One of my clients told me recently that the mock interview I conducted with her was the best experience she’s had preparing for interviews to date. This was after a session where I reviewed her performance with constructive criticism, at times brutal honesty.
I understood my client’s sentiment, because I also think a mock interview is extremely effective, if done correctly. I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews over the course of my tenure at the urban career center for which I work.
You don’t have to be a career advisor in order to conduct a mock interview. You can be a friend or relative. But to successfully conduct a mock interview, you must cover the following four components.
1. Keep the interview itself short
The length of the mock interview should be no longer than 45 minutes; you’ll want to give yourself time to play back the recorded interview. The playback gives the client and you the opportunity to address the strengths and weaknesses of her performance.
2. The mock interview should be filmed and played back
If possible, you should should film the mock interview with a digital camera. The old saying the camera never lies is true. Not only is it important for your client to hear the content of her answers and the tone and inflection of her voice; she also needs to see her body language and other nuances.
Your client, and you, may forget the answers she gives. Filming the interview allows both of you to hear her answers again. You can comment on her answers intelligently and accurately. For example, “Your answer to this question asking why you left your most recent position is a bit too long,” you may comment. “And refrain from blaming your supervisor if possible.”
Usually I don’t have the time to get through the entire playback, but this is fine. I ask participants to bring a thumb drive with them so they can review their mock interview at a later date.
3. Clients must take the mock interview seriously
Be sure to make this clear before a few days of the mock interview. Tell your client that it will be treated as a legitimate interview. Setting this expectation will ensure that the atmosphere will be professional.
This begins with something as simple as dressing the part. I can tell when a client is serious about his mock interview by the way he dresses. If he comes dressed to the nines, this is a good sign. On the other hand, if he comes dressed in a tee-shirt and shorts, this is a turnoff.
Your client must be an active participant. I will ask for my client’s input during the playback of the mock interview. This is his opportunity to comment on the content of his answers, as well as his body language. As the interviewer, you don’t want to give all the feedback. It’s important that the participant does some self-critique.
4. You must also take the mock interview seriously
This means being prepared. If I show up for a mock interview unprepared, it doesn’t go as well; and I sense that my client knows this. I might ask canned questions.
The questions must be challenging, without embarrassing your client. It’s also important to come across as friendly in order to put her at ease. On the other hand, if you know your client will encounter stress interviews, make the mock interview stressful. Generally speaking, the mock interview must build confidence, not demean your client.
At times you might experience resistance from your client. Hold your ground. She doesn’t need to agree with everything you say; and you might want to preface this at the beginning of the critique. Keep in mind that she will know more about her occupation, but you know more about the interview process. However, if you are unprepared, your authority goes out the window.
5. Ask challenging question
As mentioned above, when conducting a mock interview, make the questions challenging. Ask questions that 1) determine the interviewee’s self-awareness, 2) her understanding of the position, 3) her knowledge of the company, 4) and even her take on the competition.
Focus on the job description she’s provided and ask questions like, “Tell me about a time when you managed a team of more than 5 people. How did that work out.” This will require her to come up with a thoughtful story using the Situation-Task-Actions-Result formula.
Even though behavioral-based questions take longer to answer, they reveal many more skills than you ask about. To determine if the interviewee demonstrates self-awareness, ask questions that require a negative result, such as, “Tell me about a time when you led a project that didn’t go well.” Will she blame others or take ownership of her faults?
Mock interviews can be the most valuable job-search tool for a candidate. I encourage my clients to participate in them as much as possible. Many express discomfort at the idea of being asked questions, let alone being filmed. When you have the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with a client, don’t hesitate. You’ll be doing your client a great favor.
Share this: Please share this post if you enjoyed it.
The majority of people I interview aren’t transparent when I asked the questions that require them to reveal something about their personality. The question could be what they enjoy doing outside of work or even something as simple as the genre of literature they prefer.
This is natural; who wants to talk about their personality with a complete stranger? In an interview their focus is on answering questions that are relevant to the job at hand. This is what they’ve prepared for.
However, avoiding answering personality interview questions is an irritant with interviewers and can hurt your chances of landing a job. Interviewers want—even need—to know who they’ll be hiring as a person.
Do you recall when you were a child and your parents told you they wanted you to be honest? Do you have a relationship with someone that’s based on trust? Interviewing is the same; the person or people interviewing you want to hear and see self-awareness.
I find myself getting irritated when job candidates danced around questions asking for them to reveal something about themselves because I honestly wanted to know their answers to my appropriate questions. But for those who obliged me, I am impressed and their answer prompted me to ask follow-up questions.
There are four reasons why job candidates are hesitant to answer this question.
They don’t understand why it’s being asked.
They overthink how to answer it.
They don’t want to answer wrong.
They think it’s irrelevant
Why interviewers ask the questions they do
Here’s the thing, you’re more than your title and responsibilities; you’re someone your colleagues and superiors will be working with at least eight hours a day. They’ll want to know you as a person and have conversations with you that doesn’t have to revolve around work.
When I go on a walk with a colleague or am eating lunch with them (pre-pandemic), the last thing I want to do is talk about work. It’s a time, albeit short because I don’t take a long lunch, when I don’t have to think about work. Talking about work during these times makes me irritable.
Instead, I like to talk about what they did over the weekend or what they plan to do for the upcoming weekend. I’ll give you an example. One of my colleagues is an avid cyclist. I admire this, as he sometimes goes on 30-mile journeys or more. He’ll talk about how he cycled the back roads of Massachusetts.
Don’t overthink it
As I interview some candidates’ via Zoom, I can see some of them thinking way too hard about how to answer the question, “What do you like to do outside of work?” It’s like their minds are doing somersaults trying to come up with the perfect answer. I want them to chill; just answer the question.
During a Job Club meeting, I asked the participants an ice-breaker question that was simple in nature. Because it was only a Job Club meeting, most participants were animated in answering, “What do you do outside of work?” But a few of them asked, “What does this have to do with work?”
Admittedly this irritated me. It was a simple exercise and something to get the hour-and-a-half kicked off. Regardless, the few participants immediately went into interview mode. They were overthinking the simple question. They didn’t want to get the answer wrong.
There’s no wrong answer…usually
Well, usually you can’t answer this question wrong, unless what you like doing outside of work is pulling wings off of flies. This image is too morose, but you get the idea. When I ask about candidate’s outside interests, I don’t care if they’re similar to mine or if they’re totally different.
For example, if someone loves the theater, that’s perfectly fine. If they enjoy yoga or meditation, great. I even like to hear about activities they enjoy doing with their family. And, no, I don’t hold this against them.
We’ve told our clients to stay away from talking about their children. Why? I have children, albeit older in age, so I love family people. I also assume they’ll dedicate the required time to the job and not spend an unnecessary amount of time with their family.
The caveat of answering this question is to steer clear of political or religious activities. This is something I will stick by as a career coach. There are just some things that are out of bounds. I used to say anything to do with hunting was taboo, but I’ve since changed my mind on that.
Good interviewers ask relevant questions
I like to think that if I ask a question about what a candidate likes to do outside of work there is a good reason for doing so. Throughout this article I’ve talked about reasons for asking this question. I like to know the person as a person. I want to see how they answer; do they show self-awareness or are they guarded. Another reason would simply to put the candidate at ease.
Here’s the thing, every question an interviewer asks should be relevant. I for one am not a big fan of the generic questions, such as “What is your greatest weakness,” “Why should we hire you,” and “What do you plan to do in five years.” To me, they’re throw away questions.
