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How to interview well when it's been a while

17 Oct 17:00 By Shosh Cutter


You might have heard it all before: be prepared and professional, but also be yourself. Focus on your skills and achievements, but not too much. Overcome your own doubts, while conveying confidence and capability to the hiring manager.

A piece of cake, right?

If haven’t been through a hiring process in a while, these statement can make you more nervous than you already are.

The people I interview who haven’t interviewed in a while often have some common traits: some positive, and some that have room for polish and improvement.

Whether you’re a parent returning to work, someone who’s taken a break from a previous role, or just changing jobs after a long time in one place, interviewing for the first time in a long time can be really daunting.

So here a 6 tips to help.

1. Listen (or, tell the voice in your head to be quiet for a little while).

There is no order of hierarchy to this list but this one is really the most important, if it is the only takeaway from this article let it be this one. I’m confident it will improve your interviewing behaviour, regardless of the questions that are thrown your way. Listening well, seems simple enough. Especially in an interview. But when you’re walking into an unfamiliar environment, meeting a hiring manager for the first time, your senses are in overdrive.

The interview begins as soon as you step into the workplace. Whether you like it or not. From that moment, take the time to listen and focus. If a receptionist or member of the team greets you, learn their name and repeat it back to them. You’re instantly building a rapport with someone. This is something you can control, and it might make someone’s day.

During the interview, practice active listening. This is a listening technique that forces you to be present in the conversation. It is often characterised by the listener nodding in acknowledgement of what is being said, requesting clarification of a statement or question, or summarising what has just been said to ensure understanding. It shows you are present and engaged in the interview. It also shows you actually are a good listener by your actions through the entire conversation. It also helps you to calm your nerves, focus your mind and focus on what is being asked of you and zone in on responding en pointe.

2. Stay on topic.

This may seem obvious, but between nerves and meeting someone new—staying on topic can be difficult to nail. Try not to ramble and be kind to yourself and take a moment to consider your responses to questions asked. Slow yourself down, pause after each sentence, it will help you construct your the next part of your response as you go. Depending on the role type, sometimes having a pen and notebook handy is really helpful to illustrate your response as you articulate it, this allows you to organise your thought and stay on track.

3. Be curious: ask questions.

Regardless of how experienced you are or how much you know about the industry—you don’t know the workplace you’re applying for. Blunt, but true. You may have held your previous role for the last twenty years, but that doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the exact nature of your next workplace.

Attend your interview with questions. Without them, you lose the opportunity to demonstrate interest in your potential role, as well as the interviewer’s perspective on the organisation. Take a list of them if you don’t think you will remember them. It shows preparation which will be highly regarded. Use your questions to demonstrate your curiosity in contributing and becoming part of the team. Questions you ask during the interview may even convey to the interviewer that you’re more experienced and mature than your original application gives you credit for.

Useful topics to consider questioning are:

  • How the company values form part of everyday life as a team member.
  • Levels of transparency in the company and how this is managed.
  • Structure and process of the company on a day-to-day level.

Once you’ve covered off some questions that are focused towards the team and company, delve into some of the other benefits and logistical questions. It will show you can ask well rounded questions across a svariety of areas, and that you’re genuinely invested and curious about working at the company.

4. Take pride in your presentation.

Your presentation is your full presence, which means it includes things like body language, word choice, small talk and dress sense. Your presentation is anything that contributes to the interviewer’s perception of who you are, and what makes you memorable. Research the company you’re applying to work for, or ask us for advice on what might be the best style of dress for your interview. This is another way of showing that you fit into the organisation. Another important tip here is to make sure you are wearing something that you feel comfortable in and feel good about yourself in, this helps in ways you may not even realise.

Your body language also says a lot about you. Stay open in your positioning, answer questions without crossed arms, if you shake hands at the beginning and the end make sure its confident, and keep a warm genuine smile.

Do your research on the person interviewing you. Take time to at least check them out on LinkedIn, learn about their experience and work history. 

5. Remember your humour.

If you can share a laugh during an interview both you and the interviewer will relax.Before the formalities of an interview begin, there’s often an opportunity for conversational chit-chat. Try applying your personal brand of friendliness and humour if the moment calls for it. Yes, you’ll be nervous. But being able to make light of a situation can break the ice for everyone involved. A little humour goes a long way. Who doesn’t want a potential teammate who can make work more fun?

6. Practice makes you an overnight success.

Try practicing with someone you trust to put you through your paces. This will help keep you en pointe!

That wraps up my six tips for getting back into the interview game. I hope these points have been useful for you, and if nothing else, provide you with something different to try at your next interview.

Job hunting is hard, really hard. I wish you all the best in your search and hope you land a role that is challenging, inspiring, and pushes you be the best version of you!