If you're a job-seeker in your 50s or 60s, you're already well aware that you face a number of age-related roadblocks to landing your next position. One of the biggest is successfully navigating the interview with a younger hiring manager. Assumptions on both sides of the generation gap can cause problems. However you can prevail!
There are three formidable (but largely unspoken) objections driven by your age alone. Nevertheless, if you approach the interview process with the understanding that you'll need to address these negative stereotypes head on, you can not only win over the younger interviewer, you might even become their candidate of choice.
Objection #1: You're old, tired and just marking time until retirement. You won't want to put in the hours or the effort to become a contributing team member and you especially won't want to report to a younger boss.
There's no way around this one. You have to show enthusiasm for the job, the organization and the ways you can contribute. Prepare a list of reasons why you want to work for this company specifically and suggest several actions you can and will take to add value. Augment these ideas by providing examples of when you've produced measurable results in the past: saved time, increased revenue, streamlined procedures and the like.
To dispel any fears that you won't want to take direction from a younger manager, proactively bring up the fact that you've reported to younger bosses many times (if this is true for you) and it was never a problem. You enjoy learning from people of all ages and you thrive in diverse environments.
And don't forget to watch your nonverbal messages! Demonstrate your enthusiasm through your facial expressions, the way you hold yourself, the energy in your voice and your overall appearance.
Objection #2: Your skills are outdated. You're stuck in your ways, inflexible and not open to learning new methods for going about your work.
To be successful, address this stereotype from a position of strength. A perceived lack of technical expertise is the #1 roadblock mature applicants face. Make your interviewer aware of the fact that you enjoy learning new skills and are known as a quick study. Refer to several instances when your boss and/or coworkers complimented you on your technical skills. For additional ways to proactively state your commitment to lifelong learning, check out "The Simple Phrase That Packs a Wallop!" By enthusiastically stressing your dedication to ongoing professional development, you should be able to turn this stereotype around.
In addition to your technical abilities, highlight your penchant for flexibility and your demonstrated flair for innovation. Give examples of how you've overcome challenges by taking a fresh approach to a situation or how your innovative thinking skills solved a major problem. Today's workplace is all about change and you'll need to show you're on top of your game.
Objection #3: You're overqualified and won't last at the job.
Younger interviewers might actually bring up this objection during the interview. Make certain you have a ready answer. If you do hear this statement, it may be that one or more members of the interviewing team is feeling threatened by you. They've already reviewed your skills and experience as stated on your resume, so this openly declared resistance is more likely a reflection on them than it is on you.
Above all, make your responses positive. You can start by saying something like, "At this time in my career, I've found that I enjoy taking a hands on approach to the work myself rather than merely managing a team." Or you might respond with, "This will be a new opportunity for me and, with my years of experience, I know I can hit the ground running. I believe my background will add value to your team, so I'm excited to be able to contribute and support the goals of the department."
Although you don't want to downplay your credentials, you'll want to let the hiring manager know your ultimate objective is to make them look good. Also assure him or her that you hope to make a difference by sharing your skills and experience to mentor younger coworkers should the need arise.
Nothing can guarantee interview success -- especially when you're dealing with a much younger hiring manager. But, by keeping these three objections in mind and creating strategies to overcome them, you just might win the interviewer over to your side. As an applicant of maturity, you can and should boast that you'll be able to bring a unique combination of experience and energy to the job. And both sides of the generation gap can feel good about that!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in February 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!