Interviewing with the Young and Inexperienced

Interviewing with the Young and Inexperienced

Many job seekers, particularly mature workers, have experienced interviewing with someone much younger or less experienced than themselves.   It’s a common scenario and need not lead to disaster. Here’s how to handle it.

Getting Started

  • Set aside preconceived notions. You don’t want to be judged by your age, so don’t judge your interviewer on his or her age or assume a young person is not qualified to interview you.
  • Be respectful.  Regardless of the interviewer’s age or experience, he or she is in a position to advance your candidacy or kill your chances for the position.  The interviewer deserves full respect, attentiveness and your best effort.
  • Be optimistic. Don’t assume this interview is going to be bad. Keep a great attitude and give it your all. Bitterness, resentfulness or fear of age discrimination may come through in the interview, so replace those negative thoughts with confidence, poise and optimism.

During the Interview

  • Consider (but do not assume) that your interviewer may be inexperienced at interviewing and look for ways to make it a comfortable experience, including giving a quick summary of your background if asked, clarifying questions if you’re not sure what the interviewer is looking for, and ending your answers with a question back, creating a dialog with the interviewer.
  • Get to know the person. Ask good questions about his or her role, how it connects to the job you are interviewing for, what problems and issues the organization faces and more. Then bring out your match and ability to tackle those issues and solve those problems.
  • Be humble, not intimidating. Highly experienced people sometimes overwhelm with details of high titles and huge successes way back when.  This can become tedious and intimidating. Instead customize and hone your success stories to those that are directly applicable to the current job. Don’t say how great you are; show relevant past successes as a promise of what you can do in the current position.

Wrapping Things Up

  • Be gracious. Even if you don’t think the interviewer did a very good job, offer genuine thanks that he or she gave her time and effort to the meeting.
  • Use your follow up to fill any gap. If you sense that the interviewer missed something important, use your follow-up communication to reinforce that point.  Don’t be rude in hammering it home. Just gracefully work it in as you once again bring out your match with the position and enthusiasm for the job and company.

Remember, interviewing is a two-way exchange.  You can help steer it in the direction you want it to go by focusing on the most important issue – your ability to solve the employer’s problems and create value for the employer.

If you don’t get the job, do not jump to age discrimination or the inexperience of your interviewer.  Those assumptions will not further your job search. Instead, look carefully at your interviewing skills and seek ways to present yourself even more effectively next time.

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