Getting back into the job market after years, or even decades, is daunting. If the last time you updated your résumé was on a typewriter, there are a few things you really need to know to be ready to sell yourself in today’s market.
Kerry Hannon — jobs expert at AARP and the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills — shares her top do’s and dont’s.
Résumé and Interview Do’s:
Polish your LinkedIn profile. Depending on your profession, having a paper résuméand a LinkedIn profile may be non-negotiable these days. It shows that you aren’t a Luddite and are comfortable with technology. Include a photo that makes you appear energetic — potential employers are concerned that you won’t have enough stamina to do the job.
Bring your “A” game to the interview. Position yourself as an expert and act as if you’re a highly paid consultant there to solve their problem, but stay away from sounding professorial and a know-it-all. Be forthright and clear about why you’re motivated by what the organization does, plus why you think you would be a good fit with their culture. When you interview with someone younger than you, be careful not to come off as condescending.
Prepare to answer the “overqualified” question. A younger, less experienced worker may not balk at a salary that could be a serious cut from what you earned in your last position. If you’re OK making less, say so. For example, if you no longer want to be in a prominent management position, let the interviewer know that you want to get back to basics and focus on work that you enjoy and honing your own skills. Employers worry that you’ll grow bored or ultimately be resentful if you accept a job that pays less and doesn’t have the status of a previous job. Explain why and how the firm would profit by hiring you.
And think beyond salary to other benefits that you value and may be able to negotiate for: tuition reimbursement, flexible work arrangements, parking allowance, transportation passes, or extra vacation days.
Practice mock interviews. Practice interviews with a friend (someone younger even). Videotape it, so you can see how to fine-tune your performance. Always remember to be yourself, sincere, straightforward. Keep it conversational. Focus on the company’s needs, not yours.
Résumé and Interview Don’ts:
Don’t load your résumé with too much info. What employers want to see is your most recent 10 to 15 years of experience. Think advertisement, not obituary. No one wants, or needs, to read every one of your employment entries over a four- to five-decade career.
Package your earlier experiences into one paragraph at the end of your résumé’s “experience” section and omit dates. And only use the work history that’s relevant to the job you are applying for now.
Don’t ignore the gaps. Fill in holes in your employment history. It’s best to have a good experience to sub for it, say, during a period between jobs — you traveled, volunteered added a degree or pursued other education. If you were out of the workforce for care-giving duties, you can market that, too. You were skill-building. No doubt you were a “project manager,” supervising a team of other care-givers — from nurses to doctors and physical therapists. You were a “researcher” tracking down the best doctors and medical care. You may have been a “financial manager” in charge of bill-paying and insurance claims.
Don’t make rapid, off-the-top-of-your-head answers. This isn’t Jeopardy. There’s no race to push the buzzer. Keep focused on your interviewers and the reality that you’re sitting in that chair to sell solutions to their problems or challenges, not what you want to say next about yourself. At the core of a job interview, it’s about them, not about you. Listen closely to what they’re saying. Don’t go on for 10 minutes answering one question. Crisp and to-the-point answers allow interviewers to get to all their questions and gather as much knowledge about you as they can.
Kerry Hannon’s newest book, “Getting the Job You Want After 50 For Dummies,” will be out Sept. 28.
Interview by Lisa Kiplinger, USA TODAY