Tag Archives: Older Worker

8 stereotypes interviewers have of older workers

I have the privilege of working at an urban career center where the average age of our clients is 53. Given that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects workers 40 years of age or older from discrimination based on their age, you could say our clients are primarily “older workers.”
talk

For older workers, the job search can come with many additional challenges. Sadly, many interviewers hold misconceptions about older workers, their abilities, and their demands. This is unfortunate, as it leads to many perfectly qualified older workers being passed over simply due to their age.

Here are eight common misconceptions that many older workers face when searching for work:

1. Older workers are overqualified

Sometimes, this may be true – often, however, it isn’t. Furthermore, when interviewers assume an older worker is overqualified, they may be ignoring the worker’s desire for their own career.

Some of my clients tell me they’d be bored if they took a job for which they were overqualified. I tell them not to apply for such jobs.

On the other hand, there are some older workers who simply want to move into lower-stress roles. One of my clients told me he no longer wanted to deal with the day-to-day tension he faced during his 20 years as an executive program manager. Now, he works happily as a business developer for a local plumbing business.

2. Older workers expect higher salaries

Many older workers have reached the pinnacles of their careers and, thus, they tend to earn high salaries. However, many older workers also face different financial situations at this stage in their lives. They no longer have mortgage payments, college tuition is paid off, and their children have flown the coop.

As a result, many older workers have little problem adapting to lower salaries. Perhaps they’ll have to downgrade from a Lexus to a Honda Accord, or forego their third vacation in the Alps. For many older workers, this isn’t a big deal.

3. Older workers won’t work as quickly as younger workers

Sure, older workers might not be able to finish an assignment as quickly as their younger colleagues. They probably won’t spend weeks putting in 12-hour days, nor will they gather around the ping pong table to boast with coworkers about staying later than the “old fogeys.”

But do you know what they will do? They’ll work meticulously to complete a project right the first time. Older workers will work smarter, not harder. They won’t make as many mistakes, because they won’t rush.

4. Older workers are trying to steal the interviewer’s job

A common complaint of my older clients is the lack of knowledge many hiring managers demonstrate. These older workers might have 20 or 30 more years of work experience than their younger hiring managers, so it makes sense that they would know more than the person interviewing them does.

However, my older clients also say they simply want to be hired for the job for which they’re applying. They’re not interested in taking the hiring manager’s position. Some of them simply want to step back and rid themselves of management responsibilities altogether, or they want to mentor younger workers.

5. Older workers aren’t dependable

You’re mistaken if you think older workers will miss work more often due to illness, child care, and any other reason. Older workers have strong work ethics and senses of professional dedication, both ingrained in them throughout the courses of their careers.

My father worked six days a week, and I try to emulate his work ethic. I arrive early, even though I don’t have to, and am willing to stay late if necessary. Enough said.

6. Older workers can’t solve problems

Many older workers have experienced loss. In some cases, they’ve lost loved ones or jobs. They’ve had to adapt to adverse situations in real time. They know how to put out fires.

The ability to adapt to adverse situations makes older workers natural problem solvers. They think calmly under pressure because they’ve seen these problems before. They have learned from their mistakes and are less likely to make mistakes at work.

7. Older workers are lazy

A common misconception younger interviewers hold is that older workers are just biding their time until retirement comes. The fact is that if the work is stimulating, older workers will work for years beyond retirement age.

One of my colleagues is beyond retirement age, yet she says she’ll work as long as she can because she enjoys the responsibilities and the people with whom she works. Trust the older candidate when they say they have no plans to retire soon.

8. Older workers aren’t team players

Older workers have more job experience than younger workers, which tends to mean they also have more developed emotional intelligence (EQ). They understand their own limitations and the limitations of their teammates. They know when to pitch in, when to take direction, and even when to act as a mentor.


Younger interviewers, when you’re interviewing an older worker, don’t judge them before getting to know them. Keep in mind the misconceptions I’ve explained above. Prove to be the better person.

Am I saying you should hire an older worker simply because of their age? Of course not. Just give them a chance, as you would for any other worker of any other age.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com

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10 reasons why you’re not a fit for the job

And you’ll never know which one.

