Older workers, you have solid advantages when it comes time to find a job (years of amazing experience), but it can also be a challenge—especially if you haven’t had to interview for a job in a very long time.
“It is a very different landscape than it was even 10 years ago, and for many in that demographic, it has been longer than 10 years,” says Regina Rear-Connor, a New York–based talent acquisition leader and consultant. “The key is to make sure that you are presenting yourself for todays market. There are those who think finding a job is the same as it was in the 1980s.”
With 55% of workers saying they plan to work past age 65, according to a Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey, that’s all the more reason to keep your job interviews fresh so you can keep striving for new career goals in your 50s and beyond.
“How have you kept your skills fresh?”
Don’t take this question as a personal attack — use it as an opportunity to showcase your skills. “You have to launch into marketing mode and really sell yourself,” says Susan P. Joyce, an online job search specialist and editor of Job-Hunt.org.
Point to specific things you’ve done to keep your skills current, says Marc Miller, co-author of Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers. This might include taking online courses, obtaining certifications, subscribing to e-newsletters, following industry leaders on social media, attending conferences and networking events, or volunteering.
“What year did you graduate from college?”
Some hiring managers try to ascertain your age indirectly by asking about educational milestones. Although that question isn’t illegal under the ADEA, you may want to answer it without revealing any details.
Try to focus the discussion on your education, not your era. “As you can see on my resume, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree with academic honors. Would you like to hear more about my studies?”
#2) Address the Elephant in the Room
Let’s say you walk into the interview room and can immediately tell that the interviewer is surprised by how old you are.
The worst thing you can do is ignore it. The second worst thing you can do is overcompensate through talking about how “active” and “energetic” you are (cringe-worthy and ineffective).
I suggest a third option: addressing it. On your terms. Via an answer or two that you’ve thoroughly practiced beforehand.
Here are some examples:
Admit Your Age: “I just turned 51 in July. I’ve spent X years gaining expertise in this industry, with Y years spent doing exactly what this job requires. I know what it’s like to struggle with HIGHLIGHT PAIN POINT #1, and can address it using the following KEY EXPERIENCE STORY. A big benefit of my experience is that I’ve made every possible mistake under the sun, and come through every time. I don’t scare easily. And I can offer a depth of experience, and level of agility in bouncing back from mistakes, that can really make a difference here.”
Empathize with Their Concerns: “If I was sitting in your chair looking at me, I’d probably have a bunch of age-related questions that I wanted to ask, but couldn’t. So let me offer some answers without being asked. Here’s how my experience will enable me to successfully navigate the current crisis with ISSUE X. Here’s why you won’t have to hire someone new in this role after a year or two (OUTLINE VISION FOR HOW YOU WISH TO CONTRIBUTE). Here’s how I can lead, and contribute, from a place of openness and collaboration, not ego (OFFER CAREER EXAMPLE).
Do this right, and fears of ageism will be replaced by:
–More interviews with quality companies.
-Initial interviews that are less about establishing credibility and more about job specifics (exactly what you want).
-Being perceived as a leader with a unique POV, who is unafraid to ask the hard questions.
Your experience is priceless. Don’t let the non-believers run the show!
Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the “normal rules” of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at HelloAnish.com, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.