What’s telling is a poll that I’m conducting at the moment where I ask, “Why do some candidates have a difficult answering questions about their private life?” Of close to 10,000 respondents, only 18 percent of have answered that they think questions like the one I write about today are irrelevant.
Following are some responses to the poll I conducted.
Tara Orchard: Some people prefer to keep their personal life private and focus on their skills and experience. Perception of the question is important. For some personal means too personal, including relationships, family, religion, personal beliefs, obstacles in their past and other private factors.
I remind clients it is useful to have some personal information to talk about but it need not be very personal. They can talk about why they selected the school they attended, an interesting adventure they had, sports, arts, hobbies and so on that are relatable, general or interesting.
The employer is likely either trying to build rapport or see if the person is well rounded, not digging for private information. As usual, perception and preparation are key.
MARY FAIN BRANDT: I think job candidates are simply afraid to “answer it wrong”, which is silly! Perhaps they are worried how they will be viewed if they say are a huge STAR WARS fan or if they love Comic Con, or if they spend all their personal time shuffling their kids around to soccer games and cheer practice. Or the big one – I am active in my Church.
I think people are afraid to say the wrong thing.
I say share something light, but don’t hide who you are. After all, if you do get the job, conversations will come up about what you did over the weekend.
Austin Belcak (He/Him): As I’m writing this “Don’t want to answer wrong” is leading the pack. It’s a bummer that companies have made candidates feel that a simple question could be a trap. Says a lot about the interview and hiring practices right now.
Anastasia Magnitskaia: That is a great question Bob! Part of it, sometimes we are so prepared to answer questions that we have researched and practiced that this question can come as a surprise. Think about answering the question with substance- we all have things we do outside of work that will inspire others. Don’t sell yourself short and answer “I watch tv”. I also want to add that if a company is asking that question, it shows that they actually do care about work life balance!
Erin Kennedy: Oooh, that is a great reminder, Bob McIntosh. It IS a question they may get asked. It’s good to be prepared with those types of questions as well. Keep your answers prepared and skim them lightly (no need to delve into your personal life).
Erica Reckamp: You can usually navigate this by picking out a couple of benign hobbies. Avoid anything dangerous (insurance liability) or elitist (yachting anyone?)
Most often, it’s an opportunity to open a broader conversation with the interviewer. If you’ve done your research in advance, this is a great opportunity to mention shared interests!
LAURA SMITH-PROULX: This is a great point, Bob McIntosh. I really think people are caught off guard and hesitant to get too personal in the interview. It’s good to prepare for some version of this question and give a brief description that doesn’t stray too far from the subject. “I’m a voracious reader” or “I enjoy the local outdoors” might help combat nervousness.
Lotte Struwing: I think many may want to keep their personal lives to themselves. Without understanding the question, they may think it’s not a legal question and are uncomfortable responding to it.
Paul Upton: Hiring manager perspective: I love this question as well as “tell me about yourself”. As a hiring manager I’d love to hear when candidates tell me about who they are personally and professionally… we tend to spend more time with people that we work with than many other folks in our lives, so it’s so important to be personable and show your human side.
I’d always get a bit discouraged when candidates just jump into stuff they think I wanted to hear and focus strictly about the job.
These types of questions are such a great opportunity to really stand out and show who you really are and why you’d be someone folks would love to work with!
Paula Christensen: loved your poll Bob McIntosh and this follow up. I’ll continue to be optimistic and view this question as a chance to build a connection and create engagement. I do agree that keeping polarizing subjects out of the response makes sense. Don’t over think it.
A disturbing conversation with statewide colleagues revealed that some hiring authorities are still overlooking “active” job candidates and only considering “passive” candidates. I thought employers were getting past this malarkey and letting go of the idea that only passive candidates are best. Apparently not.
There is something inherently wrong with employers refusing to hire people who are out of work for one year, six months, and even three months. It is especially heinous if employers are still carrying out this practice during COVID-19.
Here are seven reasons why employers should hire active job seekers.
1. It is often beyond a person’s control when they’re laid off. CNBC announced in 2015 that Kraft Food was going to lay off 2,600 people. All very capable and diligent employees, they were not terminated due to poor performance. They were terminated because the employer failed.
Other large employers in my part of the state, such as Philips Lighting and EMC, and Keurig Dr. Pepper have laid off many skilled people. Again, employees losing their jobs had nothing to do with their performance. Yet somehow employers overlook the fact that victims of major layoffs are unworthy of consideration.
2. The unemployed cannot be accused of not wanting to work. In fact, getting back to work is their motivating factor in life. Employers should see this as an opportunity to hire hungry qualified active job seekers.
According to a poll taken for a 2015 Indeed.com article, still applies: “VPs say active candidates have better motivational drive than passive candidates. When a candidate shows interest and applies in a job, they’re more likely to be invested in the role and have a higher chance at succeeding.”
I was encouraged to hear from Amy Miller, a recruiter at Amazon, that she searches for people who have the “Open to Work” displayed on their LinkedIn profile photo. More employers should take this approach in hiring.
3. Good job candidates shouldn’t be blamed for inadequate job-searching. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listen to job seekers say they’ve sent out hundreds of resumes, using Indeed.com, Monster.com, Dice.com—and other job boards—without getting any love.
The sad fact is that they know the best ways to conduct their job search, but they can’t bring themselves to network, use LinkedIn properly, contact theiralumni association, enlist the help of recruiters, and basically get out of their house. They do what’s easy, not what’s right.
Furthermore, when they land an interview with employers, they freeze and all the intelligence they possess seems to vanish like fog. They go to interview after interview where they become increasingly nervous. Employers need to recognize this as nerves, not that candidates are incapable of doing the job.
4. To improve the economic landscape, people have to work in order to contribute. Doesn’t it make sense to hire a capable active job seeker as opposed to someone who is already employed? My feelings are particularly strong about this given the pandemic has all but killed many businesses.
One might reason that the person who leaves an employer for the next one will be replaced by a new employee. Not necessarily. Employers aren’t quick to fill vacant positions. Reviving the weak economy must be a priority of employers.
5. Employers’ complaints they can’t find enough talented workers is an excuse they use for not being able to pull the trigger. What they’re saying is that they can’t find someone who can assume the duties immediately, and aren’t willing to take a chance on active job seekers who (related to # 2) want to work.
In a conversation I had years ago with a recruiter, he told me his list of positions that needed to be filled was a mile long. He said it wasn’t for lack of trying, his hiring managers wanted the perfect candidates.
Perhaps an active job seeker doesn’t have the latest experience in Java or Salesforce or HR procedures, but they have the motivation and ability to update their skills. These candidates will probably make the best employees in the long term, if given the opportunity to learn.
6. Let’s not forget about emotional intelligence (EQ) which is perhaps more important than expertise in the latest technology. Reportsclaim that people with high EQ are 58% more likely to be successful than those who lack EQ.
Employers must look beyond an active job seeker’s resume and give them a chance to demonstrate themselves in an interview. Yet, too many active job seekers don’t get past the resume scan if they have an employment gap of more than three months.
7. It’s just plain wrong to default to passive candidates. As a webinar/career coach at an urban career center, I see the hopes of my clients crushed by being interviewed a number of times only to find out that an employer hired people who were already working.
Hiring employers must show compassion and try their best to hire qualified candidates who need the work. They have a moral obligation to hire qualified job seekers, regardless of their age, disability, race, gender, or employment status.
One more: active job seekers aren’t broken. To recruiters, “passive” job seekers seem like a sure bet. But there’s one thing they need to consider: just because someone is unemployed, it doesn’t mean they’re broken. Additionally, not all passive seekers are quality workers. Let’s keep this in mind. Please.
