Reverse age discrimination could hurt your chances at an interview. 5 things to consider about the younger worker

Amy, a colleague of mine who looks no older than 30, came to me to tell me of one of her recent meetings with a jobseeker and to give me some advice. In her rapid voice, she told me that she had just met with a mature male worker who treated her as though she were a child. She was outraged and rightfully so.

Hmmm, I thought, here it comes.

Amy is well revered by the staff at our career center and the customers with whom she meets. She knows a great deal about the job search and training, so being disregarded by this man rubbed her the wrong way. We sat and talked about her meeting with him and wondered aloud if this is how he presents himself at interviews to people younger than he. And if he does, what his chances of success in this job market are. Slim to none, we concurred.

Eventually she calmed down.

Her advice to me was to bring up this attitude toward younger interviewers at my Mature Worker workshop. (She told me three times.) I totally agreed with her and immediately made a change to the presentation slide: “Treat younger interviewers like you would like to be treated.” No, better.

We career advisors always come to the defense of mature workers who experience age discrimination; but we don’t talk as much about reverse age discrimination, such as what my Amy experienced. We are reluctant to tell people who are unemployed how the interviewer might feel about their rude behavior. But this is wrong of us.

Think about if you were on the opposite side of the table interviewing people for a position, where personality fit is as important as technical abilities. How would you react if a mature worker looked at you with disdain and without saying it, called you inexperienced and beneath his level? Further, what would you think if you were going to be his immediate supervisor?

Hiring him would not be a marriage made in heaven. You, as the hiring manager, would have to prove yourself to the, albeit highly qualified, candidate on a regular basis. He would question your every decision and tell you how “he” would do things. Any effort you would make to correct his actions or even reprimand him would be met with resistance. You would feel powerless. You’d be crazy to hire him.

Amy and I believe that the large majority of mature workers have a great deal of value to offer employers. They’re knowledgeable in their work and possess life experience that younger workers do not. They want to work and are flexible with their schedule. They’re dependable, able to mentor others, and are great role models. These are but a few qualities of the mature worker.

But there are a few mature workers who think they’re all that or who have a chip on their shoulder. They are convinced that they’ll experience age discrimination at every interview. In other words, they have lost the job before the interview begins.

Susan Jepson, director of the National Senior Network, wrote an article addressing reverse age discrimination practiced by mature workers. She believes that sometimes it’s not intentional, “Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection. Examine your beliefs and assumptions and work hard to be open and communicative with your interviewer, without prejudice of any kind.”

Susan Jepson is a mature worker, so she speaks objectively.

If you happen to be one who intentionally discriminates against younger interviewers, remember that the person sitting across from you deserves as much respect as you do. Also keep in mind that your livelihood might depend on how much they value you as a potential employee. More specifically, remember:

She earned her job. Whether she has less experience on the job than you is irrelevant. Someone in the company determined that she was the most capable to manage a group of people. And yes, they could have been wrong.

Her job is to hire the best person. You are the best person, but if you show contempt or even hint to your superiority, she won’t see your talent through the less-than-desirable attitude you demonstrate.

She will appreciate your points of view. Once assured you’re not after her job, she may see you as a mentor and role model. Younger colleagues like the approval of mature workers. Take it from someone who supervised someone 20 years my senior; her approval meant a lot to me.

She might have some growing to do. And if you want to succeed, you’ll realize that people of all ages have some growing to do, including you. You can help her through this process by building her self-esteem and confidence. It’s a wonderful thing to see someone grow under your tutelage.

Whether you like it or not, she will be your boss. What are your options right now? Enough said.

You may arrive at interviews where age discrimination is blatant due to no fault of yours. This is the time when you are the bigger man/woman and leave with your pride intact, your head held high. The word humility comes to mind, as he who is humble can adapt to more demanding situations than he who is arrogant.

In the end, my colleague Amy told her customer that his behavior was unacceptable and would do him more harm than good; and he apologized, admitting his error. We are never too old to learn valuable lessons.

