Interview Tips for Older Workers

by Krantcents · 31 comments

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Older workers unite and get ready to interview!  Suddenly, you are the oldest person in the room!  What do you do?  How do you turn a negative into a positive?  No one can legally ask your age, but a skilled interviewer can figure it out in a matter of minutes.  What they do with that information will either work for you or against you.  How will you handle your interview?

I was an older (65 years old) worker interviewing for a position as recently as August, 2012.  I was lucky, I had a job, but I was interviewing for a different position.  Age discrimination is alive and well!  The people I interviewed with were younger than me and I could not hide my age.  They had my records and knew my age.  Despite that, I was hired!  Did I do something special or different?  Some of you may dismiss it because it was an internal job interview.  This was not the first time I interviewed as an older worker.

The ideal age for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is late forties.  You have just enough, but not too much experience.  As you add a few years to that perfect age, you become less attractive.  Companies start to think if you may not fit in with younger executives, employees and a youth oriented culture.  In the TV and movie business, older writers are not routinely hired because they cannot relate to the key audience which is the 18-34 year olds.  I remember submitting my resume for a job that received 4,000 resumes.  I was one of fifteen candidates that were interviewed.  What made me stand out?

What can you do?

Before I tell you what I did, I believe the best way to get an interview is to network.  Networking takes time and effort and you still need to do other things!  Job search means doing a lot of things.  You have to attack job search the same way you would a job.  You should spend forty to fifty hours week on job search including networking.  Job leads come from friends, colleagues, coworkers, former bosses etc.  What do you do while the leads are not coming?  You scour the internet, newspaper, agencies etc and submit resumes.

Part of your search is to develop job opportunities.  I remember my mother going into a store and offering her sales experience for free.  It was her way of putting herself out there to get a job as an older worker.  Of course they hired her because she worked like two people.  She was in her sixties!  Volunteering is a great way of putting yourself out there.  It can be a non- profit or (free) consulting.  Be creative!  Remember, you need to sell yourself, if you want a job.  Whether you are in your twenties or sixty something, you need to sell your skills.

Change your resume!

As you get older, there is no rule that says you have to list all your years of experience.  It does not take a math wizard to figure out how old you are when you list forty (40) years of experience.  So adjust your resume to show the last fifteen years of experience or create a functional resume.  Be careful though, a functional resume looks like you are trying to hide gaps in your resume or your age.  I would use a combination of chronological and functional resume.  Either way, I would still stop at approximately fifteen years.

In addition to limiting your years of experience, I would emphasize accomplishment s.  This is true no matter what your age.  Older workers should be emphasizing solutions and problem solving.  Remember, interview questions usually come from your resume.  What skills do you want to emphasize?  Emphasize your ability to work with workers of all ages and skills.  Don’t hit them over the head, but include it when appropriate.  Of course your resume should fit the job description.  Technology has made it very easy to personalize your resume for every job.

Ageist interviews

Expect to be the oldest person in the room!  There is always discrimination against older people because the other person thinks he/she does not relate to them.  The interviewer will probably be younger, less experienced and not as good as they should be.  I often schooled the interviewer in how to interview.  I am pretty good at leading them down the path that showcases my skills and experience.  The only other thing left is making the connection.  In other words, show your personality traits.  If you cannot connect on some level, you probably will not get an offer.  Take a look around the office and find something or listen to the interviewer for clues.

Break Stereotypes!

Break all the stereotypes!  Old people do not have energy or cannot learn new (technology) things.  Many young people feel old people are resistant to change or cannot work with younger people.  Many people are concerned that an older worker will leave or retire.  Why should a company make an investment in an older worker?  This becomes a significant question, if you are accepting a lower salary.  You resume needs to address as many of these stereotypes you can without looking defensive.

Interview scheduled, now what?

You are one of the lucky ones whether you are one of the few resumes they picked to interview or your boss gave you a lead.  You still need to overcome these stereotypes and bias against older workers.  How do you do it?  You should do your homework before the interview, but you have to think on your feet!  You have to emphasize your skills and experience in this new “younger” environment.  You have to make the interviewer comfortable that you will become an asset in the company and you can work with younger workers.  Market you age as an asset that will help the other employees.  Recall your experience in similar situations where you were successful.