“You aren’t the right fit.”

This is the default answer recruiters and hiring managers give job candidates when the hiring manager (HM) doesn’t hire them. But it’s as vague as the answer my son gives me when I asked how school went. “Fine.”

Nervous Candidate

Though you may never know why exactly you weren’t hired, keep in mind that it may not be something you did wrong. You didn’t screw up the interview because you said your greatest weakness is you don’t spell well. Or you couldn’t come up with a story about when you saved a project from failing.

No, there were other reasons why you weren’t “a good fit.” Here are some possibilities:

You’re not a purple squirrel. This is a term to describe a candidate who has 15 out of 15 qualifications for the job, which is nearly impossible. Of if you have all the qualifications, there’s something else you lack.

Perhaps you don’t have the personality the HM is looking for. Don’t worry if this is the reason, because the position will remain open forever, or at least until you find your next job.

You’re too old. Sadly—a word my daughter likes to use—this is a fact of life. Some, not many, HMs look at age as a reason to disqualify candidates from consideration. They’re ignorant to the value of the mature worker.

The major concern is money, or output, or flexibility. You did your best to dispel theses bogus reasons, so move on to employers who value you for your extensive experience, maturity, dependability, etc.

Legitimate reasons. Legitimate reasons such as relocation, compensation, or other financial issues. Hiring a candidate is a business transaction, so if you’re going to put too much of a dent into the company’s pocketbook, there’s only one solution—the company ends the business transaction.

Or you just don’t make the grade, whether it’s because you lack the technical skills or you don’t have the personality for the work environment—no fault of yours.Trudge on to the next opportunity with lesson learned.

They went with someone inside. It’s not uncommon for a company to advertise a position even when they have an internal hire in mind. But the company wants to make certain that they hire the best possible person, so they test the water and conduct a traditional search.

You’re better qualified but not as well known as their internal candidate. As well, the company is fostering good will among its employees. Unfortunately, some organizations will hold interviews, despite knowing they’ll hire from within.

You’re too good. Many job seekers have told me that the hiring manager who interviewed them was less knowledgeable; that they could do the HM’s job. This was apparent the minute the conversation began.

Understandably the HM felt insecure, harboring “you’ll-take-my-job” feelings and decided to go with a safer, less qualified candidate. Perhaps one of the other candidates the recruiter sent to them for consideration.

Hiring managers are sometimes incompetent interviewers. Many HMs aren’t trained to conduct interviews to capture the most complete candidate. Their priority is usually hiring someone who has the best technical qualifications.

In finding someone who can handle the responsibilities in their sleep, HMs neglect other important aspects of the job—motivation to do the job, and being able to work with other.

Unfortunately hiring managers make decisions based on personal biases. Nepotism is one blatant reason why people are hired for a position. One of my customers was told she was being let go so the owner could hire his cousin. He actually admitted it to her.

And there’s always a candidate’s appearance, attractive or not, that may come in play. I remember working at a company where the director of sales coincidentally hired beautiful, incompetent women. It was a running joke among the employees.

You’re brought in for the wrong position. Has this happened to you? You applied for a particular position but are surprised to learn that the questions being asked are not ones you prepared for.

Job responsibilities change midstream possibly because the HM is new and has other needs she needs met. This can throw anyone off their game, so don’t sweat it if you don’t do as well as you’d like at the interview.

Sometimes hiring managers don’t have a choice. As a favor to a “friend,” an HM will have to hire someone who most likely isn’t qualified. This is the most bogus reason, in my mind, especially if there are qualified candidates.

Usually this is a strong suggestion from someone higher up in the organization, and there’s not much an HM can do about it, except to argue against hiring someone who isn’t a fit for the position. This comes at great risk to the HM and is probably not worth it.

Okay, you didn’t do too well at the interview. But this doesn’t mean you were wrong for the position. There are times when job candidates are not on their A game, when they don’t answer the tough questions or show enthusiasm for the position or company. It happens.