In this guest article by Laura Smith-Proulx, one of my favorite resume and LinkedIn profile writers, she talks about adding value to your Headline and not simply listing your title and the company’s name. After all, your profile isn’t about your company; it’s about you. Laura also provides great examples of strong Headlines.
Did you let LinkedIn put your current job in your Headline?
If so, you’re among the millions of LinkedIn users who fail to market their own personal brand.
Look around on LinkedIn and you’ll see the same scenario: too many people fail to uncheck that box in their current job that says “Update My Headline.”
As a result, you’re left with Sales Manager at XYZ Company or VP of Production at AB Manufacturing.
This could be one of the biggest obstacles in your job search! You’re MUCH more than a job title. With so many opportunities on LinkedIn to promote your value to employers, your Headline should be tuned more carefully.
Here are the 3 reasons why you should take your current job out of your Headline (and what to use instead):
Your Headline should market your personal brand, not your employer.
Your current job title probably does a poor job of representing your potential!
Not only was it designed by your employer, it also picks up your company name… and now you have a banner that clearly describes a position you may want to leave.
But if you design your OWN Headline, you’ll have a valuable opportunity to add a success story, keywords, and job titles that help others find you.
These Headlines show how you can “advertise” your skills for a future job search:
VP Sales & Marketing | 13 Winning Sales Teams Developed to Create #1 Market Performance | Global & US Revenue & Growth Strategies | Fortune-Ranked Technology, Government, OEM, Engineering, & Defense Markets
COO & VP Operations. Fast Turnarounds & Market Share Growth in EMEA, Americas, & APAC Regions. 299% Growth From New Revenue Streams, Corporate Contracts, & Transformation. Board Member, Mentor, Executive Sponsor
Your current job might not match your career goals.
Let’s say you’re aiming for the next level up in your career. By tuning your Headline for a promotion, you’ll come up in searches for the target job, not just the one you already hold.
This example shows how an Operations leader can show readiness for the COO position, referencing the skills they are already using and focusing on high-value keywords:
Healthcare Executive. COO-Level Authority for Clinical Operations, Patient Care Quality, Safety, & CMS Ratings. Relentless Drive for Excellence & Patient Satisfaction. Champion for Team Growth & Service Line Development
You can see that this Headline continues to mention Operations, making it possible to be spotted as a senior leader while leaving the possibility open to be found in searches for a COO.
No matter your career level, mentioning your desired role (which you can also add to the About section) helps show your intentions and position you more strategically as a rising leader in your field.
Your current job title is far too SHORT to describe your skills.
LinkedIn’s Companies‘ feature is a treasure trove of information if you’re searching for people with whom to connect. It’s of more value if you have a reason to connect with said people, namely they’re on your company target list (but this is a whole article in itself).
Many job seekers I speak with are unaware that the Companies feature exists. This might have to do with the fact that the feature isn’t highlighted as an icon to the right of Search. In addition, they don’t have a company target list. I strongly suggest they create one consisting of 15-20 companies.
Let’s look at how to find people at your desired companies
For our purpose we’ll assume you have an idea of who you need to find, such as the people on your company target list.
As stated above, the Companies feature is not listed on the toolbar. At one time, this feature was highlighted along with other features, but LinkedIn decided to “hide” it along with Posts, Groups, Schools, Events, and Courses.
To find the button for Companies, place your cursor pointer in Search and left click. You’ll see the drop-down shown below. When I click Companies LinkedIn shows 58,000.000 companies that have a company page.
You can simply type in Search the name of the company. The company for which I’ll search is Avid, a mid-sized company in my area. I know someone who works there, Debra, but not too well. My goal is to connect with a decision maker/s in the marketing department.
I could click People to find the decision maker/s, but I want more options, so I’ll click the number of employees who work there, 1,614. This will give me access to All Filters (see below).
In All Filters I select 2nd degree connections, the Greater Boston Area, and I type in Keywords “manager, marketing.” This gives me three people from which to choose. Rachel and Maria are two people who seem like ones to contact, so I visit their profiles.
Reading their profiles carefully, I look for commonalities between myself and them. Rachel and I went to the same university, and Maria and I have a mutual connection who will gladly facilitate an introduction.
To connect or not connect
You might be wondering why I want to connect with people on my target company list. Fair question. The idea is to penetrate the Hidden Job Market. In other words, get known by people at my desired companies before jobs are listed. Once jobs are listed it’s often too late. I’m building my foundation, if you will.
At this point I’m trying to build my foundation at Avid, as it’s a company high on my list of target companies. I figure there’s a 50/50 chance of one of the two connecting with me. Rachel would be my first choice because she’s managing content writers, which is my area of expertise.
But Maria would also be a bonus connection. Once I connect with Maria, chances are good I’ll be able to connect with Rachel. In both cases I won’t simply send a default invite. No, I’ll have to write a sincere, thoughtful message to both women.
Hint: There’s no reason for either women to connect with me simply because I’m interested in the company for which they work. I’ll have to write a compelling invite message that will entice them to connect with me.
First smother them with kindness
I can take the following steps to impress my possible connections at one of my dream companies. LinkedIn only allows 300 characters* for an invite, so I’ll have I’m limited in terms of the tactics I can use below.
1. I could show Maria and Rachel that I’m simply not connecting with them for the heck of it. I’ll show them that I’ve read their profiles and, of course, mention our commonalities.
2. If either of Maria’s and Rachel’s teams are responsible for doing something notable, I could mention that in my invite. People like to be complimented regardless of what they say. I won’t use shallow platitudes; I’ll point out facts showing I’ve done my research.
3. I could demonstrate that I’ve done my research on Avid and talk highly of it. People also like to know that others admire the employer for which the work. If they don’t, they’re not made long for their position.
I’ll start with the long shot first. This would be Rachel. She and I don’t have a strong common connection. Debra, who’s my first degree connection displayed on the front page of the Avid’s LinkedIn page, is not one of Rachel’s first degree connections. I’ll go with the cold invite.
Reminder: LinkedIn allows 300 characters for an invite. This is why you might want to follow up with an email.
I hope this connection request finds you well. I’ve always considered Avid to be a great organization that helps directors produce great movies, one of which for me is Ocean 8.
I notice you and I went to UMass Amherst. Were you as excited as I to see them win the Hockey National Championship?
The invite to Maria will most likely be more successful because we have a strong common connection. When I ask our common connection, Brenda, if I can mention her as a reference, she gladly agrees. She even offers to write an email to Maria as an introduction. I’ll take her up on it if my invite doesn’t come to fruition.
You and I are both connected with Brenda (last name). I know her from our days in marketing, where I was a MarCom writer and she was in public relations at Company ABC. She strongly suggested that I invite you to my network. She believes I would be a strong attribute to your team.
I’ve described how to write an invite from a basic account. If you have LinkedIn’s Career premium account, you can send an Inmail message containing 2,000 characters*. People have varying reactions to Inmail; some appreciate them while others aren’t fond of them.
How you choose to send invites to people on your target companies list is up to you. You should make it a goal to send four to five invites a week, and don’t be afraid to send multiple invites to a target company.
It comes as no surprise to me that most people feel engagement is the most important component of a LinkedIn campaign. A poll conducted on LinkedIn clearly showed that almost half the voters (47%) agree.
The other two components are a branding/optimized profile, which garnered 29% of the votes and a focused network, which was narrowly beat out with 24% of the votes.
As a job seeker you might feel that having a branding profile is most important; and that makes good sense, especially if you’re trying to draw hiring authorities to it. Create it and they will come.
