As if searching for a job didn’t have enough challenges, job seekers of a certain age have a unique set of challenges that make it even tougher to find a job. I will cover some of the obstacles older job seekers face as well as how to tackle them and be seen as a viable candidate. For the sake of the article let’s put our job seeker at age 50 and above.
There are as many reasons why someone over 50 is looking for a job as there are for someone under 50 but that doesn’t seem to favor the older job seeker. They might be coming out of retirement, phasing into retirement and looking for a less demanding role, been laid off, or are simply looking for a new professional opportunity. With the average retirement age now at 67, more workers are staying in the workforce longer therefore increasing the number of job seekers over age 50. The good news is that someone of this age looking for a job is becoming more and more common and is not the rarity it once was. However, there still remains some misconceptions about hiring someone over 50.
Common misconceptions about older workers:
- They may not be able to handle the demands of the job as well as someone younger. Who is to say that a younger employee could handle the specifics of a position? Only the applicant can know whether they can meet the physical requirements of a job and it should not be decided on age alone.
- Older = experienced = higher salary. Many higher managers are afraid that an older candidate would require a higher rate of pay than a younger worker. However, this may not necessarily be the case with someone who is looking to come out of retirement or scale back their career.
- They are not as current with today’s technology and have a hard time picking up new technological advances. Regardless of age, not everyone is proficient at every skill. If this is the case for you make an effort to get yourself familiar with technology.
- They will not stick around long if they are hired so why bother. It is no longer common for someone to be hired and retire from the same company; if anything younger job seekers are more likely to search out the next career opportunity.
- They will not be able to be managed, especially if they were in management themselves. Hiring managers may have a hard time understanding why you want to go from being the boss to working for the boss but many older workers are more than ready to step back and assume a less demanding role.
If a mature job seeker feels that their age has been holding them back in their job search there are some things they can do to increase their chance of success:
- Do not give any indication of your age on your resume. Remove all dates from your education (this is a good rule for all job seekers) and limit your career history to the last fifteen years. Do not use phrases such as “30+ years of experience” and avoid words including: mature, seasoned, or senior. Anything that hints of your age on your resume will influence the hiring manager’s perception of you.
- If you have gray hair, an outdated hairstyle, old-fashioned attire, or yellow teeth consider a makeover. These are all relatively easy fixes and while they may seem superficial they unfortunately can unfairly stand in the way of getting a job. So update your hairstyle, invest in a new interview suit and grab a box of white strips.
- Spend some time learning the difference between Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. These social media sites have become standard in business. Showing that you are up on the latest trends can increase your value in the eyes of a hiring manager.
Fortunately the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was developed to assist job seekers by addressing and prohibiting certain age related practices. (You can read the entire text here.) Unfortunately not all age discrimination is obvious and you may not even be aware that it is occurring. By addressing the challenges that I wrote about above you can reduce the chances of your age being a factor in your job search.
by Megan Koehler