiar with the idea of visualizing your success — the practice of imagining yourself after an event (your interview, in this case), basking in the glory of your success. While at first blush visualization may seem like an unreliable strategy to achieve your goals, it has widely been cited as a precursor to success by many modern-day professionals. Because interviewing can seem like such a mental exercise in mastering nerves, knowing your worth, and appealing to your interviewer, it’s important to be in a positive mental space when it’s the big day.
There are a few concrete steps you can take to effectively visualize your success. First, start by writing down your goals. How do you want this interview to go, and how do you want to present yourself? You may even find positive self-talk to be a good technique for manifesting the future you want to experience. Next, consider all the details of your future success. Revel in the “juicy details” to get excited about the possibility of a positive outcome. While the effectiveness of these strategies varies for everyone, try out techniques that play on your interests. For example, if you are an artistic person, try creating a vision board.
Interviewing for the first time after many years can be a daunting experience, but as mentioned above, there are several strategies you can employ to ensure your success. Whether through frequent mock interviews or updating your technological skills, diligent preparation will help you put your best foot forward in your new career.