Does it feel like your last interview was during the Reagan administration? You are not alone.
If it's been a long time since your last interview, here are seven tips for starting off on the right foot.
- Create an interview strategy. Prepare for interviews by going through the following exercise to reflect on past work accomplishments: Ask yourself what challenges you have faced in each of your positions, what actions you took to address those challenges, and what the corresponding results were. Use past performance reviews, letters of recommendation, and LinkedIn recommendations, and have conversations with colleagues, vendors, and past supervisors to flesh out your unique value proposition. If you are returning to the workforce after being a stay-at-home parent, also do this exercise for any volunteer activities you may have been part of.
- Practice. Proper interview strategy is not something you are born with--practice will help you crystallize your message and calm pre-interview jitters. Call your voicemail and leave answers to tough interview questions and then playback the message to review the quality of your responses and make appropriate edits. Or ask a friend or colleague to videotape a mock interview to help you prepare for the real thing.
- Audit your wardrobe and update your interview attire, particularly if you previously worked in a business casual environment.
- Update your computer skills if you feel you may be lacking in this area or have become rusty on these skills following a stint at home. This doesn't require a large financial investment. A student can often help you quickly beef up your skills.
- Get out and meet people. Join professional organizations for your industry and/or job function and leverage online business networking tools such as LinkedIn to find people in your field.
- Benchmark your salary. If you have been out of the market for some time, your last salary may not represent competitive market value. And if you have been out of the workforce for some time, your past salary will provide few clues to your current earning power. Talk to professionals in your industry and recruiters to uncover information on salary ranges in your field and supplement this information by reviewing salary benchmarking sites such as Salary.com and Payscale.com.
- Anticipate obstacles. Hiring managers may be resistant to a candidate who has been with the same company for 20 years or has been out of the workforce for 10 years. Have stories of success ready that show that while you were with one company for a long time, you held different roles, worked for many different people, or went through business process changes that required you to be flexible and manage change. If you are returning to work, focus on the skills acquired during your time away from corporate America that have allowed you to grow and are important to a prospective employer's current business needs.