10 to ways act professionally in the job search

ProfessionalimsMy daughter recently had to defend her position when she was accused of something that she and I felt was unjust. Nonetheless, before she spoke to the principal, I told her to act professionally.

The look on her face was priceless. “How should I act professionally in this situation, Dad?” she asked. Exactly. How do you act professionally in a situation that is less than desirable? The best answer I could give my daughter was, “Do your best. Just do your best.”

This recent event prompted me to think of 10 ways act professionally in the job search:

  1. Treat people with respect. This is simple advice your mother gave you as a child. In your job search you’ll run into a helpful people and people who are…well putzes who think it’s all about them. Treat all of them with respect and work with the ones who treat you with respect.
  2. Resist the urge to only take and not give. The term “Pay it forward'” has real meaning. Create good karma by being a giver, understanding that the help you give others will be returned by someone else. One of my customers, who recently landed a job, was the epitome of a networker because of the leads she doled out like candy.
  3. Act positive. Having been unemployed myself, I understand the emotional ups and downs, as well as the financial burden, that go with being out of work. I’m not telling you to feel positive; I’m telling you to act positive. In other words fake it till you make it. Keep in mind that people feel more inclined to help those who appear positive.
  4. Dress the part. Put on the appearance of a professional by dressing properly, not like you’re heading to the beach. I can spot the jobseekers who aren’t fully into their job search by the way they dress, e.g., they wear tee-shirts instead of button-down shirts; yoga pants instead of dress pants or skirts. First appearances count; they really do.
  5. Be a student of the job search. I’ve witnessed those who understand the norms of the job search and those who don’t. The ones who do, dress appropriately, maintain a positive attitude (despite how they’re feeling inside), and follow proper etiquette. You are part of an organization called the Job Search.
  6. Be dedicated to your job search. I ask my workshop attendees how many hours a week they should dedicate to their job search. The ones who tell me what they think I want to hear say more than 40 hours. That might be a bit extreme, as there are other important things in your life, like family. I say 25-30 hours should suffice. Work smarter, not harder, as they say.
  7. Listen to constructive criticism. It is essential that you don’t get offended when someone critiques your “brilliant” résumé, interview performance, or networking etiquette. People generally want to help you in your job search. You’re not required to take their advice, but listen to what they have to say.
  8. Show up or call on time. In your case, it may be for the interview and appointments you’ve set up to meet with other jobseekers. The rule of never being late still applies. (Worse yet is forgetting entirely about an appointment, of which I’m guilty.) Call ahead if you’re going to be late, though. You might get some forgiveness.
  9. Realize the employer is not your enemy. Here’s the thing, the employer is only trying to hire the best person possible. Many hiring managers, HR, recruiters have been burned by hiring the wrong person—68% have done it at least once. Don’t create an adversary environment between you and the employer; you’ll lose.
  10. Follow up; always follow up. If you had a great meeting with a fellow jobseeker or you were granted an informational interview; always remember to respond with a thank you message and a call to action. Sometimes our meetings don’t warrant further action. Nonetheless, show your gratitude for the time the individual took to help you.

The story of my daughter turned out well–she was not at fault of what she was accused. I was proud of how my daughter handled the situation. She acted professionally and manged to create a positive atmosphere between her and the principal I, on the other hand, might not have done so well.

Don’t be stumped at the interview; ask questions about 3 major areas

 

stumpedHow often have you come to the end of an interview and drawn a blank when it was your time to ask the questions? The interview has proceeded like a pleasant conversation in which you’ve asked questions throughout, but now you’re stumped.

You’ve asked all the questions you can think of.

Hopefully this hasn’t happened too often or not at all. But even the most qualified candidates have a moment of letdown and lose the interview because they were unprepared.

It’s extremely important that you have insightful questions to ask at the end of an interview. It shows your interest in the job and the company, and it shows that you’re prepared, all of which the employer likes to know.

Arrive prepared for the interview. Before the interview write 10-15 questions on a sheet of paper or note cards. If you think you can remember them, simply tuck them in your leather binder for safekeeping. However, you may need assistance when your nerves are rattled and you’ve reached the point of exhaustion, in which case you can ask if you can refer to your written questions. Interviewers will generally allow you to read your answers off your sheet or note cards.

