While a job interview allows an employer to size up your skills, it’s also a chance for you to see if the company is a good fit for your needs.
Expressing enthusiasm, asking questions, and showing your adaptability are some of the ways you can stand out from the competition.
A job interview can feel intimidating when you’re 60 or older, but our interview tips for older applicants can help you make a smart first impression.
There are many bright sides to being an older job seeker. You know your strengths and weaknesses. You're eager to learn new things. You bring a level of experience, wisdom, and dedication that can't be matched by younger workers.
All that said, interviewing as an older applicant can feel scary, especially if you haven't interviewed for a job in a long time (or ever). Here are nine (9) tips to help you present yourself in the best light and make a winning impression on potential employers.
How do you interview as a mature worker?
1. Prepare for questions beforehand
While interview questions will vary from employer to employer, there are certain ones that tend to appear time and again. These include:
- “Why do you want to work for us?”
- “Why should we hire you?”
- “Why did you leave your last job?”
- “What are your short- and long-term goals?”
- “What are your biggest strengths / weaknesses?”
Think carefully about how you want to answer these questions and practice your responses—either in front of a mirror or with someone else. The more you rehearse, the more calm and self-confident you’ll appear during your interview.
2. Let your enthusiasm shine through
During your job interview, make it clear why you were drawn to the organization. Maybe you’ve always loved working with children. Or you're a loyal, longtime customer of the store you're interviewing with. If it's a charitable or service organization, you may feel a calling to help the people in your community. Speak from your heart, but avoid saying you need the job to pay your bills or supplement your retirement savings—even if it’s true.
3. Ask questions
A job interview gives potential employers the chance to evaluate your skills and talents. It’s also an opportunity for you to get to know the company and see if it’s right for you. Do some research ahead of time by browsing their website and studying their brochures. Get a sense of what the company does and what their mission is.
At the interview, probe further by asking questions about the organization’s culture and values. This shows you’ve done your homework and are interested in making sure there’s a mutual good fit.
Examples of questions you can ask include:
- “How do managers give feedback to employees?”
- “Are there opportunities for additional education and training?”
- “How does your company reward employees for their achievements?”
4. Emphasize your ability to adapt
People age 60 and older are vulnerable to the stereotype that they’re stuck in the “old ways” of doing things. This may be especially true with younger hiring managers. You can combat this misconception by showing employers that while you have a lot of experience, you’re also open to new concepts and ideas. You embrace innovation and are always willing to learn something new.
5. Highlight any technology skills you have
Another driver of age discrimination is the idea that older adults are not technology savvy (this, of course, is not the case). Instead of waiting for tech-related questions from the interviewer, be proactive and address this issue right out of the gate. Look for opportunities to mention how you've kept up with the latest technologies, whether it's taking a computer class or staying active on social media. If you're skilled in specific software tools related to your field, make it known and provide examples of how you've used those tools in other job roles.
6. Be ready for virtual interviews
A growing number of companies are choosing to perform initial interviews using video-conferencing technology. Make sure you're prepared for this possibility. Find out what platform the employer uses (such as Zoom) and get familiar with it before your interview. Do a test-run to confirm that your camera is well positioned and the audio works properly. You could even do a mock interview with a friend or family member to help you get comfortable with the video interview format.
7. Keep your responses brief
As an older worker, you have a lot of great experiences and insights to share. But keep in mind that people’s attention spans these days are short, and you don’t want to risk losing your interviewer’s interest. If you tend to be talkative, make an extra effort to keep your answers to questions as concise as possible. Focus on giving the interviewer only the information they need and resist offering elaborate explanations or getting sidetracked with personal anecdotes.
Additionally, try not to oversell your experience. Interviewers are mostly concerned with recent experience that relates to the role you’re applying for. Instead of listing out everything you’ve worked on or accomplished over the years, select parts of your work history that show you’re qualified for the job at hand.
8. Dress to impress
When it comes to interviewing for older adults, appearances matter. A business suit is appropriate for most job interviews, even if the workplace dress is more casual. Always err on the side of dressing too formally.
Other tips to keep in mind:
- Shower, shave (if applicable), brush your teeth, and comb your hair before the interview.
- Keep makeup simple.
- Do not wear heavy fragrances (like perfume or aftershave).
- Avoid chewing gum during the interview.
- Wear clean, pressed clothes.
- Wear clean, shined shoes (not sneakers or flip-flops).
Does age matter in an interview? It may—but you can shift the focus elsewhere by highlighting all the value you can bring to the organization. Showing you’re passionate, proactive, and flexible can help you stand out to employers and make age a non-issue.
9. Send a thank-you note after the interview
You've put a lot of time and thought into preparing for your interview, and you think it paid off. But you're not done yet! Don't forget to follow up afterwards with a simple note of thanks to the potential employer. Since few people tend to send a post-interview thank-you note, doing so helps set you apart from other older job applicants. It shows good manners, and it gives you an opportunity to reinforce your interest in the role and your qualifications.
Should a thank-you note be in the form of an email or a handwritten letter? A handwritten, mailed note provides a personal touch. But since it may take a while to arrive, it's a good idea to send a thank-you email first—no more than 24 hours after your interview.
How do I get a job when I'm older?
Searching for a new job? Or returning to work after a break? NCOA recently launched its new employment tool, Job Skills CheckUp, to help older adults get tips on how to succeed as a mature worker. All you have to do is tell us about your goals, describe your current employment situation, and the Job Skills CheckUp will create a personalized plan to help you find job openings, build a professional network, prepare for job interviews, and more.
The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is also a good place to start. SCSEP helps certain unemployed older adults age 55+ find gainful employment in a number of service areas. Should you meet the program guidelines, you’ll be matched with a part-time position that allows you to build skills and confidence while earning money. Most people who participate in SCSEP are able to use their experience to find a permanent job.