I had to re-enter the workforce last year after a 2 year hiatus. The job hunt wasn’t as easy as I remembered it being when I was in my 20′s. Up until this round of interviews, I had a 90% job interview / offer percentage. Yep! I had been offered jobs in 18 out of 20 interviews in my life. That’s a pretty good ratio!
This time around though, I had applied everywhere, received few phone calls, and promptly went through 14 interviews without receiving a single offer. What happened to the all-star guy who would wake up in the morning and grab whatever job he wanted?
I could have blamed the job market, but I live in Sioux Falls, where the unemployment rate hovered around only 4%. I have a wide range of skills and lots to offer though. What could the be the problem?
After careful reflection, I started thinking about the past 14 interviews. Was there any difference between these interviews and the previous 20 interviews I had in my 20′s? I pictured myself as a 23 year old who was riding high in the dot-com era. Jobs were being thrown at my feet. I couldn’t check my voice mail without listening to somebody looking to hire me. I remembered the feeling I had going into each interview back then. I was wide-eyed and wanted to know everything about the company I was interviewing with. I would gaze upon the maze of cubicles as I passed through the office and imagine myself wandering through them with a purpose in mind.
Now half way through my 30′s, I had lost that energy that made the interview room a place where I ruled. The young 23 year old was now a guy who just wanted a job. Any job! I no longer cared about the excitement a new opportunity could bring me each day.
I then remembered that this is the same kind of thing I have seen with many older folks who I had interviewed myself. When I was a Team Lead in a call center, I would bring in candidates of all ages to work phones in Tech Support. Every young kid I talked to was excited to just be in front of me talking about an opportunity, while the older folks seemed to have the life sucked from their eyes. You could see the dejected look in many of these candidates when they first walked through the door. The look of “Well, this is another job I probably won’t get.”
Needless to say, the jobs would mostly go to the younger ones who were excited to work the phones, the mail room, or even running to get coffee. Every once in awhile though, I’d talk to an older person who had the right energy. If they managed to groom themselves well enough and didn’t throw their feet on my desk, they were hired.
After putting this all together, I realized that I had to rekindle the energy. I had to become interested in the companies I was interviewing with again instead of simply seeking a place to sit for 40 hours a week. Fortunately I made this realization days before an important interview. This interview was actually for the first company I picked to apply to because I was genuinely interested in the job and the company. I researched the company and found things to get excited about.
Fully prepared, I went into the interview with a positive attitude and a happy heart. Gone was the guy who just wanted a job. I had questions I really wanted to know the answers to and was excited about the questions I would be asked. I asked and answered each question with energy. Each time I spoke really sold how much I wanted THIS job with THIS company. The interview wrapped up cleanly, I shook hands with my interrogator and went on my way.
I didn’t have to wait long for the result. The next day I got the call that said “You’re hired!”. I even received a second offer from an interview I had later in the day to boot. So my new approach worked twice. Was it just a coincidence? I don’t think so.
I strongly believe many older people, even people way older than myself can improve their results when interviewing for job just by putting that youth back in their eyes for the time they are in the interview room. There will always be those companies who discriminate based on age, sex, religion, race, or you name it. But you don’t help your odds when you have the wrong attitude. Get the energy back and go get the job you want.
Happy job hunting!