This can explain being the wrong fit; a poor performance at the interview. It’s time to move on to the next position. (The good news, if you’re dying to work at a particular company, you can apply for other positions, interview with other HMs, and quite possibly get a job.)


What we’re left with after a candidate isn’t hired for one, or many, of these reasons mentioned above is a disheartened job seeker; a recruiter who won’t receive her bonus; and an HM who hopes he has hired the ideal person for the job.

There’s only one winner out of the possible hundreds of candidates in the process. I’m not stupid enough to believe telling you the reasons why you didn’t get the job will provide you any solace, but hopefully you’ll understand that you’re not to blame.

Photo: Flickr, bm_adverts

4 areas in your job search where you’re broadcasting your age

One concern I hear from job seekers in their 50’s and above is the prevalence of ageism they encounter in their job search. While I don’t disagree with these job seekers that it exists, I also tell them that they could do a better job of not broadcasting their age.

Networking group older workers

There are four major areas where older job seekers need to be cognizant of how they present themselves:

  • Résumé
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Networking
  • The interview

If you’re an older job seeker and feel that you are experiencing ageism, take a close look at these major areas and ask yourself if you are broadcasting your age.

Your Résumé

You’re definitely broadcasting your age if you begin your Performance Profile with, “More than 30 years of progressive project management in manufacturing.” Just do the math. That puts you at least around 55, or quite possibly higher.

Another way you’re broadcasting your age is by listing every job you’ve had since the 80’s. Many job seekers feel that going back 25 or more years demonstrates relevant experience, but this is erroneous thinking; technology and procedures have changed. I advise job seekers to go back no further than 10 or 15 years.

The most obvious way to broadcast your age is by listing your graduation date from university or high school. Someone who graduates from university in 1985 makes them around 55. (I know this because I graduated in 1987.)

I’m often asked, “Why should we lie? They’re  going to know our age when we get to the interview.” True, they will or can guess  your age when you get to the interview, but the idea is to get to the interview, where you’ll have the opportunity to sell yourself based on the benefits of a mature worker.

Besides, you’re not lying. You’re just not disclosing the whole truth.

For more résumé writing tips, read this article.

Your LinkedIn Profile

make mistakeHere’s the most obvious way to broadcast your age…you don’t have a LinkedIn profile.

Here’s another red flag: you don’t have a photo. What is a recruiter to think when they don’t see a photo? The answer is that you’re trying to hide something.

Here you’re probably thinking that I’m contradicting myself. I shouldn’t reveal my age on my résumé, but it’s alright to show my age with a photo? Here’s the thing; your profile is a networking document and without one, you’re killing your networking opportunities.

When people tell me they don’t have a photo because they look too old, I have two responses. First, it’s not your age that matters, it’s the quality of the photo. A little brushing up doesn’t hurt, and if you want to color your hair (guys), that’s an option.

My second point is perhaps the most salient; you’ll never know if you’re a victim of ageism because the few employers daft enough not to give you a second look won’t contact you. Whereas the ones who appreciate an older worker will reach out.

But really, LinkedIn is a networking application, and to network you need to come across as personable. This means having a photo which makes you memorable and shows your personality.

Finally, like your résumé, you list too many years of employment. I suggest being consistent with the number of years you list on your résumé.

While Networking

I’ve heard people broadcast their age by saying to me, “I’ve been out of work for six months, probably because of my age.” Or “Getting a job will be tough because I’m over 55.” Or “Would you hire someone my age?”

To the last remark, I think, “No. Not because of your age; because you’re already giving up the fight.” If you want someone in your corner—going to bat for you—you need to come across as confident; not demonstrating a defeatist attitude.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d have the same concern if I were to lose my job. But I also believe that to dwell on your age and talk about it while networking is a complete turn off. It doesn’t express your value; it detracts from it.

Your goal is to show value with whomever you speak; this includes people who can be your greatest allies. It’s not only people you network with at organized events; it’s also people in your community and your former colleagues.

To show vitality, dress in more fashionable clothes. I’m not suggesting that you dress like my teenage boy, but perhaps drop the expensive all-weather wool slacks and opt for Khakis. Nice polo shirts during the summer hours are great.

