Interviews are never easy, and the skill comes more naturally to some than others. But that’s just what it is, a skill, and it must be practiced. If you’ve been out of the workforce for more than 5 years it’s perfectly conceivable you haven’t interviewed in the better part of a decade. You need to prepare, practice and follow up.
- Prepare: Know everything you can about the company and the organization. Use LinkedIn to find an “insider” in your network’s network who can give you the inside scoop. Aside from website research, Follow the company on both LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to get a sense of the culture, trends and most recent news releases. Review the LinkedIn profiles of the mangers with whom you’ll be interviewing. Develop a list of thoughtful questions that demonstrate your industry and company knowledge. We had a candidate not get selected for a second round of interviews because the client interpreted her lack of prepared interview questions as a lack of enthusiasm for the role.
- Practice: It sounds silly, but you need to do some mock interviews. Ask your spouse, neighbor or best friend to grill you. Start out with easy, standard interview questions (walk me through your resume, strengths/weaknesses, tell me about a time when….) and then try and get to more difficult questions. You want these answers to be polished and roll off your tongue. The most difficult question to answer is “how can you transition back to work after such a long employment gap?” (or some variation thereof). Have this answer ready. It might be something like “I’ve been a member of XYZ industry group, have attended networking events, learned about recent policy changes such as ABC law and have volunteered on such-and-such committee.” If you’re a bookkeeper, let the interviewer know that you took an online course to get certified in the latest QuickBooks version. Demonstrate enthusiastically that you’re prepared to hit the ground running with minimal onramp time.
- Follow Up: Similar to the networking informational interview, this is the part that most folks forget. Ask for a business card from each person with whom you interview. Send a thank you email immediately and a written thank you (on professional cardstock) straight away. Be specific in your interest and sincere in your gratitude.