So what types of questions do you want to ask? What is the employer hoping to hear? Not “How much time do I get for lunch?” nor “What are the work hours?” nor “What’s the salary for this position?” In other words, no stupid question that will reflect poorly on you.

I tell my customers to focus on three general areas: the position, the company, and the competition.

1. The position. Don’t ask questions you could find by reading the job description; rather ask questions that demonstrate your advanced knowledge. For example, the ad says you’ll be required to manage a supervisor and 10 employees. You realize that a start-up company might not have the resources to train its supervisors in Lean Six Sigma, and you want to highlight your certificate as a Black Belt.

“I’d be curious to know if the current supervisor is certified in Lean Six Sigma, and if not would your company consider having me give him a basic course in LSS?” The answer is yes to your question, so you follow with another question that could lead to further conversation. “Would you like to talk further about how I can save your company money by training your supervisor?”

This question shows a legitimate concern for quality performance but also demonstrates your willingness to improve the supervisor’s knowledge, your ability to solve problems, and your desire to save the company money. Always ask questions that indicate you’re concerned most with what the company needs, not what you need.

2. The company. Like the questions you’ll ask about the position, research is essential for this area of questioning. Your research should entail more than visiting the company’s website and reading its marketing material—everything written will extol its superior products or services. In addition, talk to people in the company who can give you the good, bad, and ugly of the company.

“I’ve read on your website and spoken with some of the people here who verify that your customer satisfaction rate is very high. Could you tell me if there are issues your customers have that need to be addressed immediately?”

The interviewers are happy to hear that you’re thinking about satisfying customers and indicate there have been some complaints about late shipments.

“In that case, I can assure you that late shipments will dramatically decrease. We may have failed to talk about the role I had at my previous company which had me oversee shiping and create a system that decreased late shipments by 35%, thereby saving the company thousands of dollars in returns. Would you like to talk about how I can help your company improve shipping processes?”

3. The competition. The company has one company that is giving it headaches. It’s a sore topic, but you want to make the interviewers aware that you are coming in with your eyes wide open. Your research has told you that the other company is competing for some market share in the widget product.

“I’m aware of company XYZ’s movement in its widget. What are your concerns, if any, Company XYZ poses in this market? I have ideas of how to market your similar product to your customers. Would you like to hear them?”

After a great conversation, where you’ve answered the interviewers’ questions and asked some of your own,  it’s your turn to ask more questions. Don’t go to the interview unprepared to ask the interviewers illuminating questions of your own. Failing to ask quality questions can mean he difference between getting or not getting the job.

10 first impressions for job-search success

Game of thronesWhen I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones, I was not impressed. I’d heard it was a great show, but the gratuitous violence did more to turn me off than draw me into the most important episode of the series. I haven’t returned to the show since.

I know you’re thinking this is a post about first impressions jobseekers make at interviews, but it’s not. It’s about how important it is to make great first impressions in every aspect of your job search, not just how you shake the interviewer/s hands, maintain eye contact, etc.

Making a positive first impression can come into play before the interview phase, perhaps when you least expect it. I’m imaging a scenario where you’re at your local Starbucks, scoping out a comfortable chair to sit in for a couple of hours, and see the only one available among eight.

As you approach coveted chair, a woman dressed in a tee-shirt, yoga pants, and Asics also has her eyes on the prize. You have two choices; you can beat her to it, or you can offer her the chair, knowing there are plenty of stools at the table along the window, albeit uncomfortable ones. You take the high road and offer her the chair and retreat to one of the stools.

A week later you’re at an interview for a job that’s perfect for you. As you’re making the rounds shaking hands with the interviewers, you notice the woman to whom you offered the chair when you were at Starbucks; and she notices you as the kind woman who gave up that chair.

