Older workers benefitted the most from employment gains over the past two years, according to a study released Monday by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Job seekers 55 and older accounted for nearly 70 percent of the total employment growth since January 2010, according to the study, based on analysis of Bureau of Labor statistics.
What accounts for this trend? Employers are choosing candidates who will require less training and who can add value to the company immediately, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. With budgets tight, skills and experience are in demand.
"Companies when they're trying to maximize productivity and cut their amount of downtime when they bring someone new on they are turning to these older workers -- no training required," said Challenger.
That doesn't necessarily mean those workers can count on a raise, Challenger said. But it's important to consider other benefits companies may offer which may have cash value -- such as health benefits -- or simply quality-of-life perks, such as generous vacation time or telecommuting options. "Don't overlook these pluses," he said.
The findings are surprising given the rise in long-term unemployment among older workers: 36 percent of unemployed workers 55 and older have been out of work for more than a year, up from 23 percent in 2007. Challenger said the
paradox is due to an increasingly polarized pool of older job seekers. On one end of the spectrum are employees with valuable experience and in-demand job skills -- mostly managers and executives; at the other are people who are unemployed and become less and less desirable the longer they're out of the workforce.
So how can older workers capitalize on the demand for experience? "Focus on concrete examples rather than hypotheticals" in the interview, Challenger said, with an emphasis on your last 10 years of experience. Explain what you've achieved for previous employers and how you can apply that to the new firm's goals. It's that "real-world know-how" employers are looking for, Challenger said.
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