Stressing out about job interviews? Tips And Ideas

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco, ThirdQuarter Associate and Blogger

If you’re a worker 45 and over looking for work for the first time in years, a job interview can be daunting. There is lots of advice out there on everything from how to prepare for the interview, to the dos and don’ts of body language and best ways to answer questions. If you follow everything to a tee, you might very well perform brilliantly at your next job interview. But will you perform as well as some of the world’s top C-suite executives in job interviews--and is there something you can learn from these individuals who have succeeded interview after interview while climbing the corporate ladder?

Peter Grech, a managing partner of Tessera Executive Search, and a seasoned recruiter for the C-suites of some of the world’s largest corporations knows all about interviewing the most confident and astute interviewees. “We’re dealing with senior executives who are very polished and they know exactly how to interview,” he says.

That’s why Tessera as well as every major recruiter and hiring department rely on an array of sophisticated tools and methods. They want to cut through the veneer and get to the truth of who the person is and whether or not they are a good match for the job and company--regardless of the job level.

“We’re trying to understand if they could be successful in the role, so first and foremost, we’re looking at their capabilities,” says Kelly Glass, Vice President, Global Recruitment for RBC. “We define what it is that we really need them to do, what they need them to demonstrate in the actual role.”

From online personality tests with algorithms to see through even a person’s self-lies, to interviews with the people he or she would be working with or even clients, behavioural questions to identify how you react in real situations or even simulations of real-life scenarios with future co-workers, these days the interview process for job is really all about getting to who you really are.
“Be authentic. The worst mistake people make is they try to force themselves into a role because they are looking for a job and they wouldn’t be happy in it,” says Glass. “They have to be who they are. That’s who the interviewer really wants to see. They have to be themselves.”

Being yourself comes easy for those whose self-confidence is intact, but life is not always that easy for everyone--or even most. Life experiences can knock your self-esteem to smithereens. Losing your job in the third quarter of life and being hurled into the extreme stress of uncertainty and the loss of everything from your home to the ability to provide for or help your children can knock the wind out of even the most confident person’s self-esteem. Applying for job after job and never even hearing back can eventually kick you down into the depths of helplessness and worthlessness, which combined are like a wrecking ball swinging in to demolish any remaining self-esteem.

Then comes the disconnect in the interview between hiring managers and job seekers. The reality is when a person is trying to find a job to put food on the table and avoid foreclosure on their mortgage, thinking about the right job seems a luxury and performing well in a job interview, even with a façade, becomes a matter of survival. But that’s a catch-22.

“I understand people if they are unemployed, they need a job without question, but be careful that you don’t try to force it yourself because it’s very obvious, and it can make you look somewhat desperate,” says Glass. “If you go through the interview process and your gut is telling you it’s not something you’d want to or could be doing but you attempt to sell the person why you should, could be doing it, it’s pretty evident. It makes it look like they’ll take anything.”

Refreshing, recharging, restarting

Refresh your self-confidence. The psychological stress of uncertainty and unemployment are very real. Avoid self-blame and shame, or their opposite side of the coin, bitterness, blame and arrogance. And remember when the going gets tough, it’s tough, even for the very tough, so cut yourself some slack. But whether it is mindfulness or self-compassion, taking steps to nurture your mind and strengthen your stress-coping skills can go a long ways to reconnecting you with your self-confidence. It’s important to be authentic in an interview, but low-self-esteem doesn’t reflect the authentic you. Unconsciously, it can lead to putting yourself down, not just in your own mind, but also when speaking to others, including in an interview.

Practice good posture. Scientists have found simply doing this can improve self-confidence almost instantly.

Know your capabilities and strengths--but don’t fall into stereotypical assessments of these that may in actuality be judging your strengths as weaknesses. “A lot of organizations realize there are a lot of soft-spoken, mild-mannered individuals who have an amazing ability to get things done. They have tremendous influence skills, which is great,” says Grech. “What makes the big difference for the non-A type is to demonstrate positive, healthy attitudes, flexibility and ability to go with the flow. If that exists, that’s the key.”

Reality check

There are organizations, such as RBC Royal Bank, that have worked hard to embrace diversity, including age diversity, which is good news for people 45 plus but the reality is “the biggest single obstacle in the hiring world for people in that age bracket is age discrimination,” says Grech. “We deal with clients across a variety of industry sectors and even though it is illegal to discriminate, there are companies that will say they don’t want anyone over 45. It’s our job as recruiters demonstrate the merits of an individual and show them it’s not about age but about the fit with their organization.”

As an applicant, it’s your job to do this too. Grech suggests older workers go into an interview knowing the discrimination is largely centered on the stereotypes that anyone over 45 is going to be inflexible, lacking energy and unable to learn new technologies. If the only thing between you and the job is prejudice, be prepared to counter it by showing them you are no stereotype. It might not only increase your chances of getting the job, it will also help fight age discrimination in society.

Someone who has worked almost his or her entire career for the same company is also likely to face another hurdle.

“There’s a perception that if they haven’t seen any other environments, the risk they won’t be able to adapt to a new culture is very high,” says Grech. “The reality is this perception is often untrue. When you think of a big corporation, they often have multiple lines of business, they’re global, so you could work for one line of business for five years, then move to another with a different culture despite it still being the same brand.”

Again, be prepared to counter this by showing them your adaptability, whether within your previous organization or through other experiences, such as volunteer work.