She’s the VP of marketing and a key decision maker in the hiring process. A couple of traits she desires in the next hire is integrity and selflessness. The interview is off to a great start because you made a great first impression by relinquishing that chair. Little did you know that that act of kindness would pay off in a big way, an act of kindness that had nothing to do with the interview process.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But that’s my nature.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t let my job search dictate how I act every minute of the day.” The point is when you’re in the job search, you’re constantly on. Let’s look at other ways you make a first impression before the interview begins.

  1. The way you dress. When you leave the house during the warm seasons, are you wearing your Red Sox Tee-shirt, baggie shorts, and sneakers without socks? You might want to ditch the Tee-shirt…and everything else. Work casual dress shows you’re serious about your job search. Trust me on this: I know which one of my customers’ job-search stint will be short based on how they dress.
  2. Body language. I tell jobseekers that people–not just employers–can read your body language like a neon sign and will make judgments. People can tell if you’re tense and therefore unapproachable. Alternatively, people sense you’re open and welcome them if you have an open stance and pleasant smile.
  3. Possitive attitude. I see plenty of people who are understandably angry, and they’re not afraid to show it. There are other people who are angry because of their unemployment but don’t display their attitude. Think whether you’re more likely to help others who show a negative attitude or those who come across as friendly. I would never insist that you must feel positive; I’m just saying fake it till you make it.
  4. Effective communications. At a networking event or during a phone conversation, are you demonstrating proper communication skills? Are you listening or just doing all the talking? If you’re doing the latter, it could be a turnoff for those with whom you’re speaking…a possible employer or valuable networking contact. I’m highly sensitive to people who do most of the talking.
  5. Activity. One of the best ways to present a great first impression is by being active in your job search. I’m not talking about being overbearing or obnoxious–I’m talking about due diligence, including sending appropriate e-mails, making telephone calls, attending networking events, calling on recruiters, engaging in daily networking, and whatever you’re capable of doing in a professional manner.
  6. Personal business cards. Nothing says professional and serious about the job search than personal business cards. They’re perfect to bring to networking events, job fairs, informational meetings, or just when you’re out and about. My close LinkedIn connection and branding master explains how business cards brand you.
  7. Your online presence. While it’s a well-known fact that employers are using social media to hire talent–approximately 96% use LinkedIn–it’s also known that they are using social media to “dig up dirt.” So make sure your online presence is clean, that there are no photos of you sloppy drunk in Cancun, that you haven’t used Twitter to blast your previous boss. (If you type “Bob McIntosh” on Twitter, you’ll find my tweets, and I guarantee they are professional in nature.)
  8. Chillax. In the job search you’re so focused on getting your next job that you may come across as too focused and determined. Give yourself a break every once in a while. People can sense those who are desperate.
  9. Follow up. This can’t be stressed enough. When you say you’ll call or email someone or meet that person for coffee, make sure you follow through with your commitment. And be sure you’re on time by the minute. Being late leaves a negative first impression.
  10. Pay it forward. In the above scenario you demonstrate selflessness by offering the other person the chair. It so happened the recipient of the chair was someone on the interview team. Your act of paying it forward worked out nicely, as she appreciated your act of kindness.

The story of you meeting the VP of marketing at Starbucks and offering her the coveted seat ends well; she casts a heavy vote to hire you for the job of your dreams. You still don’t know what you did to earn her vote, but does it really matter as long as you consider being the say you are. The power of first impressions.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with others.

 

BRAVE: 5 letters to remember for the interview

Today in my Interview workshop I went off on a rant about the importance of being a fit in the workplace. It’s not enough to have the job-related skills that allow you to hit the ground running, I told them.

Most of my participants nodded with agreement, while others had to process this point–maybe it never occurred to them, or maybe they were convinced that being able to create code is all they need to do.

Further I told them there’s been a lot of talk from recruiters and hiring managers who reinforce this point. “Really,” the naysayers eyes said. Really.

In an article entitled BRAVE Cultural Framework by George Bradt, the author talks about how employers are looking for job candidates who understand and can demonstrate they’ll fit in with the company.

