The Interview Diaries

Legendary actress Katharine Hepburn once said, “Death will be a great relief. No more interviews.” This perfectly captures how I felt as I prepared for my first job interview after more than 10 years. I had stepped out of the paid workforce to care for my boys. I freelanced a bit during this time and even explored entrepreneurship, but parenthood was my main gig and I did not look back.

In the Fall of 2012, after settling my youngest son into kindergarten, I had the opportunity to interview for a consulting position. I quickly did the math and realized I had not interviewed in over 10 years! Yikes - panic set in and this definitely did not help the situation. Although I was interviewing with a former boss, someone I knew well, I felt real, pure discomfort. I was out of my element.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had sat down and talked about my professional experiences. Apparently, the toddler set was more impressed with my “strong” Lego building skills than my consulting and client management skills.  No regrets of course, and it turns out this would all be part of my journey. However, in that moment, as I thought of how to sell myself to a prospective employer, I was petrified.

So, what did I do? The first thing I did was to sit with the pain and discomfort. Then, I got out of my head and talked to my dearest friend. He assured me that this feeling was transient and it would pass, which it did.

Great, now that I got that out of the way, the real preparation began. There are lots of guides about the mechanics of preparing for an interview. In fact, we have a webinar coming up tomorrow about this topic with Interview Experts, Jaime Morris & Diane Spizzirro. But today, I’m sharing a few extra tips that are unique to your situation, as you return to the paid workforce after a career break.

  1. Get to know yourself again.  There’s no way around it; preparation builds confidence and this is what you need. Get familiar with your past accomplishments and inventory new skills that you developed during your break. Make sure they are reflected in your resume and LinkedIn. Create a list of 3 core traits and have examples to back them up.  Always tie the examples back to your prospective role. Practice, practice, practice (Vermilion can help you with this!)
  2. Be Honest. Don’t try to cover up your career gap. Acknowledge it as part of your story. When the inevitable question comes up, “Tell me about yourself.” Answer the question and be true to yourself and your experiences.
  3. Be positive. Do not apologize for your career gap; people will mirror your attitude. Own your gap and discuss how it has prepared you for this opportunity. We know many people that apply for anything and everything. Don’t do this. Don’t waste your time or the employer’s. There must be a cogent link, if not, evaluate whether this is the right fit for you? 
  4. Be well-versed. Do your research. The amount of information available now about a prospective interviewer, company, and industry is staggering. That’s not an excuse to forego it. Start with the basics (primary resources such as the website, annual report, blog) and explore secondary sources such as Glass Door, Fairy GodBoss, Social Media channels to validate the story. And of course visit the LinkedIn profile of your interviewer(s) and company leaders.
  5. Dress the part. Do not wait until the day before your interview to find an outfit. Depending on the company, industry & culture of your company (that you will uncover during your research), select an outfit that you feel confident in. We have some great tips for you here from Personal Stylist Michele Roque Tarazi.

Go ahead take the plunge. There’s no way around it, but be smart as you do it. Preparation is the key.

To Your Success,
Anju & Anne-Barbara

p.s. Speaking of interviews, we're loving the new show The Job Interview on CNBC - have you seen it?