When you’ve spent time out of work making the decision to return to work can be a daunting prospect. You may have tackled the demands of being a parent, a 24-hour job – but the office is a different game.

You may be worried that there are younger, cheaper,  ‘more employable’ competitors out there fighting for the same jobs. Someone who’s fresh out of university and up to date on the industry news and trends is unbeatable, right? That’s not technically true.

There are lots of benefits that come with age and experience that could give you the upper hand over a recent graduate. Keep reading for some tips to ensure you have the upper hand and can show your best hand throughout the recruitment process.

Let your qualities speak or themselves

When you get an interview, you need to be prepared to demonstrate your qualities. What will set you apart from other candidates? Why are you perfect for the job and why should they hire you?

For starters, think about what you’ve got that graduates don’t have. You’ve got previous career experience – even if your past jobs haven’t been similar to the role for which you’re interviewing, you’ll have some relevant transferable  skills. For example you might be able to show experience of working in a team or managing others (if required in the role). Perhaps you’ve even worked in high-pressure situations or regularly tackled problems and found valuable solutions.

All experience matters – from volunteering to motherhood

Likewise, your experience as a mother could prove very valuable. Think about the skills you’ve developed since having a child: juggling multiple tasks, budget management, dealing with stress, time management and so on.

If you want to develop your skillset further to give you the edge over other applicants, you could look into doing some work experience or doing some courses. Lots of companies will offer placements which offer the chance to learn invaluable skills and make new contacts. You can even volunteer. One survey by TimeBank found that when recruiting, 80% of employers value volunteering on a CV while half of those surveyed said their volunteering experience had helped them secure a job. Both options of work experience or volunteering may even lead to a full-time job.

Another way to make yourself more attractive to potential employers is to be able to demonstrate that you’ve kept up your interest and knowledge of the sector in your spare time. Even if it’s just reading a magazine, blog posts by an industry leader or keeping up to date with trade news, it shows passion and dedication.

Freshen up your wardrobe

You also need to be ready physically for a job interview. SimonJersey.com specialises in office clothing such as work blouses and ladies business suits so you’ll look the part. Go easy on the jewellery and perfume – the brooch on your jacket that your eight year old made you may be cute, but it’s probably not appropriate in this situation. Unless you’re interviewing for a position at a fashion-led company, don’t go over the top with trends, either. It’s currently fashionable to wear neon and cropped tops but it’s definitely not a good idea to wear them to a job interview at an accounting firm.

Use the internet to find out more about your employer and potential boss

Also, don’t forget to do your research on the company, the services they offer and the people who work there. Try to find out the names of the specific people who will be interviewing you, if possible, as you’ll be able to find out more about their role by looking them up either on the company website or on LinkedIn. Think about the kind of questions they might ask and prepare mock answers for them in advance. The more research and planning you can do the better, as you’ll feel more prepared and more confident.

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