Employers are looking at: the way people Behave, Relate to others, display their Attitude, express their Values, and the work Environment they create.

As jobseekers, you should keep this framework in mind by remembering the five letters and what they stand for. This is imperative to successfully landing a job where employers are astute enough to realize that overall fit is essential  to a productive workplace.

Remember these five components when you prepare for interviews, as you’ll most likely have to field questions based on the B.R.A.V.E framework.

Behave: This is how you make decisions and/or behave under leadership. Are your decisions the right ones that contribute to a better run business? As individual contributors, do you toe the line, contribute ideas that are implemented, deal well with autonomy or deal equally well with reward and discipline? These are all considerations, and more, that might arise at an interview.

Relate: This is the way you interact with others and create a team environment. You relate to difficult support staff and take appropriate measures to keep everyone on the same page. You understand differences of opinions and methods and work toward a team environment, even with those with whom you disagree.

Attitude: “A big part of this comes through in individual and organizations’ sense of commitment to what they are doing,” the article says. Does the manager promote the proper attitude, make her support staff see the mission of the company or organization? Do the support staff embrace the mission and goals of the organization? This is where someone might be said to have a “bad attitude,” and this could be the mark of death.

Values: As a manager, you must instill values that foster learning, advancement, creativity, autonomy, etc. Staff must hold the same values as the company, or there could be conflict. To understand the values of the company, you must ask the appropriate questions at the interview to uncover them. For example, “How important is creativity to ABC Company?” If you get a blank look, chances are you’re at the wrong interview.

Environment: The article talks about the way people approach the workplace in terms of “formality/informality, preferred office layout, etc,” but it’s really an accumulation of all the aforementioned components, in my opinion. Environment is created by upper and mid management and sustained by the support staff. How one behaves, relates to others, her attitude, and values, are what creates a healthy and efficient work environment, not dress and working hours.

It’s a well-known fact that employers look for three qualities in potential employees. Can they do the job? Will they do the job? And will they fit in? B.R.A.V.E answers the third component, the fit. You must prove that you can work with your support staff, inspire and motivate them to work toward the company’s goals. Likewise, you must show that you are adaptable and can work with any management style. Will you follow the B.R.A.V.E framework? Employers are banking on it.


When the interviewer is doing 100% of the talking

Have you experienced a situation like this at an early-stage interview–you’re excited to be there, a bit nervous expecting the difficult questions to be fired at you, but the interviewer is doing 100% the talking?

Then toward the end of the interview, you ask if he wants to ask you any questions, to which he replies, “No, I read your résumé. We’re good to go.” You’re wondering what the hell happened. You didn’t have the opportunity to sell your skills, experience, and accomplishments.

Some of my customers complain to me about similar scenarios, while others tell me they felt relieved and grateful for not having to talk. Those who felt relieved erroneously believe the interviewers were doing them a huge favor.

Interviewers who do all the talking are not doing you a favor; they’re hogging your precious time. And although you’re nervous at the time, it’s essential that you achieve what you went there for–to sell yourself.

You never want to come across as controlling the interview, but sometimes you have to break in so you can inform the interviewer why you are the right person for the job.

So how do you break into the conversation?

First of all, don’t make assumptions. One assumption might be that it’s an inside hire and the interviewer is just trying to take up time. Another might be that the company is required by law or according to their policy to interview a few candidates. There are a number of reasons why the interviewer is blabbing like a fool, but chances are he’s simply self-absorbed and unaware of his duty.

Know when enough is enough. After the interviewer has rattled on for a number of minutes, it’s time to put a halt to the monolog. There’s a chance the interviewer might get on a roll and sabotage the whole process.

Don’t get belligerent. Saying, “Aren’t you going to ask me questions?” won’t leave a good impression. You’ll come across as rude and trying to control the interview.

Break into the conversation in a seamless manner. “The management around here leaves a lot to be desired,” he is saying. This is your cue to answer one of the most popular questions; what kind of manager do you prefer?

“Where I last worked, management was very good,” you break in. “They were fair, communicative, and had their priorities in order. I’ve worked under many different management styles from hands-off to hands-on. I’ve thrived wherever I’ve worked because I can adapt to all types of styles.”