How do you make yourself the right choice?  Talk about your successes and how you lead your peers or colleagues.  Sometimes it is as simple as being a role model or you outwork younger employees thanks to your particular experience or skills.  Sell your best skills, but listen for cues from the interviewer.  When the interview is over, have questions to show he/she that you are sincerely interested.  The right questions can make you a solid choice!  Don’t forget to write a thank you not and don’t be afraid to follow-up.  Don’t do it out of desperation, but as an opportunity to reemphasize your skills and experience.

Final thoughts

Older workers are discriminated, but you can overcome this prejudice!  You have to understand that there are stereotypes of older workers out there and you just have to show you are not one of them.  Use your skills and experience to show you can do the job and relate to younger workers.  Use your personality to connect with the interviewer and age is not an issue.  Many organizations, particularly young ones want some older workers to work there to add stability and gravitas.  What are you going to do?  Are you just going to let your age stop you from that great opportunity or are you one of those older workers who cannot?

Photo by:  pedrosimoes7

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{ 26 comments }

Greg@ClubThrifty January 15, 2013 at 4:52 am

Really good tips! Luckily, I’m not at that age yet, but it won’t be too long before I am there. Regardless, there are some good tips here for any job seeker.

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 7:02 am

Thanks, Whether you are an older worker or not, Stress your strengths!

Sean @ One Smart Dollar January 15, 2013 at 7:31 am

I think one of the biggest problems is that people won’t hire someone older because they can hire someone with not as much experience and pay them less. It’s sad but true.

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 9:50 am

I agree to some extent! When I was looking for a CFO position, the ideal age is late forties. Bias is out there at many ages. When you are putting together a team, you want diverse experience and maturity to create an effective team. You can determine if a candidate is short term by asking where they see themselves in 5-10 years. It is definitely harder for older workers to find work because of these biases. Whether you are over 60 years old or younger, you must stress what you can do for the company to get hired.

Money Beagle January 15, 2013 at 7:43 am

For a few years at the start of my career, I was always the youngest person on a team, and that presented challenges. At the time, I never would have thought about things like this being that it was ‘so far away’. Now, I’m almost 20 years into my career, and by far I’m rarely the youngest though I’m also not the oldest. However I can now see things from a different set of eyes, and even looking ahead, I’m not really all that excited about having to face this, probably starting in a dozen years or so.

I think when you get into your 60′s, one thing employers might factor in (even sub-conciously) is that the potential employee could be heading toward retirement soon in which case they’re not going to want to hire someone that they fear might retire in a year or two. This probably can’t be brought up in the interview process as it would lead to agism lawsuits, which could leave it on the shoulders of the interviewee to somehow work that in to provide some level of assurance. I wonder how you might address this.

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

I think you describe one of the biggest problems older workers face. The interviewer can ask where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? Most candidates will reveal their intentions. There are many people over 60 who have no intention of retiring.

John S @ Frugal Rules January 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

Great tips! I was speaking with my Dad about this very topic a few weeks back. Unfortunately his attitude has soured and he has become indignant. I think networking is key just like at any age as it often comes down to who you know. I can also see how showcasing your skills and adaptability would be a huge boost as well. I agree that there is ageism out there, but think there are some ways to try and get around it.

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

Even as an old person, I have biases against other old people. Understanding this, I would expect older people to sell their strengths and skills. Not all old people are ready to retire or technologically illiterate. I would want a mix of people on my team with varied experience and ages because it is needed to be effective.

Kathleen, Frugal Portland January 15, 2013 at 10:29 am

These are great tips, Larry — I have not seen age discrimination before, but I am sure it’s real.

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

It is one of the most subtle biases out there. Most older workers are rejected because of too much experience and that is code for too old.

The Happy Homeowner January 15, 2013 at 10:48 am

Great post– I agree about the networking part; you can never, ever underestimate the power of doing so!

And stressing your strengths/turning the interview around in a way that highlights what you can bring to the table is crucial–I do the same in any interview as much as possible, and I’ve definitely surprised a few people!

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I t really doesn’t matter what your age, these tips work for everyone.

AverageJoe January 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I used to think that the “older worker” bias was overblown baloney. As an employer, I preferred older workers. They knew what they were at work to do and generally needed less training. However, the older I get, the more I see it around me. Great tips here!

