Age discrimination exists – it’s illegal, and it’s regrettable. Sadly, employers miss out on many highly qualified candidates if they consider age as a factor in the hiring decision.
The good news is there are tactics older workers can use to compete effectively for jobs. Remember, the job interview is an opportunity for the employer to not only meet you and get a sense of your technical abilities, but also whether you fit the competencies (i.e., “soft skills”) required to do the position.
And if you hear post-interview feedback such as, “We don’t think you can keep up with the fast pace," age may be creeping in as a factor. I’ve seen several job seekers from the over-40 set turned down for positions for that reason – but I've also seen it happen to recent college graduates who didn’t convey the sense of urgency or excitement that interviewers wanted to see.
You've got the skills, and you've got the experience. Here are some tips you can use to overcome age discrimination and demonstrate your true value to an employer.
ACING THE JOB INTERVIEW
Your job in the interview is to sell yourself. You need to prepare – and be aware of – how you project yourself.
Record and review a practice interview on video. This way, you can see for yourself how you come across, and you can have someone critique your practice interview with total honesty. Do you convey tangible energy that employers want to see? Do you smile enough? Do you ask impactful questions during the interview? Does your body language show that you're fully engaged in the interview?
Prepare your interview answers. Employers want to see examples from your prior work experience which demonstrate how you will deal with situations in the future. You can prepare your answers in such a way that they show your ability to add value over less experienced candidates.
Prepare concrete examples from your work history of how you dealt with tight deadlines, adapted to fast-moving work environments, and successfully brought programs to conclusion. Some sample questions you might be asked:
- How did you meet that impossible deadline? (Demonstrates quick reaction time)
- How did you rally your coworkers around meeting a time-sensitive task? (Demonstrates team-building and leadership abilities)
- How have you dealt with balancing a heavy work load? (Demonstrates energy and planning skills)
- How did you train and develop your team to be successful? (Demonstrates leadership and succession planning)
Review your wardrobe. Does your outfit reflect current fashion trends, or does it need updating? A modern suit can do wonders in helping make a great first impression.
OPTIMIZING YOUR RESUME
Your primary task with the resume is to have an employer spend more time focusing on the value you've added lately, and less on your age.
Focus on the past 15 to 20 years. Don’t list jobs from any further back than you need to.
Don’t give too many “tells” of your age on the resume. Examples of these include the year you started your first job, or the year you graduated college.
Include as many recent professional successes as will reasonably fit. Show that you're continuing to make an impact and add value to your organization
Check for – and remove, if possible – clues which may make you look older. For example, if you list a skill it should be because you've been working in it recently as an important part of your career. An example of this is COBOL – it's an older programming language, and it still exists in some corners on older computer systems; if you've been using COBOL the last few years and think you can get a job writing code in it, by all means include it. Otherwise it could be considered old and may adversely date both you and your skills.
Pile on the latest technology or business strategies you've been using. If it's current, in demand, and you're an expert, include it. Examples - cloud solutions, talent management, SAAS, etc. are all hot and current terms.
Lastly, if you're an older worker and would like to learn more strategies about how to succeed in the job hunt, here's an additional resource for your review, a webinar on this very topic I presented last year in partnership with Boston University: https://youtu.be/igIWEBIRYow.
(Special thanks to Jeffrey Murphy, Associate Director of Career Programs with Boston University's department of Development & Alumni Relations).
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at email@example.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.