And please smile. A smile goes a long way in terms of showing friendliness and enthusiasm, two traits all networkers appreciate. Someone who constantly appears negative or angry is not going to attract the networking bees.

During the Interview

Older job seekers tell me it’s in the interview where they experience blatant ageism, whether it’s because of the interviewers’ body language or the questions interviewers ask. But how the job seeker feels may not be reality; it may be a preconceived notion.

The first mistake an older  job seeker can make is going into the interview thinking they’ll suffer discrimination. It is written on their body language and evident by their attitude. Their EQ rapidly plummets, and the game is already lost.

Instead of assuming the worse, you should dispel the myth that older workers are not physically up to the challenge by entering the room with a skip in your step. Not literally, of course, but you know what I mean. Show vitality immediately.

Your firm handshake and steady eye contact are very important in demonstrating your confidence and strong presence. Don’t disregard these first impressions, as they speak volumes about your personality.

Have I mentioned smile?

As well, speak with confidence, addressing the interviewer/s with clarity and the proper tone. Timidity is not how you want to project yourself. Separate yourself from younger job seekers who are not self-assured.

When you answer questions be sure you answer them with confidence and always include statements about how you are willing to learn new technologies or procedures. Talk about your ability to work with a diverse group of people.

If you are directly asked how old you are (it’s happened), don’t get indignant and say, “That’s an illegal question, and I refuse to answer it.” (Unless you want to end the interview.) Instead answer truthfully and follow up with the benefits someone your age offers an employer.

Most importantly always provide answers that express the value you’ll bring to the company. The interviewer/s cannot discount this, especially if you include quantified results in your answers.

Remember that you have more job and life experience than your counterparts and can hit the ground running. Employers want people like you. Believe this.


Succeeding in these four areas of the job search are essential to your success. Maintain the mentality that you are young in spirit, yet more experienced than younger workers. Remember that you have much more to offer in terms of your maturity and EQ.

Sure there will be challenges, but you’ve faced many challenges and have successfully overcome them. This is yet another strength of older workers. Continue to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

5 strengths of the older worker

As seen through the eyes of The Intern.

I’ve always been a big fan of Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, so when I was searching for a movie to watch on TV, I settled on “The Intern.” Admittedly I thought this might be lame movie.

The intern

I mean I hadn’t heard anything about the movie, not even from my daughter who sees every movie released in theaters. So I thought, what the hell. It’s worth a try.

But I was pleasantly surprised. The premise of the movie is that a very successful clothing Internet business launches an intern program for older workers. De Niro applies, wins the internship, and is assigned to Hathaway, the founder of the company.

At first, it’s not a good match, as Hathaway clearly demonstrates her biases against older workers. And honestly, I’m not sure De Niro is going to work out. I mean the guy confirms every older-worker stereotype.

But there’s so much to learn from De Niro’s character. So much that Hathaway learns from this older intern. So much for us to learn about the value of the older worker.

1. Older Workers Know Etiquette

De Niro overdoes it by going to work at a technology company dressed in a suit and tie. He’s clearly out of place at first, then the employees and audience see the charm in the way he dresses. He adds class to the organization.

Similarly my customers, most of whom are older workers show up for my workshops dressed for the job search. They dress prepared to run into their next employer, whereas their younger counterparts don more comfortable Tee shirts and jeans, unaware they’re always on stage.

2. Older Workers Have Been There, Done That

While it’s unfortunate that De Niro has lost his soul partner, he arrives at the company with valuable life experience that lends well to his wise decisions. He is Hathaway’s support system. In her words, “My best friend.”

I see the same life experiences in my customers; people who have suffered loss or have experienced trauma in their own lives. They’ve learned from this and developed a calmer attitude. Small issues don’t affect them like the issues might have in their younger days.

It goes without saying that older workers also possess more job experience than younger workers. He comes to Hathaway’s company a former VP of sales, which intimidates her. Unfortunately many younger managers feel intimidated and think older workers want their jobs. This is not true.

