Job-seekers over 50 encounter some special challenges. Although age gifts seasoned applicants with a wealth of experience, well-honed skill sets, a mature work ethic, and numerous additional pluses, there are a number of unflattering stereotypes younger employers may be holding against you. And, making things even more difficult, most of these will remain unspoken.
Because age discrimination is illegal, your interviewer will not openly address any unfavorable age-related views they may hold. Nevertheless such ingrained prejudices can render you at a distinct disadvantage. That is... unless you become aware of how you're likely being typecast and take the necessary measures to counteract any hidden age-bias.
Here are some of the thoughts that might be running through your interviewer's mind solely because of your age:
- You don't have the technical chops to do the job
- You won't want to report to a younger boss
- You're tired, slow, and unenthusiastic
- You have age-related health problems and will take frequent sick leave
- You're just putting in time until you retire
In order to be a successful in your job interview, you'll need to meet these stereotypes head-on. Although they'll remain unsaid, such prejudicial considerations are likely to be a deciding factor in your chances for success. I suggest taking a proactive approach.
Make a point of highlighting your technical expertise and substantiating your ability with examples of you performing your work at its best. There's no way around this: if you don't have the necessary technical skills, get them! There are low fee and free tutorials on the Internet. Also check out your local government sponsored One Stop Centers, libraries, community colleges, and other venues where training is offered.
As far as reporting to a younger boss, bring this point up proactively as well. Consider saying something like: "I've reported to younger bosses many times over my career and have never found it to be a problem. I learn from people of all ages and enjoy working in an age-diverse environment."
The final three stereotypes can be addressed through your nonverbal messages. The way you present yourself can be as important as the words you say, and your nonverbal cues need to underscore what you're claiming about yourself. Your goal is to project an aura of confidence, energy, and enthusiasm for the position and what you'll bring to the organization. So remember to stand tall, give a firm handshake, look your interviewer in the eye, open up your body language, and smile. Exuding these types of confident, energetic nonverbal cues will go a long way to banishing any thoughts that you're tired, slow, have health problems, or are just going through the motions until retirement.
Most of all... come from a position of strength. As an older job-seeker, you'll need to be aware of the hidden age-related stereotypes and take the necessary measures to overcome them. Therefore, do not be shy about bringing up the many positive attributes that distinguish you as an applicant of experience and maturity. Speak to your skills, substantiate them with winning examples, present yourself with confidence, and anticipate success!
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 packed with tools to turn age into an advantage--providing mature applicants with techniques to successfully navigate the modern job market as well as strategies that give them the edge over the competition. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!
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