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How to prepare if you haven't interviewed in years

By Andrew Bredin, Regional Managing Director of Hays North West

Interviewing for a new job can feel intimidating, and even more so if you’ve been with your current employer for ten, fifteen or even twenty years.

If you have finally decided that it’s time for a change, how should you approach an interview? Both you and your potential employer might have reservations. Although there are aspects of staying in a job for decades an employer will find appealing – such as loyalty and years of experience – they might be concerned that you won’t adapt quickly to a new role and work culture.

You may also have your own doubts about getting back in the interview game, luckily there are a few steps you can take to ensure you succeed.

1. Don’t doubt yourself 

It’s normal to have doubts when interviewing after a long time, but how are you going to convince a potential employer if you’ve not convinced yourself? If you prepare yourself in advance you will grow your confidence and put yourself in the best possible position.

Before the interview, practice answering some common interview questions, either our loud in front of a mirror, or with other people. It can be difficult getting used to talking yourself up again, but practicing smiling, presenting and body language will help. Practice makes perfect, and if you act confident you’ll feel more confident.

2. Talk about your achievements

Your interviewer will want to know that you spent your time at your last organisation well, and that you didn’t become complacent after years in the same place. 

Try to showcase how you progressed in your career. Make sure you mention any promotions or increased responsibilities. This will show your potential employer that you’ve developed a lot over the years. It will also show them that you are ambitious and valuable asset.

3. Show that you’re an expert

The above steps should show that you’re an expert in your field, but make sure you still emphasise how your experience has made you well versed and knowledgeable.

As with any interview you need to show you are passionate about your job. Be specific and mention that you have kept your skills up to date, either through webinars, training courses or reading industry publications. The aim should be to show you interviewer that you have a wealth of knowledge but have also kept up with the industry to maintain your expert status.

4. Demonstrate that you can build relationships

Another concern your interviewer might have is that as you have worked alongside the same people for so long, it could be difficult for you to build new relationships with your potential colleagues.

Even though you have worked with the some of the same people for a long time, you will undoubtedly have had to work with new people during your career. Maybe you have trained new starters, worked alongside agencies or gone to networking events.

Have some examples of the above ready in your mind so you are prepared for any specific questions. Showcase how you have built up a rapport with other people over a short period of time and how this has benefited your work.

5. Prove you’re adaptable

As you have been with your organisation for a long time, an interviewer might be concerned that you’re not adaptable to new situations or will struggle to adjust to different ways of doing things.

You can counter this doubt by showing ways in which you have adapted well to business changes or taken initiative to learn something new to improve your job. It is also important to ask questions at the end of the interview to show that you are interested in the different ways your prospective organisation works.

6. Focus on why you want a change

The fact that you’ve stayed loyal to your previous employer will reflect well on you, however it can also suggest that you’re adverse to change. This is why it is important to emphasise that you are ready for a new start. You should not talk negatively about your previous employer, but rather about why you are interested in this specific job and company. If they ask you why you want to leave your current role, focus on the changes you are excited about.

In the end, your years of experience should work in your favour, especially if you play your cards right. The trick is to get back into practice, quash any reservations that the interviewer has in relation to your ambition and adaptability, and gear your answers around proving your expertise, interpersonal skills and enthusiasm for a new and exciting opportunity.  

For more information or to discuss your employment needs, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

After a career in professional cricket Andrew joined Hays in London in 1987 as a trainee consultant within the Construction & Property business. He rose to the position of Managing Director of that business in the UK, a position he held until 2011.

Andrew was then appointed Regional Managing Director of the North West Region of Hays UK, responsible for 21 different businesses. This region has been one of the most consistently successful in the UK, in terms of both fee and profit growth. He has also retained responsibility nationally for the Construction & Property business and has both the national Finance and Education leads reporting into him. In 2017 he was also appointed Regional Managing Director of Hays Scotland, alongside his other responsibilities.

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