But how will you draw hiring authorities (recruiters, HR, and hiring managers) to your profile if you have an abysmal network? Someone with 87 connections will not create as many opportunities as someone with 500+ will.
Further, how will you show your expertise or thought leadership if you don’t engage with your connections. LinkedIn has stated that engaging with your network will increase your chances of appeasing the algorithm. In other words, a great profile and strong network still aren’t enough says LinkedIn.
So here’s the fact: they’re all important. And as one respondent to the poll surmised that choosing among the three “is like asking which of my children is my favorite.”
For me, the choice between the three is not that difficult. Engagement is what drives your LinkedIn campaign. But I also realize it’s tough for job seekers to put themselves out there; many have told me as much and it’s illustrated by their lack of engagement.
3rd place: focused, like-minded network
LinkedIn gives us mixed messages. On one hand it tells us to invite people we know and trust to our network. On the other hand, how do we create opportunities with a small network?
Job seekers need to look at building a network as a way to build relationships with people they DON’T know. Therein lie the opportunities. Only building a network with those you know and trust limits your ability to create these opportunities.
I see Introductions to potential connections as the ultimate gateway to possibilities. This requires strategy, though. As many LinkedIn pundits say, “You can’t just spray and pray.” You have to know who you want to connect with, who will help you in your job search.
One person called me on my definition of a quality network, which I call like-minded, where the people in your network have a lot in common. Said person claimed that my definition of a strong network is limited. They said like-minded would disqualified people from whom I could learn.
In my defense, I’m not suggesting that you only connect with people in your immediate family or friends. Those would be the people with 87 connections. When you’re in the job hunt you want to reach out to your former colleagues, people who work at your desired companies, recruiters in your industry, and the like.
I try to mix my network up with people in other industries like marketing, blogging, and academia. It wouldn’t make sense for the majority of my network to consist of engineers, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, etc. I wouldn’t be interested in their content, nor would they be interested in mine.
For people who make their living on the people in their network (I’m talking about career coaches, specifically), it makes great sense for them to branch out. Many career coaches I know have a diverse network of people who need their services. The occupations they don’t specialize in are referred to other career coaches.
2nd place: Your LinkedIn profile
Go figure, the profile isn’t as sexy as engagement. But I suppose this matters who you ask. Many of the people who chose engagement are those who are gainfully employed. The poll question begins with, “During the job search….” I guess this bit of clarification was overlooked.
Nonetheless, a profile that is optimized and brands you is important no matter your situation. Someone who’s in marketing or sales needs to be able to demonstrate their marketing or sales prowess to convince visitors of their credibility, correct?
A job seeker definitely has to have a profile that contains the proper keywords and delivers a value proposition. Branding is essential in the job search and this is where it starts. But branding also comes through thoughtful and consistent engagement. In fact, LinkedIn says your profile needs more than keywords:
More keywords aren’t always better – Our advice would be to avoid overfilling your profile with keywords and only include the keywords that best reflect your expertise and experience. If you integrate an extended list of keywords into your profile, it’s likely that your profile will be filtered out by our spam detection algorithms, which will negatively impact your appearance in search results.
I chose engagement as the most important component of the three. This leads me back to my statement above about thinking when you build it, they will come. Too many job seekers think this way. It’s like storing their resume on job boards like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and the others.
The winner: Engagement
I tell my clients that their profile is important, but it’s also important to engage with their network. Yet many of them don’t get it. I don’t think the “build it and they will come” attitude prevents them from engaging; I think they lack the confidence or don’t feel they have the right to express their expertise.
First of all, you have expertise in your field and, therefore, shouldn’t question your right to engage with your connections. One memorable client once told me this. He was the former director of communications for one of the largest school districts on the east coast. He was obviously a strong writer who had a lot to share.
My clients often ask me how they can engage with their connections. The first and most obvious way to engage is through personal messaging. You won’t reach as many people this way, but you can develop and nurture relationships.
Other ways to engage with your connections include:
1. Sharing and commenting on articles that will add value to them (just be sure to tag the writer of said article.
2. Writing long posts in which you express your thoughts and expertise.
3. Contribute to other’s long posts.
4. share photos and thoughtful captions.
5. and ask questions. These are a few ways to engage with your connections.
Easy peasy. Yet, it’s people like me and some of the others who voted for this component who are comfortable expressing their views. To call us exhibitionist would be crude, but maybe there’s a little bit of that going around.
In all fairness, I think the poll should have more clearly stated that those who voted must have thought about the LinkedIn campaign in terms of job seekers. Or at least more job seekers should have voted.
What some of the voters said
Virginia Franco: This is like asking which of my children is my favorite!!! No fair Bob McIntosh, CPRW! OK – if I have to pick I’d say the focused network – given that so many roles are filled through referral.
Hannah Morgan:Virginia Franco and Bob McIntosh, CPRW having a “meaningful” network is important. I don’t think that it necessarily needs to be consistent or Like-minded. Don’t we learn from those with diverse or different backgrounds? And how will we ever grow if we only “hang” with people who think like us? More importantly, growing our network with people who are in new industries or areas helps with survival (and career change).
Jennifer Bangoura: Wow! I am consistently surprised by these LinkedIn poll results – to me a focused network was the obvious choice, but I see I’m in the minority with that opinion 🙂 It seems like the other two options are of course important, but they ring a bit hollow if you’re not branding/engaging with the network you want to move into or galvanize. Interesting!
Jeff Young: 1st degree connection: Bob McIntosh, CPRW like many others, I think any ONE or TWO of these things is not going to make you successful. Therefore, I wish to cast my vote for all three. Since you forced me to vote for one above, I voted for Profile, because IMHO you have to start with that BEFORE you can work on the other two.
NAMASTE 🙏 🖖 Network And Make All Sorts of Terrific Energy
1. You could have the best profile, but if you don’t engage with your network, then all you have is some window dressing.
2. You could have a focused-network, but if your profile is weak, you’re making a not-so-stellar impression on each person in that network
3. You could engage with people consistently, but if you are engaging with people outside your target, are you spinning your wheels and wasting a lot of time?
This is a tough choice, Bob. I want to pick all three!
If I had to pick, I’d say Branding/Optimized profile, with the hope you’d use it to network with your target audience and engage them consistently.
Ana Lokotkova: I’d love to choose all three, because all of these are important parts of a well-crafted LinkedIn strategy. I’m leaning a bit more towards consistent engagement for 2 reasons:
1 – It amplifies the results the other two can get you,
2 – It’s the one thing so many people overlook while focusing on the other two points. Consistent engagement is that one secret sauce that separates people who get great results out of LinkedIn from the ones who don’t see any results and wonder what they’ve been doing wrong.
Jessica Hernandez:That’s a tough one because as you said, they’re all important. However, if you’re engaging on LinkedIn and building your network but your profile is empty or weak you’re only holding yourself back. I think having a branded profile is the most important so that you have a strong presence to point your network to when you’re job searching.
Austin Belcak: Consistent engagement for me Bob McIntosh, CPRW! I know people who have professional headshots, custom cover photos, amazing About sections and…nobody finds them because they don’t put themselves out there.
I also know people with bare bones profiles who are consistently showing up and engaging with others. They’re getting tons of opportunities.
The most powerful way to leverage this platform is by showing up for others. That’s how you build the focused/like-minded network.
Jim Peacock: I think your branding needs to be the 1st step, so that when you go to network, you look your best. And when you do your “consistent engagement” your brand is still representing you. If you don’t get the branding right, then your networking and engagement is compromised.
