How to Prepare for an Interview to Get the Job You Want After 50

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

To get the job you want after 50, you will need to be fully prepared for the interview. The big question interviewers have and often never ask is “Why should we hire you instead of the other candidates we’re considering?”

If you’re doing it right, throughout the interview, you’ll be answering that question indirectly by what you say, how you say it, how you look, how you move, and the questions you ask. But you need to answer that question even more directly by telling your story and highlighting your main selling points in the process.

Read on for guidance in preparing your selling points and working them into the interview.

Preparing your CAR descriptions

Résumé writing pros advise their clients to tell their CAR story. CAR stands for challenge, action, and result. It’s a good outline for a plot. You describe a challenge that you or the organization you worked for faced, the action you took to solve the problem or address the issue, and the result. Here’s an example:

Sales at the XYZ Realty had plateaued. I created a process that made selling houses an assembly line. Real estate agents showed properties and reviewed the paperwork, but we hired and trained additional personnel to complete the paperwork. Our agents were able to sell 40 percent more properties, far more than required to cover the costs of the additional personnel.

Write several of these CAR stories. Don’t be too formal in your writing. This is where you can show a little personality and let reviewers hear your voice and the pride you take in your accomplishments. Importantly, make sure the CAR stories are relevant to the position.

Preparing your elevator pitch

Another approach to presenting your selling points is to use an elevator pitch — a persuasive, prepared speech that you can deliver in 20 seconds or so, the duration of a short ride in an elevator. The goal of your elevator pitch is to answer the question, “Why should we hire you?” Although you may not be able to deliver your elevator pitch in its entirety, if at all, having an elevator pitch ready ensures that you know the answer to the question.

Your pitch should cover who you are, what you do, and why you’re uniquely qualified for the position. It should finish with a question that sparks further conversation about how you’re able to meet the organization’s needs. Here’s an example:

Im Rhonda Newcomer, a marketing professional who specializes in building brand identity via social media and networking. I noticed that several dissatisfied customers have posted negative reviews of your products and services on Facebook, and I know how to address that issue. During my six-month contract term at XYZ Corp., the organizations following grew 75 percent on Facebook and Twitter with positive comments outnumbering negative comments by 20 to 1. We also followed up with dissatisfied customers and convinced them to remove their negative reviews. What do you see as your biggest PR challenge?

Try to point out a problem that the organization didn’t even realize it had. If you can assign a dollar amount to that problem, all the better. Just be sure to have a solution for solving it that requires the organization to hire you.

Like CAR stories, your elevator pitch should focus on a problem, the action you took, and the result. If you’re having trouble with your action statement, try starting with one of the following phrases:

As manager of _____, I developed a plan that… .

While working at _____, I created a process that… .

While working in _____, I directed a team that… .

Weaving your selling points into the interview

During the interview, stick to your main selling points. It’s easy to veer off topic. To help you stay focused, write down and practice at home your three main selling points. Have specific examples that highlight your strengths to share with the interviewer.

Toward the end of the interview, click through your mental checklist to make sure you’ve covered each of your selling points. Don’t leave until you have. If you sense that the interviewer is moving toward wrapping up the interview, politely interject that you want to make sure you mention X, Y, or Z, and why.

Although touching on past accomplishments is essential, balance past achievements with forward thinking conversation. For instance, don’t forget to mention how your skills can help the organization with its current and possibly future issues. You also need to talk about how you can contribute to the organization’s goals both now and in the future.