Every job applicant is hiding secrets and issues they fervently hope won’t come up in an interview. While we all have prepared a response to the dreaded “Tell me about your biggest weakness” question (You have, haven’t you?), there are always other minefields we hope to avoid.
You only have two choices – sit and hope it won’t come up or own it. You’ve probably tried the former approach. How did that work for you? I suggest you consider ‘owning’ it instead. It’s not the first thing you talk about, but once the conversation is established, or the dreaded ‘weakness’ question comes up, insert your story.
Young employees are judged more by their transcripts and test scores than by experience. A common example is the person who struggled to do well in tests though he has other proof points to show his excellence. Rather than hope it won’t come up, bring it up yourself.
“One thing I’ve struggled with is taking tests. I’ve proven my knowledge and grasp of the material through other means (papers, speeches, etc.). If taking tests is a major part of the job, I might not be your candidate. But if that isn’t an issue, let me tell you how I can help your company meet its challenges.”
Many job seekers are looking because they’ve been laid off. Years ago, a layoff was a bigger concern. Now, it is so common that most of us will experience this event at some point in our careers. Seize the chance to define the terms of the conversation. Try something like this:
“I’m in the market for a new job because I was laid off in the latest cycle. While at first, I wasn’t happy, I now see that it provided me an opportunity to take the time to assess my career and find something even better suited to my talent, interests and experience.”
Age comes up as a frequent concern. Age discrimination is real, but it doesn’t have to hold you back. In fact, once you’re face to face with the interviewer, you can overturn assumptions and address concerns. But you have to get that interview first. Take care with your resume to eliminate hints of your actual age. Avoid filling out online job applications unless asked to do so by a company that has already shown interest. When you land an interview, you should own the value of being older.
“I bring experience and a track record of under-promising and over-delivering. My institutional knowledge, proven experience in teamwork and leadership will prove an asset to you. Some believe that as we grow older, we lose energy, passion and innovation, but that’s a choice, one I refused to make.”
Take your biggest liability and air it out. Seize control of the situation by owning it. Not only will it take the issue out of the equation. Your willingness to take it on will differentiate your from other candidates and given you the edge.
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