3. Older Workers Communicate Better

Well maybe differently than younger workers.In the movie the majority of  employees we see are Millennials, making me feel quite old. Technology like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook are thrown around as if they’re a natural part of life. It is their way to communicate.

To emphasize a Millennial character’s reliance on technology, De Niro has to teach him that it is NOT acceptable to make up with a woman via texting. It finally dons on the younger worker that he has to “talk” to the woman.

Verbal communication skills are the strength of mature workers, not because they reject texting, email, and social media. Because they understand the value of the human voice and body language, how they are more direct and personal. Business still conducted with face-to-face interaction.

4. Older Workers are Great Mentors

Hathaway’s character is an entrepreneur, independent, and decisive. She has a great sense of how to run her business and is very successful. But when the chips are down and Hathaway needs moral support, De Niro is there to mentor her in a way that only an older, wiser person could.

Older workers are often managers or colleagues who effectively mentor younger employees. They’ve gained years of experience achieving success, as well as making mistakes. Note: one of my customers recently landed a job as a Technology Mentor at a large medical corporation.

5. Older Workers are Vibrant in Their Own Way

At the beginning of the movie and at the end, De Niro is seen performing yoga in a park. It is his way of being vibrant as a 70 year-old man. The way he carries himself throughout the movie shows a determined vibrancy.

I told my workshop attendees that it’s generally unrealistic to believe that a 50 year-old employee could keep up with someone 20 years younger. However, older workers can pace themselves. They may not work as fast as younger workers, but they tend to work smarter and make less mistakes. I’m thinking of the tale of the tortoise and hare.

See the Movie

I question whether the intent of the movie was to demonstrate the value of the older worker, or if it simply made a good story line. As I tend to do in my daily life, I see most things as work related. Nonetheless, this is a movie that has a great message; when the chips are down, the older worker will come through.

Now read a related post, Younger interviewers, 9 reasons why you should not discriminate against older workers.

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Photo: Flickr, Warner Bros. Entertainment

5 ways dwelling on your age will hurt your job search

angry man

I’ve added one more reason why dwelling on your age will hurt your job search. As with anything you try to achieve, attitude is key.

One of my connections sent me part of an email he received in response to a job lead he shared with a networking group. The damning part of her email to him was when she wrote, “Most of their workers are under 30. So…that puts me out of the running.”

Some of you might be thinking this person is absolutely correct in writing this. You may have experienced some age discrimination and it pissed  you off. I get this. But the point is that this woman already hurt her chances before even getting to any interview. She let her age hurt her job search.

Yes, it can be difficult landing a job the older you get, but your age can also be a selling point. Before you get to the interview to sell yourself on your job experience, maturity, dependability, and life experience, there are four distinct aspects of your job search that need attention.

Your attitude shouts angry

A successful job search will take a positive attitude and a projection of friendliness, or at least civility. One thing I’m acutely aware of in job seekers, as well as people currently working, is their anger.

Job seekers need to contain their anger, if not in public, certainly online. You must realize that the majority of people on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are currently employed, and don’t share your anger.

Even most job seekers do their best to contain their anger, and are careful of what they write. How do I know? I’m constantly trolling LinkedIn and checking out my connections.

When I see comments about how it’s the employer’s fault that a person didn’t get hired, two thoughts come to mind: maybe it’s true. Maybe said employer practiced ageism. The second thought is “Ooh, people are watching; they’re looking. And they’re not liking what they see.

As I said, most people on social media are employed and may be in a position of hiring employees. If you don’t think employers keep track of you on social media, think again.

Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey found that 93% of hiring managers will review a candidate’s social media profile before making a hiring decision, states an article on Namely.

One instance of releasing your anger can be all it takes. So all I’m asking is that you think twice before hitting “Send.” No, give it a night.

Your résumé is NOT your life story

He who retires with the longest work history doesn’t win. I’ve said this to my Résumé Writing workshop attendees after looking at their résumés, some of which show 30 plus years of work history.

Years ago a job seeker showed me his résumé, which went back to the time he graduated college…30 years or so. I told him, “Paul (that was his name), your résumé goes back too far in your work history. And it’s four pages long.”

