Interview Preparation 101 for the over fifties

Common questions that are not just small talk!

Preparing for an interview is crucial if you want to give your best. And whilst there is no way of knowing for sure what you’ll be asked, at Jobs50+ we know that there are some common questions which come up time and time again. Here’s what we think:

Interview Preparation 101

Tell me a little bit about you 

Often one of the opening questions. Deceptively simple, it’s surprisingly easy to get it wrong because it’s a little vague.

What the interviewer is doing here, is trying get to know you on a personal level. Remember it’s part of the interview not just some small talk, so your response should give insight into your personality whilst remaining linked to the role. This way you can make it super obvious that you’re the type of person they would like to have in the team.  

Stick to a few minutes, just to give a brief overview of education, interest in the field, work history and experience. If the interviewer wants more info, they’ll ask you, so keep it light. 


Top Tip! You can actually use the answer as the basis to deal with other questions too! If asked ‘What attracted you to the job?’ or ‘Give me a brief history of you’ or even ‘Why do you want the job?’, you can still give a brief summary of your personality, education, interest in the field, work history and experience. Just make sure it’s a little more focused on and relevant to the role you’re interviewing for.


Top Tip! Thoroughly read the job description as this is what you are matching against. Take your opportunities to show that you have read all information available and then explain how you match what they are looking for. 


What are your strengths / weaknesses?


First up, be honest. If you have areas of development don’t be afraid to talk about them. The important point here is that you then discuss what you have done or are doing to help yourself. Being perceptive and strong enough to see and share your weakness is a positive thing because it shows that you have proactively sought develop – and more importantly that you have even more to give.

Surprisingly, we’re often a little embarrassed to shout about our strengths, but now is your time! Ask friends and family and previous managers what your strengths are as we’re often blind to them. If you’ve had a performance appraisal, dig it out and remind yourself about what it said.  


Why should you get this job?


You may feel a bit awkward having to sell yourself, but this is your time to shine! Don’t feel shy about demonstrating exactly why you’re the person for the job. 

Talk about why you want the job, and how your personality and skills and work experience make you a perfect fit. Time spent reading the Job Description will be invaluable here.

Show that you’ve done your prep, read the Job Description, listened throughout the interview and taken in all the info. You could say something like – ‘From reading the Job Description and looking at your company website I believe that you’re looking for someone that can do A, B, C. I believe that I have demonstrated that my work experience and skills are very closely matched to this.’ Give a quick recap of your key skills, knowledge and attitude that you have and that are required to be successful in the role.


What are your salary expectations?


Forearmed is forewarned! Try to find out the salary or hourly rate as part of the process before you’re selected for interview. This way you’ll have a better idea of the level they are looking for and whether you match it. 


If this is a first round interview, giving a salary range or your current salary should be fine. This is not the time to start negotiating!


When completing your preparations for the interview, always have this question in the back of your mind.

Have a look at the average salary for someone in this industry, area, and who possesses similar skills to yourself, and you should get a basic idea.

But remember: this is only the first interview. You haven’t been offered the job. There’s no need at this stage to be try and begin negotiations. Giving a broad salary range will usually be enough to move on, but be prepared to back it up if you need to.

Just don’t be tempted to sell yourself short. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our average salary checker.


Right answer: A broad (but realistic) answer e.g. ‘I‘m looking for a starting salary somewhere between £25,000 and £30,000’


Wrong answer: ‘I’m not sure. How much are you on?’

Should I ask about salary at my interview?


Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?


Ah, the perennial job interview favourite.

What the interviewer really wants is to see that you’ve thought about your future, and gauge your ambition. They also want to verify that this isn’t just a stop gap position.

Although all of your answers should be tailored to the organisation and position you’ve applied for, this is especially the case with this question. If you’re going for an entry level position, for example, explain how you’d like your career to progress (e.g. ‘I’d like to progress to a Senior Software Engineer’ or ‘I see myself being a team leader…’).

If you’re going for a more senior position, explain how you’d be looking to move the company forward. Have a look at their business strategy or corporate objectives before the interview, and explain how you can help in achieving them.


Right answer: Be passionate about the industry. Fit your career goals around the organisation’s objectives, demonstrate ambition and exploit your strengths


Wrong answer: ‘On the other side of this desk’


Do you have any questions?


Right answer: ‘Yes’. No exceptions. To give you an idea of what questions you could ask, have a look at our list of Interview questions you should be asking.


Wrong answer: ‘No’


Other potential questions could include…


Why did you leave your previous position?


Right answer: Avoid the temptation to criticise your employer. Stay positive, but try not to lie. Always avoid saying that you’re simply looking for a new challenge if you can’t back it up, because the recruiter will dig deeper. If all else fails, explaining that there were no opportunities for career progression sounds a lot better.


Why is there a gap in your work history?


Right answer: Wherever possible, be honest. If it was for personal reasons, then say that. Otherwise, something along the lines of ‘taking a break whilst looking for a new career direction’ should be enough to move the interview along.

How to: Explain a gap in your CV


Why did you apply for this position?


Right answer: Very similar answer to why you want the job, but focus more heavily on why the position and company excite you, rather than why you should excite them. Demonstrate what you know about the company (and use the job description to back up why you’re the right person to do the job).


What’s your dream job?


Right answer: You can be relatively honest here, but use your common sense. Because it’s unlikely anyone one grew up dreaming of the day they’d become a Transaction Banking Systems Migration Specialist.

Five career goal questions 


How to answer interview questions 


Whatever your answers are, don’t be tempted to improvise or answer on the spur of the moment. It’ll never come out as well as you’d hoped.

It doesn’t need to be scripted, but knowing why you want the job and what your strengths and weaknesses are should be a standard part of your preparation process and just as important as your pre-interview research.

It’s also essential to consider that you’ll not just be judged on your CV. Getting across your personality is of equal importance. In other words, don’t just think about your answers, but think about what they say about you.

Ultimately, you need to be likeable and display the parts of your personality that will make you attractive to prospective employers (engaging, dedicated, hard working etc). Entering a competitive interview, with the right mindset can really set you apart.

Finally, to avoid any awkward silences, never assume that the hiring manager has a sense of humour.

Just in case…