Heather Spiegel: I echo what Maureen said! It’s hard to really choose one. However, to flip things, I think people spend the least amount of time on consistent engagement. Because it’s hard and sometimes it’s uncomfortable. However, building your network and consistently learning from the feedback and insights of your connections (and continually gaining comfort with sharing your unique value proposition) is invaluable in advancing your job search.
Sarah Elkins (she, her): Consistent engagement demonstrates your values and skills if you do it well. That means explaining why you’re sharing content, posting original content, and adding value in your comments.
This is far more effective than telling people what you do!
Three career strategists recently weighed in on ageism in this post. All three couldn’t deny that ageism exists, but the question is when does this deterrent to employment effect older job seekers? The most obvious of stage in the job search is the interview. This is why older job seekers need ways to combat ageism.
Unlike other career coaches, all my clients are active job seekers, not ones who are gainfully employed and looking to pivot to a new opportunity. It’s a well known fact that some employers erroneously prefer to hire passive job seekers. Ding one against my clients.
Job seekers are seen by some employers as “damaged goods.” Coupled with being an older job seeker, the label “damaged goods” takes on new meaning. It means that their ability to grasp technology isn’t as great, they are slower to perform, they are inflexible, and they get sick more often; all of which isn’t necessarily true. Ding number two.
The average age of my clients is 55. The age disparity isn’t great, probably between 45 and 65. Anyone who’s over 40 is considered an older worker, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), which means their tax bracket is a deterrent for employers. In other words, you expect too much money. Ding number three.
One complaint my clients express is they’re being told that they’re overqualified for the job at hand. While this might be true, some of them are willing to take on jobs that require them to utilize skills they’ve used in the past. They’re also looking to step down and be an individual contributor. Ding number four.
The final hurdle they have to face is the economy which has contributed to their long-term unemployment, being jobless for more than six months. As we all know, the chances of getting a job at this point is very difficult. In the Job Club I run, many attendees have been out of work for longer than a year. Ding number five.
How to do well in the interview
These are four stereotypes employers have of older job seekers. To succeed in the interview, you’ll need to dispel them with the correct verbiage and attitude. You’re skilled and have rich experience. It’s your presentation that matters.
You are actively looking for work
This means you’re hungry for work. No, you’re starving for work. And the good thing about you is that you’re not running from a current employer; you’re running toward this potential employer. You and I know employers should hire you for a number of reasons. Nonetheless, the question will be, “Why did you leave your last job?”
Regardless of the situation, you learned a great deal from your past experience and want to pass it on to this new employer. You acquired skills that will make you the obvious choice for this role, as they closely match the ones required by this employer.
But don’t wait to be asked. Open with, “I’m truly excited about this role, not only from what I’ve gleaned through my research, but also because my experience closely matches your requirements. For example, you need someone who can manage projects that are completed on time and under budget. I’ve done this at my previous two companies….”
You are “damaged goods“
This is ding number two and, quite honestly, offensive to my senses. This is the running belief and needs to be put to rest. In the interview is the ideal time for you to prove they’re capable of getting back in the saddle, that you’re vibrant and as capable, if not more, than younger workers.
Cut the interviewer/s off at the pass. You’re hungry for work and have most of the required skills, so you need to express this with your first impressions and an answer to questions like, “Why did you leave your last position?” You’ll be asked this question to slip you up. Don’t let the interviewer/s do this.
It might be that you were let go for poor performance, conflict with your boss, or some other reason. Own this and say that you learned a great deal from the situation. You’ve had time to reflect and are ready to return to the great employee you were prior to your unfortunate departure. Make this answer short and sweet.
You expect too much money
First of all, you better be or else you’re in the wrong room. There’s no faking this. Be real with yourself and don’t expect to take a job that pays half of what you made in the past. When my clients tell me they’ll settle for 80% of what they made in the past, I tell them they might have a case for accepting the position.
If you’re willing to take less than what you made in your previous role, it’s because you can swing the cut in pay with little or no impact on your life style. Most of the major bills have been paid, such as tuition, mortgage, car payments, etc. You’ll actually be better off by accepting this role because you’re in a better space.
This is one of the toughest objections to beat. When you’re literally told, “You are overqualified for this job,” it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if this is true. You’ve probably been told to say, “I’m not overqualified, I’m fully-qualified,” which is all good and true.
But here’s the thing: employers are afraid you’ll be bored and be looking for more money, so you’re going to look for the next best thing. We have to admit this is a valid concern.
Another tactic you might take is by saying, “I understand your concerns. I would have the same ones. However, I will add more value to the organization with my skills and experience, and I’ll be a mentor to the other purchasers. Would you rather hire a Ford Focus or a Mercedes?” You might want to leave this last part out.
You’ve been out of work for more than six months
Long-term unemployment is a beast. You’re among the age group that is hit hardest by it. According to TradinghEconomics.com, the U.S. unemployment rate is 6% which only counts those who are filing for unemployment. Finding a job not an easy task but not impossible. Ask many of my clients who’ve landed jobs.
When it comes to first impressions, first and foremost enter the room like you own it. Enthusiasm is key here. And you need to maintain it throughout the interview/s. I can tell which ones of my clients get this when I advise them on interviewing and conduct a mock interview with them.
It’s the vibe they give off. They smile, their eyes light up, and their handshake is firm, yet gentle. There’s no hint in their tone that they’ve been out of work for too long than they want. Conversely, I can read the ones who can’t pull off the act like a book. They just haven’t mastered the attitude yet. And for some of them, it takes a while to master and ultimately land.
In the interview you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to perform the job, despite being out of work for more than six months, by answering the job-related questions. This speaks to your knowledge of the position, so make sure you’ve done your research.
In order to succeed in an interview, you’ll need to be prepared to address these stereotypes employers hold against older job seekers. They aren’t insurmountable and have to be handled with the right attitude. My last bit of advice is to not enter the interview thinking you’re going to face ageism. If you do this, the battle is already lost.
When it came to baseball, my dad used to say, “You won’t get a hit if you leave your bat on your shoulder.” This was his way of saying to try. He also said a big league ball player who bats .333 was considered a very good hitter. “That’s 3 hits out of 10, Bob,” he said.
Here’s the thing, you sure as hell won’t get even close to batting .333 in the job search if you don’t try. Here’s the other thing about the job search; you probably won’t nail every land the jobs for which you apply, but that’s okay. If you interview with 9 companies and get 3 job offers, Dad would say that’s a great batting average.
Dad’s advice on trying wasn’t just about baseball. He was a brilliant man and offered advice on academics, but I didn’t heed what he said as much as I should have. That’s neither here nor there. In the job search you need to try, but more importantly you need to be smart in your search.
The best big league hitters know who they’re batting against. They’ve either faced them many times or they watch film. The ones who’ve faced the pitchers before are more likely to succeed because they know when and how well their opponent can throw a curveball; slider; change-up; or worst yet, a knuckle.
Or they could strike out every time because some pitchers own opposing batters.
You know it and the interviewer/s know it come interview time that you haven’t done your researched. You’re asked simple questions like, “What can you tell me about this position,” or “Why do you want to work for out company.”
You struggle to recite even the simplest requirements of the job or the products and services the company offers. It’s embarrassing for you and the interviewer. It’s like when a ball player swings at a pitch in the dirt and walks back to the dugout with his head hung low.
Dad was an excellent baseball coach; my coach, in fact. What made him so great was his strategic mind. Applying online takes a strategic mind. One thing recruiters would say is don’t apply for jobs for which you’re not qualified. It’s a waste of your and their time. This is my first piece of advice.