“I know,” he told me. “I want people to know about my life.”

Paul’s résumé is not uncommon. I’ve had job seekers who hold the same belief, the more experience they show the better. Stop the record. First remember that what interests employers most are the most recent five to seven years of your experience.

Second, they want to see job-related accomplishments. I’ll repeat what many professional résumé writers spout, fewer duties and more accomplishments are what will impress employers.

Third, your résumé has to be easy to read and must be conventional in appearance. White space and shorter paragraphs (no more than four lines) improves readability. Today’s résumé is written in sans serif font, such as Arial. Stay up with the times.

Fourth, limit your work history to 10 or 15 years at most. Don’t show your age immediately and give an employer the opportunity to think you’re too old.

Marc Miller of Career Pivot offers other suggestions in a great article5 Things on Your Resume That Make You Sound Too Old.

Your LinkedIn profile lacks vitality

Does your LinkedIn profile present a poor first impression and turn people away? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen job seekers with photos that look like mug shots from the eighties. This alone is inviting age discrimination.

I know this sounds weird, but if you guys are concerned about being judged based on your photo, color your hair. I’ve seen plenty of fine color jobs. But if coloring your hair is not your style, at least smile.

Other ways to show vitality include using positive language in all sections of your profile. One line I show my workshop attendees is one from a LinkedIn member’s Summary, “I love what I do and I’ve been doing it successfully for 10+ years.”

What about you job seekers who feel compelled to explain your unemployment status? Don’t make this the gist of your Summary. Instead sound more upbeat with something akin to: “Currently I am enthusiastically searching for a career as a registered nurse. I am increasing my skills by taking courses at a accredited university.”

Use the media feature in the Summary, Experience, and Education sections. Show your vitality like my former customer who landed a job as a landscape architect. She shows off momentous work, both residential and commercial, that she produced. Think about producing a YouTube video the wind turbine you engineered just recently, including rocking music.

Take a look at a video produced by Al Jazeera America about one of my connections photographing models and homeless people. This is a great example of bringing a LinkedIn profile to life.

think positiveUpdate often with positive messages. Read articles and write supportive words about said articles. When you write about how employers are essentially the devil in disguise, employers take note of what you write.

Don’t turn people off at networking events

Most older workers I know can carry on an intelligent conversation because they’ve had years of practice. At our career center networking events, they carry on conversations far beyond the two hours allotted for the event. Much of what I over hear is positive talk about the progress of their job search, about their personal commercial, about their daily lives.

On the other hand, I will occasionally hear negativity seep through like black bile. This is when I hear one networker tell another that he can’t get an offer because of his age. “Not necessarily true,” I pipe in.

What I didn’t tell you about the email I mentioned at the beginning of this post is that my customer said this woman’s attitude seems rampant throughout the networking group.

If this attitude is rampant throughout the group, it may not be a healthy group to belong to. Networking groups should not provide a forum for commiserating with fellow networkers; they should offer positive support.

It is essential that you talk positively about your job search. Leave out of the conversation the fact that you experienced ageism at one of your interviews. Instead focus on the value you’ll deliver to potential employers.

Do this through a natural elevator pitch that doesn’t sound too rehearsed. Be a listener, as well as a talker, and be genuine. Most importantly, sound positive, even if you’re hurting emotionally. I always remind my workshop attendees that those who appear positive are more likely to receive help.

One of my connections, George Armes advises older workers to “Get out of the house. If there’s a certain industry you’re interested in, join an association connected with it and seek out volunteer openings. Attend industry and professional meetings and conferences. You never know who will know someone who is hiring….Read the full article.

Your attitude sets the wrong tone at the interview

It begins when you enter the room. According to a study of 2,000 interviewers, a third of them will make a decision of whether to hire you based on your first impressions, which include your eye contact, smile, handshake, and how you enter the room.

Let that sink in.

If you walk into the room slowly, with your shoulders slumped, a frown on your face, eyes diverted, and offer a weak handshake; your chances of success are nil to none. You need to enter with a skip in your step. Stand erect. Smile to show your enthusiasm. First impressions matter.

