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.
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 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.
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?
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