Not to belabor the point, but if you’re applying for jobs through job boards and company websites, make sure you’ve done your research (first point) and that your resume is tailored to each job and speaks to the employer’s needs.
Perhaps most important is that a tailored resume will show the employer you understand their needs whether it’s reducing costs, improving processes, or other ways your can help the company. You also should prioritize statements by listing the most relevant experience and accomplishments closer to the top of the resume.
When I ask my clients if they enjoy networking, the majority of them are either uncomfortable doing it or downright hate it. Dad’s other advice about baseball is that the season is long. A great hitter might start the season with a .235 average but by the end of the season is hitting .333.
The thing about networking is that it takes time. There’s an amount of relationship building that needs to take place. For example, here’s the way it might go:
First: ask one of your first-degree LinkedIn connections to introduce you to introduce you to one his first-degree connections. If you’re more of the in-person networker, pick up the phone and ask one of your closest contacts to facilitate a phone call with your target contact.
Second: when an introduction is made, begin a light conversation with said person, while also fitting into your experience and the value you bring to companies. Ask the person if they’d like to have a follow-up correspondence and when you should call them.
Third: after a certain number of conversations, ask if your contact would like to meet for coffee providing they feel safe in this current environment. If they don’t, video conferencing is always an option.
Fourth: by this time you and your new contact are on the same page in terms of the mutual value you and they can provide. It’s time to make “the ask” for an informational meeting where you can discuss their company and the role you’re seeking.
Or you might want to indicate through your research that you see the possibility of making a contribution to their company. If the former isn’t possible, always try to leave the conversation with another person with whom you can speak.
Note: it might take more conversations before you’re comfortable making the ask. Some believe it takes 7 points of contact before a relationship is truly established.
Or, networking can be as simple as handing your resume to your neighbor, who hands it to the hiring manager of the department for which you want to work, many talks ensue, you’re interviewed for the job, and you’re hired.
This happened to a customer of mine who told me he hadn’t networked to get the job. I didn’t want to bust his bubble and tell him he had. Networking comes in many shapes and forms.
Prepare for the interview
This leads us back to research and a bit of networking if you can. My dad got me good one time. It was when the Russian national hockey team came to play our hockey teams. Dad bet me five dollars that the Russians would beat the New York Rangers–the first team they met.
When I watched the game and saw the massacre, Dad laughed at me saying he had heard about the victory on the radio before the game was televised. He had done his research…in a way. But this is how you will have a leg up on the competition who, for the most part, won’t do their research.
Practice hard. Great baseball players will practice with the team, of course, but they’ll also practice on their own, taking hundreds of additional at-bats and fielding ground balls. Along with researching the position and company, practice answering the questions you think interviewers will ask.
Another area you’ll need to prep for is your background and other important factors when being interviewed via video. What is an appropriate background, you might wonder? Anything that doesn’t distract the interviewer. A bookshelf or wall with tasteful paintings are fine. Also make sure the lighting is right.
Land the job; do well in the interview
“Teams win when batting, fielding, and most importantly pitching are doing well,” Dad would say. “Teams must have all three.” Dad also said errors will be the downfall of a team. “Mental errors are a killer.”
Try hard to get all in place and don’t make mental errors. This can sum it up when it comes to interviews. This means your interview road started with research. Smart job seekers will do anywhere between four to 10 hours of research.
Let’s touch lightly on first impression. As interviews are being held in person and via video platforms, eye contact is essential. Look at the camera, not the interviewers’ eyes. Smile as much as you can without overdoing it. In other words, don’t come across as fake.
Note: most traditional questions are predictable; you should know the answers for them before arriving at the interview.
Situational questions are a little more difficult, as they make you think of how you would solve a particular situation, such as, “What would you do if two of your employees were having a dispute?” You should answer this one successfully if you’ve read the job ad and know questions about leadership will be asked.
Behavioral-based questions are asked because interviewers believe how you behaved in the past is a true predictor of how you’ll behave in the future. They’re also asked to measure your emotional intelligence.
An example of a behavioral-based question is, “Tell me about a time when you came across two of your employees having a dispute.” See the difference between this and the situational question? To answer this question successfully you must have experienced this situation.
You also have to have your S.T.A.R story ready. Explain the situation, your task in the situation, the actions you took to solve the situation, and the final result/s.
Know the kind of company for which you want to work
Earlier I said batting .330 in the job search and landing only 3 out of 10 jobs for which you apply is pretty damn good. Well, it’s only good if you land the ones you desire.
Go after companies that support your values. Don’t simply apply for jobs that are advertised–that’s reacting. Reach out to the ones for which you want to work, which brings us back to research and networking. Identify those companies and network your way into talking with people in those companies.
Preface: this is not an article that asserts introverts use LinkedIn more than extraverts and vice versa. Nor do I assert introverts are more skilled on this platform.
Whether you’re networking via video platform or in person, at some point LinkedIn can play a huge role in your success. I’ve witnessed this with my clients who have forged relationships with other job seekers, mentors, coaches, people in their target companies, and hiring authorities.
As an introvert, LinkedIn has made networking easier for me. It has helped to form solid relationships, generate business for a side hustle, and been a means to share my expertise. I’ve accomplished this, in a large part, by expressing myself through writing, which comes natural to me.
Introverts prefer writing
LinkedIn is a networking platform that is written-based. Written communication can include sending messages to your connections; writing long posts, including polls; and commenting on what others post. Of course, LinkedIn members can express themselves through video and audio.
Written communication is of great comfort for introverts. My valued connection and extravert, Edythe Richards, is a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and EQ trainer, as well as a podcaster. She explains introverts’ preference for writing this way:
“Introverts may prefer writing to speaking because they have ample time to gather their thoughts and edit their words, check and cross-check, before putting them out there into the world. They can also work alone for several hours, which is often harder for extraverted types to do.”
“Even if you’re an introvert who doesn’t write for a living, you probably prefer texting and emailing over big in-person meetings or talking on the phone.
“How can this be? Again according to [Marti Olsen] Laney, writing and speaking use different pathways in the brain. These writing pathways simply seem to flow more fluently and easily for introverts.“
I’m not naive enough to claim introverts own the rights to the written word; that all introverts are great writers and all extraverts are lousy writers. Introverts are not the ruler of the writing hill. Extraverts can write with the best of them. However, introverts are more comfortable writing than speaking.
The voice message feature is pretty cool
I’ve used this feature on LinkedIn’s mobile app only a handful of times, but when I did I planned what I would say and re-recorded a message a few times. Here’s how my botched attempts might go, “Hi Brenda ‘comma’ this is Bob McIntosh ‘period‘ would you like to Zoom with me ‘question mark….'”
The point is voice messaging precludes the need for introverts think on their feet in face-to-face situations. We can do retakes. Small talk isn’t one of our strengths, as it takes thinking on our feet processing our thoughts quickly.
Marti Olsen Laney, The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World, mentions in her book that introverts don’t process information as quickly as extraverts. I know, as an introvert, this is hard to stomach.
With writing and voice messaging, we have more time to think about what we need to convey, and this makes networking with our connections easier.
You can reach out to many people with LinkedIn
Are you a LinkedIn Open Networker (L.I.O.N)? If you are, you’ve probably reached your 30,000 connection limit. I don’t admire L.I.O.Ns for this feat, but I don’t dislike them because of it. My point is that you can reach out to and connect with more people than you’ll ever know.
I am not ashamed to say I have a little more than 4,000 connections and that I probably truly know only 150 people (according to Dunbar’s law of 150). I can safely say I am acquainted with 25 percent of them. I can write to a connection to ask if they’d like to start a conversation.
