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Haven’t Interviewed in a Few Years?

Sometimes my job as a recruiter feels a lot like that of a career counselor.  Case in point, working with candidates that haven’t interviewed in years.  These candidates often have a big case of the jitters and/or they second guess themselves.  A best practice is to update your resume and go on an interview or two every couple of years so you’ll be comfortable with the interview process.  Of course, if you’d been doing that, you wouldn’t be reading this post.  

So here we are, you haven’t interviewed in 5+ years and you’ve decided (or your employer decided for you) to interview for a role that you’re quite interested in.  Here’s my tips for getting the rust out.

Treat it Like a Sales Call.  I’ve worked with more sales professionals than I care to remember that were excellent at selling but broke into a sweat at the thought of interviewing.  The shift is to realize that an interview is very similar to a sales call.  Preparation, listening skills, persuasion, finding a need that you can solve, asking for the next step/overcoming objections and staying on point are just a few of the skills required to nail either.  There are a few differences which brings me to my next tip.

Practice.  If your 1st interview is with a position you dearly want I strongly suggest getting in some reps before the main event.  Best case would be a real interview.  Second best (and still a very, very good idea) is a mock interview.  Do you have peers or a former manager that can put you through the paces? Are there holes in your resume that you just know you’re going to be asked about? Practice that question even more.  

Don’t Swing for the Fences.  Not every question is a money question and not every answer has to be perfect.  Solid answers get you on base and build momentum.  Pick your spots to showcase your more impressive accomplishments and know that the opportunity just might not present itself to make that point you’re so proud of.

To this point, the most common way I see candidates try too hard is through over-explanation.  They so want to get every question right that they over answer.  There’s a lot to be said for quiet confidence.  If you know that you struggle with over-explaining, use check-ins.  Give tight, 10k foot level answers and check-in to see if you’re giving the interviewer what they want or whether they’d like more detail.  

Focus on Recent Accomplishments.  The challenge (and positive) of having several years with one company is an over-abundance of stories to share.  Be prepared to showcase recent wins and use relevant recent stories when answering questions.  It’s ok to give an example from the past if it’s your best example.  Just be sure to show that you aren’t years removed from your best work.

Have Fun and Engage.  Do whatever you have to do to be present for the interview.  That might mean taking the day off so you can go for a run before the interview to clear your head.  Even if the position you are interviewing for isn’t your dream job give it your full focus and effort.  Nailing that interview will increase your confidence and help settle your nerves for the one you really want.

My last thought is simply to go easy on yourself as you work the rust out.  Whenever I’m stuck with an especially difficult search I remind myself that I only need one solid candidate who wants the job.  There’s a lot of great employers and positions out there.  Keep that in mind.


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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. Our posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

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