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How to ace a job interview when reentering the workforce after an absence

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Difficult bosses, career changes, potential layoffs. From the logistical to the emotional, work can be full of challenging situations and dynamics.

And often, it can be hard to know who to turn to when dealing with career obstacles.

That's why Life Kit asked Brandon Johnson, a certified professional career coach from Embrace Change, to answer a Life Kit listener's question about how to reenter the workforce. We're only using the listener's first name to protect their livelihood and career opportunities.

Reentering the workforce later in life

I'm 56 and trying to reenter the workforce in clinical nutrition. I have had many Zoom interviews that I thought went well. I think my age is the issue. There are so many younger professionals that I am up against. I have my MS but obtained it years ago. Any suggestions? – Marcy


Hi Marcy,

I'm sorry you've had this experience. Companies are responsible for preventing bias from seeping into their hiring processes, but we all know that not all companies live up to that expectation.

In the case of age discrimination, there are tactics you can employ to help you beat the bias. One I typically coach more experienced professionals to use is to approach from a place of energy instead of experience, especially when it comes to interviews and networking.

Motivation is often one of the greatest screening factors, so leaning on your energy and passion for doing the work, learning new things, and collaborating with the team, will show your interviewers that you can hit the ground running.

At the interview stage, they already know you bring lots of experience because they've seen your resume and cover letter. Use your interview to show your energy and motivation to mesh with the culture, work with diverse groups, and star in your role.

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to stand out in an interview:

1. Reference examples that emphasize your ability to collaborate with and learn from others.

2. Ask questions about your interviewers' experiences working with the role you're applying for. Ask them what a successful candidate for the role looks like. Ask them what sort of qualities or skills they want the optimal candidate to have for the position.

Another piece of advice I'd give anyone in an interview: Connect with your interviewers. Interviewers like engaging candidates because they naturally feel like if you can engage them, you can engage the team, the work, and your stakeholders. Bring your personality to the interview with you. Ask good questions. Show genuine interest. Be a real person–be yourself! – Brandon Johnson


More of your work questions answered

Four questions to ask yourself if you're considering going back to school. When is more education required to advance your career? A professional career coach weighs in with questions to consider before going back to school.

How do I get my boss to stop talking about politics at work? When a boss finds out they have differing political outlooks, he treats his employee differently. A career coach weighs in on what to do.

Being in-between jobs is normal. Here's how to talk about it. Looking for a new career can often lead to periods of unemployment. Talking about it with friends and family doesn't have to be shame-inducing.


We'd love to hear from you. Email us at LifeKit@npr.org. Listen to Life Kit onApple Podcasts andSpotify, or sign up for ournewsletter.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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