Later he says, “Our customers are very needy. They require a lot of hand-holding–a real bunch of idiots.”

You counter, “Interacting with difficult customers is one of my fortes. In fact, many of the difficult customers were routed my way because I had a very patient attitude which the customers could sense. I managed to revive many failed customer relations.”

This may put a halt to the interviewer’s loquaciousness, or he may continue to drone on and on. But you can’t give up your efforts of getting yourself heard. The next time you hear a break in his monolog, engage him again by summarizing your job-related skills and accomplishments, declaring you’re the person for the job.

At the end of the interview inform him that you’ll send along an e-mail outlining how you can address many of the problems he was so kind to elaborate on. You may want to ask him if you should forward it to his manager and HR.

The curse of tattoos at interviews

An article by Jeff Haden got me thinking about my daughter’s latest request; a tattoo. Jeff’s article is about a man with a tattoo so intricate and enormous that Jeff could only stare at it, making the man uncomfortable.

Although my daughter’s only 16 and she doesn’t want to cover her whole arm with a tattoo, her request makes me think about the ramifications a tat will have on her career future. Will it be detrimental to her job search? I’m sure it will. She’s waiting for my reply.

Where will she put the tattoo, I ask her. I dunno, she tells me. Great. I don’t normally have to deny her requests, but I feel conflicted. I try to picture a tattoo on her.

Will it be private or public? Will it be tasteful or obnoxious? And how many is she planning to get? If it’s private, tasteful, and only one; I guess I could accept her getting a tat. However, if they’re numerous and on her neck, wrist, and anywhere they’d be seen during an interview or at work; I will definitely have an issue with that.

TattooOne of my customers who formally worked at an upscale salon has tattoos that cover her hands, forearms, and neck. They’re magnificent tattoos like the one Jeff mentions in his article, but the assortment of them makes me wonder how employers would view them, if she were to apply for, say, an office position.

This customer’s tats are so visible and magnificent that they distracted me during my workshops. Particularly during my Interview Techniques workshop when I want to have her stand up so I can tell the group that tattoos like these might not be the right image you want to present at an interview.

And then I want to add in a Sam Kenison rant, “They’re forever. Ah, Ah, Ahhhhh.” But I neither make her stand or express my disapproval of her tats. It’s her life, even if they are forever. I can only wonder why she decorated her body like a Harlem wall covered with graffiti. Maybe if she had a parent who urged her not to get the tattoos, she wouldn’t have marred her body with them.

Among the many aspects of our first impressions, tattoos are one of them. Employers are more forgiven than they were in the past. We know this because many of the people who serve us at restaurants and coffee houses, work with us in offices and outdoors, are displaying them freely and with impunity.

But it makes me wonder if the tattoo-baring employees displayed them so freely when they were interviewed, or did they hide them with long sleeves, turtle neck shirts, and pants that covered their ankles…in the dead of summer? If these folks with tats had the foresight to hide them, they may have dodged a bullet.

What if, for example, a college grad is applying for an accountant position, in the last stages of the interview process, and talking with the VP of say PricewaterhouseCoopers. She’s feeling so confident because she’s been told this interview is a formality, a sign off. It’s in the bag. So she lets her guard down and wears a sleeveless dress, revealing a small, tasteful butterfly tattoo on her shoulder.

Harmless, right?

This is my fear; my daughter will be that young woman at the interview of her life, only to blow it because of a simple tattoo. Only because some conservative guy might be the decision maker and think that this woman is too compulsive; not right for the company image.

All because of a tattoo my daughter got while her friends were encouraging her to “go for it” in New Hampshire at some seedy tattoo parlor. The image of her walking out of the parlor sporting a tat on her wrist, looking at her friends for approval, showing some doubt on her face; is enough for me to make a decision.

I tell her no to the tats, and she shrugs her shoulders and says fine. I get the feeling she never wanted one and all my worrying was for naught, until she asks for is a nose stud.