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Thanks, the bias generally appears when someone says you have too much experience. It is code for the employer does not want to pay for that experience.

My Financial Independence Journey January 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm

My experience has been that younger workers are discriminated against. Almost every job out there has some extensive list of experience requirements that seem to be impossible to accrue unless you’ve been working in the industry. Which you can’t do because you don’t have the experience to get the job.

I feel very fortunate that my current company took a chance on me. But I’m the youngest one there by maybe a decade.

Maybe age discrimination really just depends on the industry.

Krantcents January 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I think there is age discrimination everywhere in the name of experience. I am highlighting how to handle it as an older worker. I just read an article about how new nursing graduates are having a hard time getting jobs because of lack of experience.. It is incredible because there is a shortage of nurses. Whether you are young without experience or old and too much experience, you have to market yourself.

Mike Collins January 16, 2013 at 5:02 am

Great tips Larry. My brother-in-law lost his job last year when his company closed their facility in NJ and he was about 55 at the time. He was lucky in that he found work in about 5 months though at a slight pay cut from what he had been earning.

My brother-in-law is very active and full of energy but even he said he could feel some of the younger people interviewing him were doubting him because of his age.

Krantcents January 16, 2013 at 6:54 am

As you get older the people who interview you are younger which multiplies the bias. Whether it is an older person or younger person without experience, you have to market your skills.

Joe @ Retire By 40 January 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

It’s great to hear things from your perspective. Most bloggers are younger and we all have a lot to learn from you. I was the older person in my team before I left and I didn’t like it. I’ll have to adjust to being older.

Krantcents January 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Thanks, if you ever return to the business world, you will have to market your unique set of skills. Younger people do not realize the value of older workers. Their experience fills in the holes for the inexperienced no matter how brilliant the younger ones are. Most young hot shot high tech companies always hire the experienced CEOs to get them to the next level.

my name is January 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I was laid off in 2011 after 17 years with company A. I was nervous. At the time I was 63 years old. I had a new job with in a week thanks to networking. That was company B.

As it turns out, company B was not a good fit. So I gave notice without having another job lined up. It was scary, I had never voluntarily left a job without having something else lined up. People asked me what I was going to do. I said: “Something will turn up, it always does.”

Doing all the things to look for a job, I went on many interviews. I was unemployed for six weeks. One job on Craigs List sounded good. I went on the interview at company C. I was offered a job which I accepted. I am still there. I am currently 64.

I am the oldest person in the company. I don’t mind. Having a job is generally a good thing.

I will retire eventually. But for now, I am happy to be working.

So if you are older, like I, don’t give up. Just keep on looking. Smile in the interview a lot. Most importantly, enthusiasm helps.

Krantcents January 20, 2013 at 9:22 am

Thank you for your comment and congratulations on the new job. Although I have experienced this in the past, I am a teacher and have been for the last 12 years. The take away from my article is we all have to market ourselves in a very difficult employment market. Marketing your skills if you are an older worker requires just a little more just to get an equal chance.

Untemplater January 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I’m glad you were hired! It’s sad that there is still discrimination in the hiring process. You list out a lot of great tips here and I hope more hiring teams overcome stereotypes. Nice job encouraging more people to overcome prejudices and not let age hold them back.

Krantcents January 22, 2013 at 6:55 am

Thanks, whether it is age discrimination or something else, everyone should make sure they market themselves in interviews.

Max Z. Tucker February 3, 2013 at 2:21 am

What options are there for those potential employees considered “old” by hiring managers and companies? How can you address the perception that older workers are not as capable or as qualified as younger counterparts?

Krantcents February 3, 2013 at 8:12 am

I don’t know if I can address it as much as the candidate. The key is to adjust your resume so you will be called for an interview. Older candidates have to do what all candidates have to do which is sell their skills. It is more of a uphill battle with older workers though. They not only have to sell their skills, but connect with much younger managers. They additionally have to show they can connect and get along with other younger employees too. This is by no means easy to convince the hiring manager and overcome prejudice. Younger people think older workers do not adapt well, slower to learn new things and technologically behind the times. Add lower energy, old fashioned and probably will not work as long. You have to sell stability, judgment and experience.

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