Expect the obligatory question, “So why did you leave your last position?”

Do not answer with, “There was a conflict in personality. My new supervisor was a 30-year-old woman. She knew less than I did about managing an assembly process. We didn’t see things the same way.”

The interviewer who’s asking the questions is 40 and will be your direct supervisor. He’s thinking chances are you won’t do all that well when working together. So leave reference to age and gender out of your answer.

You’ll probably get the directive, “Tell me about yourself.”

Do not begin by telling the interviewer that you have 35-years of experience in project management in the telecommunications field. This comes across as your main selling point.

Instead focus on the fact that for the past four years you’ve consistently cut costs by applying agile techniques.

You may be asked why you’re willing to accept a position that offers less responsibilities and lower pay. Many of my older job seekers are fine with this, as they’re tired of managing others and the bills are paid.

One of my former customers accepted a job that will require him to be a mentor to younger technical writers. This is a valuable skill older workers can perform at their jobs, and a viable reason for accepting a position that offers less responsibility.

Practice makes perfect

So what’s the solution? I’m brought back to the statement the woman made in response to my customer reaching out to help the networking group: “Most of their workers are under 30. So…that puts me out of the running.”

This attitude has to be dropped. You may feel that you’ll experience ageism around every corner, but don’t give into these fears, or at least try to veil them when you’re conducting your job search. I don’t buy that people will instantly right themselves at the interview. I believe it’s a prevailing attitude that travels like a speeding train that can’t be stopped.

By the way, my customer Paul I told you about took his four-page resume and came back to me with a resume that was three and four quarters long. I guess he took some of what I said to heart.

Photo: Flickr, Oliver Nispel

9 major job-search changes for older workers

One question I ask during my introductory workshops is, “When did you last have to look for work?” Invariably I’ll get answers like “25 years,” “35,” 40,” and so on. On the other hand, others haven’t had to look for work in the past five or ten years, some in the past two years or less. The disparity is great between my customers who have been long-tenured workers and those who are veterans to the job search.

older worker2

The folks new to the job search didn’t have to write a résumé that fits today’s standards, if write one at all. Nor did they have to go through five to 10 rounds of interviews. They might also be new to networking, never used LinkedIn, haven’t engaged in informational meetings, and used other job-search methods. Some tell me, “Companies came to me. I didn’t have to do anything.”

These people have a lost look on their face. It’s as if they have to learn to walk all over again.

Needless to say, there have been changes in the job search in the past decade or two, changes that represent challenges to people who aren’t used to a different job search. Here are eight components of the job search that are new to older workers.

1. The most obvious change, being out of work. This comes as a complete shock, especially for those who worked at their last company for 20 or more years. Gone is their routine, the camaraderie they shared with their colleagues, the income they came to rely on. Also gone, for some, is their self-esteem and confidence.

They know they are experienced and valuable workers, but there’s self-doubt and fear that the job search will be long. In the back of their mind they know the longer they’re out of work, the harder it will be to regain it.

Older worker2

2. Longer hiring process. The good news is that employers are hiring. The bad news is that it’s taking them longer to pull the trigger. Depending on the Source, it can take as long as 28-39* days for a company to hire a candidate.

I’m witness to many job seekers who are getting jobs but usually after a longer process than before. It’s not unusual for job candidates to be interviewed multiple times over the telephone and endure additional face-to-face interviews.

One of my customers endured five telephone interviews before being hired. Another was hired after 12 personal interviews—No lie. This goes to show that employers are more cautious than in the past; they don’t want to make hiring mistakes, as it can cost tens of thousand dollars to hire a replacement employee.

3. Résumés have changed in the past decades. Nay, the past five years. Employers want to see accomplishments on résumés, not just duties. I remember applying for positions years ago where I would send résumés that were one-fits-all, didn’t include a Performance Profile, and were written in Currier font.

There are enough articles written on how it’s important to list quantified accomplishment statements. (Read this article that explains 10 important elements of a professional résumé.) But talk has increasingly turned to the importance of appeasing the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Simply put, this software eliminates approximately 75% of résumés, based on the lack of keywords. Approximately 95% of my customers haven’t heard of the ATS.

