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I am thinking about going back to work after 12 years – I didn’t want anyone else bringing my kids up – and have just turned 50. I know I am quite capable of picking up the work reins again but it’s the interview that I’m scared of! I won’t put myself across well, my mouth will go dry and I can’t speak! What to do?
You need some adrenalin to give the best possible performance at interview so don’t worry about feeling nervous.
I’d suggest you practise each of the skills needed (thinking fast, retrieving relevant information in answer to unexpected questions and structuring your answers) long before you attend your very first interview.
Ask friends and relatives to ask you a series of job-related questions (eg “what have you learnt during the past 10 years that’ll make you a better employee?”). They should prepare these questions themselves and give you no prior warning of the content. When you answer each question, speak for no more than 2 minutes. This is a demanding exercise for novices to do – if ideas fail to flow, don’t worry as you’ll gradually improve your performance.
Ideally the “interviewer” should have a stopwatch. They should cut you off in mid-flow if any of your answers exceed 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Pause briefly after you’ve answered two or three questions and with your “interviewer” review progress. In the review both of you should concentrate mostly on what you did well.
Did you succeed in taking a micro-second to think about how to answer the question – or did you make the mistake (it usually is a mistake!) of launching straight in? How effective were you in answering the question in logical order (eg summarising how you planned to tackle it at the outset; answering the question; then giving a strong, well-reasoned conclusion)? Were your arguments well-chosen and effective? Did you remember to quote any objective evidence in favour of your arguments (eg performance statistics, [named] expert findings, etc)? Were you successful in selling the benefits of employing you in terms of the job requirements and the potential employer’s concerns? What did you learn about analysing body language from observing your interviewer’s behaviour (eg the small signals she / he will give that you are running out of time when answering a specific question)?