Rarely am I denied a request to engage in a conversation with my desired connections. I also don’t deny a conversation with someone as long as it fits in my schedule. My preferred way to talk is to do it when I’m walking. I call it “walking and talking.”
LinkedIn is great for soft introductions
Have you ever wanted to meet a person who could change your life, or at least help you in a significant way? If I want to meet anyone, my friend Brian Ahearn would gladly introduce me to whomever I’d like to meet.
Other than the fact that I root for the Patriots and he roots for the Steelers, we’ve grown a LinkedIn relationship of trust and liking (one of the six components he talks about when influencing others). This means that if I want to meet one of his connections he would facilitate the introduction, no questions asked.
The same trust and liking I have with Brian applies to more of my connections than I can list. Have I met these people in person? I’ve met Brian in Boston, but there aren’t many LinkedIn connections I can say with whom I’ve “pressed flesh.” This is the power of the soft introduction.
Key point: once you have been introduced to someone, it is on you to follow through to solidify the connection. You might be the one to send an invite to the person to whom you’re introduced or vice versa. In either case, don’t let this new connection sit; build a relationship as discussed next.
LinkedIn encourages relationship building
Reaching out to many people and getting to know them better through soft introductions is at the core of networking on LinkedIn. Did you know that LinkedIn was developed for business as a way for companies to network to develop leads? Job seekers saw LinkedIn as a way to network and develop leads.
This said, leads are leads until they amount to something. I mentioned above that I’ve developed some great relationships on LinkedIn. This wasn’t done overnight, especially with my preference for introversion. Introverts by and large seek deep, intimate relationships, where as extraverts have a friend in every port.
I would love to get together with many of my close connections; however, distance is a deterrent. For example, one of my connections lives in Los Angeles. Another one lives in Maine about a three-hour drive. And a close connection lives in Belgium. These are a few of the thousands of connections I’d like to reach out to. You get the idea; LinkedIn is a global relationship maker.
“After connecting with someone, send a follow-up ‘Thanks for connecting,’ email with some CTA (call to action) – such as scheduling a virtual cup of coffee to learn more about what you each do and how you can support them.”
But we’re not done
I am constantly saying to my clients that to form a bona fide relationship with someone, you need to reach out in a personal way. Phone and Zoom are great ways to communicate, but there’s nothing like meeting someone for a coffee, a beer, or dinner. Networking is at its best when you gather in person.
Unfortunately the pandemic has put the kibosh on most in-person networking in the state in which I live. But pre-pandemic I enjoyed attending networking events to meet up with contacts or speak about LinkedIn to groups. It was great to see them in person and be able to shake their hand.
You’ve set yourself up for in-person meetings by writing to your connections, sharing content on LinkedIn, using LinkedIn’s voice message feature, and asking for soft introductions. These are all acts that introverts find comfortable with. Is LinkedIn the first step in the networking process? I think it is.
Back to Introverts and writing
It would be unkind of me to share what Edythe Richards shared in her message to me regarding the Introvert’s preference for writing:
“I’s may prefer writing to speaking because they have ample time to gather their thoughts and edit their words, check and cross-check, before putting them out there into the world. They can also work alone for several hours, which is often harder for Extraverted types to do.
“Some people – regardless of personality type – may prefer writing due to a real or perceived fear of judgment, social anxiety, or they’re just really good at writing.
“With this said, not all I’s may prefer writing to speaking, and not all E’s may prefer speaking to writing. There are nuances, shades, and blends of what we think of as a typical Extravert or Introvert. It could be situational as well – we may prefer writing to certain people and speaking to other people.
“Take me for example. I’m an Extravert, but I’ve spent years cultivating Introverted qualities. I prefer listening to other people’s stories rather than talking about my own. I cherish my few very close friends. And yes, there are many, many times that I prefer writing to speaking.
“My significant other identifies as a Very Clear Introvert. Though he will surely disagree with me, he is an eloquent speaker. And in true Introvert style, he usually chooses not to speak. But given the choice between speaking and writing, he will choose to speak.”
I won’t deny that ageism exists. I’ve heard of hiring managers who’ve told their recruiters that they don’t want older candidates. Some recruiters demand to see every job you’ve held since 1984. You might have been asked on an application when you graduated from high school.
One of my clients told me as the second question in an interview he was blatantly asked about his age. He shook his head in bewilderment as he told me about this.
Another one of my clients was told in an interview, “We don’t typically hire people your age.” Who the hell is stupid enough to say this as an interviewer? These are two poignant examples of ageism.
There are other examples of ageism that 50+ job seekers experience, which makes me wonder if I were to lose my job, would I experience ageism. After all, I am in the 50+ category. I’m an older worker, but I could become an older job seeker.
While age is just a number — not an indicator of performance, education, productivity or skill — ageism is still widespread in the workplace. It can be experienced by both younger and older workers, but most frequently to those who are 45 and over.
This is the grim reality, especially when we consider that older job seekers comprise the largest population of long-term unemployed, defined as those unemployed for 6 months and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the LTU rate for December 2021 reached a record 45.5%.
But all is not lost. As the pandemic is waning and employers are hiring at a greater rate, the older job seekers are increasingly seeing more opportunities. I see this effect in the Job Club I run at MassHire Lowell Career Center. People who’ve been out of work for more than six months have had multiple interviews and they’re landing.
I asked three of the most revered LinkedIn voices—Marc Miller, Susan Joyce, and Hannah Morgan— their thoughts on older job seekers who are looking for work. They answered five questions that address the struggles and strengths older job seekers possess. (Learn more about these thought leaders at the end of the article.)
Does ageism exist, and if so, where is it most obvious in the job search?
MM: Ageism has existed for a long time. In fact, many older workers practice ageism towards younger workers. This is a problem that goes both ways.
I think the most obvious example of ageism is asking for a range of year of experience, like 5-8 years of experience in digital marketing. Knowing how many years of experience one has is not a qualifier or dis-qualifier for a position.
This is a simple way to filter out older job seekers who have more experience but isn’t relevant on whether they are qualified.
What employers should be looking for is relevant experience and not trying to quantify this by length of time someone has worked in any single discipline.
Another example of ageism is when recessions occur this is the time that employers have to cull out who they think, notice I say think, will not be as valuable in the future. This is why older job seekers traditionally make up the bulk of the Long Term Unemployed (LTU). Employers have determined they will be less valuable in the future and therefore, will not hire them back first when the recession ends.
SJ: Unfortunately, there is no question that ageism exists. Numerous studies have documented and quantified it, noting that discrimination begins when people hit their 40’s.
It is most obvious in a job search after the interview when the job offer is not made to the 40+ job candidate, even after a great job interview.
HM: Yes. Job seekers convey their age and mindset in how they write their resume and LinkedIn profile. From using outdated resume formats to including References Available Upon Request to including all dates of employment to dates on education older than 5 years.
They may not have the most current skills or demonstrate an understanding of current methodologies or trends. During job interviews, older job seekers may come across as arrogant, inflexible or condescending, or unable to relate to younger interviewers.
What is the most obvious stereotype employers have of older job seekers, and why do you think this is?
MM: Employers look at many older job seekers as not up to date with technology and slow to change. Some might say that older seekers can be stuck in their ways.
Is this universally true? Of course not!
I worked for IBM for 22 years through some very exciting innovative times. After I left I worked for 2 extremely innovated and successful tech startups. I am not a model baby boomer but I am no unicorn.
I will readily admit I hate getting on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and regularly engaging to promote my “personal brand.” I was raised to work hard, keep my nose to the grind stone, do what is right and I will be rewarded. The world today is counter intuitive to the way I was raised. It is in this way that I am not terribly unusual.