4. Networking is imperative. During the days when securing a job took less time and all the jobs were listed in the newspapers, networking wasn’t as important as it is now. This is a tough change for many people who haven’t had to look for work for a couple of decades. Networking was necessary as part of their job. But to find a job? Not so important back then.

Now your business is called Me Inc.; meaning you are your own business and therefore networking is absolutely necessary. And it can be uncomfortable, even scary. (Read this article on getting outside your comfort zone to network.) Anywhere from 60% to 80% of your success can be attributed to personal networking.

older worker5. LinkedIn arrived on the scene. At least 95% of hiring authorities (recruiters/hiring managers/HR) are using LinkedIn to cull talent. Twelve years ago LinkedIn didn’t exist. My customers who haven’t had to look for work since 1988 feel like a confused child when they hear of LinkedIn’s ability to help them find work. Talking about having to learn to walk again.

Some are even afraid of “being on the Internet.” This is an immediate stopgap to LinkedIn. When I hear some of the long-tenure employees say they’re reluctant to disclose too much information, I’m inclined to tell them not to join LinkedIn. (Read this article on how LinkedIn isn’t for everyone.) One cannot be afraid of the Internet if he wants to benefit from LinkedIn.

6. Most jobs are posted online. Older workers are now faced with the prospect of searching for jobs on job boards like Monster.com, Dice.com, Simplyhired.com, and a plethora of others. Because most jobs—75%-80%—are unadvertised, this is time often wasted. In addition, the applications are difficult to fill out for some older workers who aren’t familiar with the computer.

Twenty years ago I remember picking up the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe which was thick with job ads, and the challenges of the Hidden Job Market weren’t as glaring as they are today. More jobs were obtained by using newspapers to locate them, and then we simply sent a generic résumé to land an interview. This speaks to changes in technology, which some older workers struggle with.

7. Telephone interviews are more challenging. This includes telephone interviews which are making the traditional screening process an oxymoron. Yes, employers want to know your salary requirement, but the questions go way beyond that. Telephone interviews are conducted by most employers. They are similar to face-to-face interviews, save for the fact you’re not at the company.

Now, as one former customer told me, the phone interview can consist of behavioral-based questions only. “They’re tough,” I hear. “I wasn’t prepared.” More than one customer told me they were only asked behavioral-based questions, approximately 12 of them. (Read this article on Preparing for behavioral interviews.)

8. The personal interview is tougher. Many of my customers are taken aback by group interviews. Thirty, or so, years ago, group interviews were not common. Rather, companies would conduct one-on-one interviews to size up the job candidates. Group interviews are commonplace these days; they should be expected.

The group interviews aren’t the only challenge candidates are facing. Tough questions, such as behavioral-based and situational, as well as tests to gauge one’s knowledge. Interviewers are asking questions that get to the core of the applicants. One of my customers told me that after a five-person group interview, he felt like he’d gone three rounds with Mike Tyson. He told me this prior to his next interview with the company, and maybe additional interviews henceforth. When do they end?

9. Age discrimination is the white elephant in the room. This is not a myth nor an excuse. Older workers are experiencing it from not only younger interviewers, but older interviewers as well. The reasons range from the demand for higher salaries than younger workers to inability to keep up.

However, the smart employers understand these reasons aren’t necessarily true. As well, older workers have many fine attributes they bring to the table. (Read this article on the 5 strengths of the older worker.) I suggest that my older job seekers explore companies that are older-worker friendly. AARP can be helpful, or simply looking on LinkedIn for companies whose average age exceeds 40 plus can be a find indicator.


These are a few of the changes that have occurred since older workers have had to look for work. Very talented people, who were at the top of their company, are experiencing changes that are hard for them to grapple. But eventually they get into the groove and learn the proper tenets of the job search. Some of the long-tenured workers even see this as a welcomed challenge.

*Jobvite 2017 Recruiting Funnel Benchmark Report. And based on occupation and industry, this figure (39 days) is less or more.