Interview Tips for the 40+ Crowd

By Nikita Garia

Looking for a job can be stressful, even more so for older executives.

While 15 to 20 years of work experience are valuable, sometimes they can work against you. Recruiters may fear that you are too set in your ways and don't have the flexibility needed for the job. They may also worry that you have lost your creative and passionate streaks with time.

Being aware of perceptions that recruiters might have of you can help you tackle them better ahead of your job interview. Human resources experts say you should draw attention to the benefits of hiring a more experienced person, such as having had greater exposure to unexpected situations and crises, and having better leadership and team-management skills.

Here are some interview tips for candidates who are over 40:

Show-off, stay fresh: If you have 20 years of work experience, you are likely have a lot of things to talk about in your job interview. But you may want to hold back.

"The employer is not interested in 25 great things you did, but in that one great thing that is relevant to the job," says Harveen Singh Bedi, senior vice president of executive search firm Quadrangle, a unit of Info Edge (India) Ltd.

Highlight only those achievements that make you the best candidate for the job. Mention some achievements from the last year or two, or any fresh ideas that you helped implement recently.

"Don't give the impression that you have been doing the same job everyday for 20 years," says Ben Hawkes, a London-based executive at human capital management firm Kenexa.

Show that you are up-to-date with the latest developments in your industry by discussing the latest tools and techniques in the trade. You might need to attend conferences and read trade magazines in advance to gain this knowledge.

Show flexibility: Some recruiters might have the impression that older candidates are, well, too old to learn new tricks. Break that perception at the earliest opportunity.

Let your recruiter know how you have adapted to changing environments in the past. For instance, if you were part of a team that helped introduce new technologies at your previous company, share that information, says Mr. Bedi. If you are comfortable with traveling and relocation, show your willingness to do so.

Interviewers may try to gauge your flexibility by asking indirect questions. Be sure to let them know that "you don't want to live a retired life," says Mr. Bedi. 

Name-drop, smoothly: Besides experience, you have hopefully amassed a large network of contacts over the years. This could help you score points over younger candidates.

Telling your recruiter about the people you know in the industry at various levels can be particularly helpful in jobs like marketing or finance, where networks can help add clients.

"If it is relevant, emphasize it," says Mr. Hawkes. But be careful not to come across as someone who is bragging; that could hurt your chances. 

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