All of this frames how employers see older job seekers on a macro scale. Unfortunately, hiring is very personal and if an employer believes an older job seeker is A, B or C then they will filter out some of the best candidates.
SJ: The most obvious stereotype I encounter is that older job seekers are less up-to-date with technology. Employers probably make these assumptions based on the behavior of an older relative or an older colleague or manager who was not up-to-date.
The best way to overcome this assumption is to have a complete and robust LinkedIn profile plus relevant professional activity on LinkedIn (posts, comments, and articles) that display both current knowledge and communications skills. This visibility and activity will demonstrate their understanding of how important LinkedIn is and how to use LinkedIn effectively (up-to-date!).
If possible, take a LinkedIn Skill Quiz for one or more of the skills in the Skills & Endorsements section of the profile (perhaps the Skills with the fewest endorsements). Or take some of classes that result in professional certifications relevant to the job seeker’s target job.
HM: That their skills and knowledge are not up-to-date and they will be slow or hesitant to adapt or change. Older job seekers may not address the changes they’ve recently had to adapt to or may not have needed to use new technology or update skills in their last roles.
This doesn’t mean they can’t adapt or aren’t interested in learning. Stereotypes exist because of someone’s previous interactions. So if an interviewer or hiring manager has spoken to or worked with an older job seeker who lacked current skills or was hesitant to change, that cements the stereotype.
What is one major strength older job seekers demonstrate, and why do you think this is?
MM: The one thing that an older job seeker has is years and years of experience. I like to think of this as 30-40 years of big data.
We have seen a lot of problems, and solved a lot of problems.
Years ago I developed and taught a problem determination workshop for IBM’s support staff. The more problems you experienced in any given domain enhanced your ability to solve the next problem in the same or adjacent domain. My job was to help them experience and solve as many problems as possible AND understand how they did it.
The issue is our ability to use that database of knowledge called experience and then being able to communicate in a coherent, easy to understand way so that employers see the value.
Remember it was not that long ago that CEO of Facebook said “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.”
What they do not have is that database of big data that comes from experience.
SJ: Contrary to the “set-in-their-ways” assumption, I think that older job seekers have more options available based on having more experience. Because of their age and experience, they have a bigger “window on the world” and can see more alternatives than someone with less experience.
For example: If you need someone to drive you to the airport in a busy city at a busy time with the flight leaving soon, would you prefer a young driver who followed the route given him by his boss or an older experienced driver who knew all of the short cuts and alternate ways to get to the airport even if a traffic jam on the primary route stopped other traffic? Not hard to conclude the older driver would be a better choice!
HM: Older job seekers tend to be more loyal, possess a stronger work ethic, and have stronger leadership and decision-making skills from experience and training. Their work ethic was formed early in their career when hard work and dedication was rewarded. And their life experience and access to training over their career have given them tools and experience to draw upon.
How can older job seekers improve their written and verbal communications in order to land a job?
MM: This is all about doing new things before you are ready.
To quote one of my favorite and irreverent journalist Hunter S. Thompson,
“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right”.
When you do something for the first time you will rarely do it right!
I have helped many start blogs and podcasts. I always tell them that what they produce may suck at the beginning. You will have to exercise the communications muscle to find your voice. That may mean producing material that is not very good.
Early blog posts on the Career Pivot blog were pretty bad. That is why I hired people to help me in areas where I was not very good. I am not a good writer but I have learned how to leverage people, like a virtual assistant, who edits my material, and technology like Grammarly.
Over time the communications muscle has gotten stronger through repetitive action. However, this requires taking chances, taking some criticism and admitting that you do not know how to do everything.
You have to move forward and do new things before you are ready.
SJ: Observe what people are writing and saying in social media and elsewhere. Focus on those people who are the most successful (in a positive way). Then, practice, VERY carefully by asking and answering questions on sites like Quora, Reddit, Digg, etc. When ready, start a blog or write articles on LinkedIn (relevant and professionally), Medium, or a personal/professional blog.
For verbal communications, join Toastmasters. The meetings may be virtual now, but the training, experience, and network are invaluable.
Possibly, take some classes in writing and speaking. Free classes are frequently available online. Or read some good books about those topics.
The act of being active on social media also shows a willingness to embrace new technology.
What advice would you give an older job seeker who’s hunting for a job?
MM: In post-pandemic recovery, every older job seeker needs to reassess what he or she really wants to do. This is not about what you used to do because what you used to do may be gone or changed significantly.
Did you actually enjoy doing what you used to do?
If you did, what was enjoyable?
If not why were you doing it?
You really need to look at the disruption that COVID-19 pandemic has created. There will be a lot of good that will come out of this black elephant event called the COVID-19 pandemic. Where do you want to fit in?
What problems do you want to solve? Who has those problems?
If you are going to continue to work because you either have to or want to, you will have to reassess where you fit in this new world and what will energize you to keep moving forward at the same time.
To quote the famous executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here, won’t get you there”.
Your first choice, are you willing to evolve and grow in the 2nd half of life.
Then it is your choice how to evolve and grow.
SJ: I have 2 pieces of advice for older job seekers who are job hunting now.
Know the job wanted next and, preferably, at least 10 or 20 target employers. Being an either-this-or-that does not work today when LinkedIn profiles are so visible! Recruiters avoid someone who doesn’t seem to be really interested in the job they are trying to fill. And an either-or candidate looks undecided.
In addition, the undecided job seeker does not usually effectively demonstrate their professional expertise in both kinds of jobs. Their LinkedIn profiles are “watered down” because they cover multiple topics superficially—not very convincing and not including a sufficient quantity of the right keywords to be found easily by recruiters.
Reaching out and reconnecting to people from the past using Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to find current location and contact information is a great start.
My favorite tools are LinkedIn Company pages for the target employers and the School pages for the colleges, universities, and other schools the job seeker attended. To find them, just click on the logos beside the employer and school names in the LinkedIn profile.
■ Company pages for target employers provide excellent information about employees. What they do, where they work, where they went to school, and how the job seeker may be connected to them. Click on the “See all people highlights” to find those details.
■ School pages for colleges and schools the job seeker attended provide information about where alumni work, where they live, what they do, and how the job seeker may be connected to them. Again, click on the “See all people highlights” to find those details.
The biggest benefit of being an older job seeker is that great network that provides an inside track to a new job.
HM: Before launching a job search, evaluate the marketplace to understand the skills required at the level you are interested in as well as understand pay ranges for those types of job. You should review lots of job postings to look for technology and skills frequently mentioned. Also ask for honest feedback from people you talk with about what you may be lacking or how you communicate. Finally, maintain a life-long-learner mindset.
Marc Milleris a champion of older job seekers. He writes of his award winning podcast: “Repurpose Your Career, brought to you by Career Pivot, is a podcast for those of us in the 2nd half of life to come together to discuss how to repurpose our careers for the 21st century.” Marc has dedicated his life’s work to helping Baby boomers.
Susan Joyce’s well-known Job-Hunt.org blog has millions of views and is considered one of the most popular sites for the job search. Since 1993, Job-Hunt.org’s genuine experts have shared advice that helps job seekers shorten their job search, including advice on resumes, job interviews, LinkedIn, Working from Home, and much more.
Hannah Morgan’s blog, CareerSherpa.net has gained great acclaim as one of the best job-search blogs out there. Hannah has written for major online publications like BusinessInsider.com, USAToday.com, Money.com, Forbes.com, HuffingtonPost.com, and others. Hannah is truly considered an influencer on LinkedIn.