One way to battle stereotypes is to communicate passion, energy and enthusiasm in a job interview. Here’s how to make sure you get that far.
Many mature job seekers feel they are overlooked for positions because of their age.
“You can be immediately judged if [your] hair is reflecting any silver,” says Georgia Duffy, a Seattle-based career and training specialist with TRAC Associates who is also a workshop facilitator with WorkSource, a statewide partnership providing employment and training services to job seekers at 47 sites in King County.
That judgment is due to the unfortunate nature of ageism. The hiring manager might wonder, “Can this guy keep up?” Duffy says.
But 60 is the new 40, she says: “Boomers have evolved into a very powerful group of people with exceptional energy, and who stay physically fit, because that’s what it takes to be competitive.”
One way to battle stereotypes is to communicate passion, energy and enthusiasm in interviews, Duffy suggests. But what if you can’t even seem to get an interview? These additional tips should help.
Refresh your job-hunt skills. If you’ve been in the same position for 15–20 years, you may need a refresher on what’s new in the workforce, what employers seek in a résumé, how to format résumés for applicant tracking systems, and new job search techniques, says David Duche, an employer specialist at WorkSource who runs seminars for job hunters over age 55. WorkSource offers classes, workshops and access to Jobscan software, which helps job seekers analyze their résumés and navigate ATS programs.
Understand the ATS. Many older job seekers don’t understand that a job search requires “tailoring the résumé each time to a specific employer’s requirements to show a match,” says Duche.
But be sure to keep track — multiple versions of a résumé can quickly become a digital disaster. Save a copy by company name and position, so you can quickly find it later, Duche suggests.
Edit your résumé. Trim your résumé to the last 12–15 years — there’s no need to reach back to jobs you held in the ’80s and ’90s, Duffy says. Including older jobs on your résumé may get you excluded by screeners such as recruiters and HR managers.
“Recruiters are not keen on looking at prior job history,” she says, but rather want to know “what you’ve done lately that’s germane to the title or position you’re seeking.”
Indicate your cross-generation expertise. Some workplace cultures may be youthful, with most hires in their 20s and 30s, but you don’t have to know all the latest Instagram lingo to get a job.
Let a hiring committee know you’re excited by and experienced with working alongside other generations, Duffy suggests. You can also help fill a uniquely valuable role, bringing knowledge to the workplace as a mentor or coach, while also being open to new concepts and ideas.
Reintroduce yourself. Many older workers have had their heads down, just getting work done, Duche says. They haven’t been thinking about keeping up with professional contacts or how to activate their job search within a larger network.
While it may be difficult at first, practicing networking can boost confidence and outcomes — so attend networking and hiring events, talk to people holding the type of position you want and attend employer panels.
Fine-tune your technology skills. Whether rightly or wrongly, employers may assume your tech skills are out of date. List any certifications, knowledge or savvy you possess around tech, social media and other contemporary tools.
If you feel you do need to boost your tech skills, look into taking training — but don’t go too far afield. “You can’t go from being a sales representative to electronic technician,” Duche points out, without losing your advantage of experience. Any certification or targeted skill-boosting course should take less than six months.
Exhibit experience. Show you’re a good fit for the culture of a company, Duche says, by including skills and accomplishments that fit the job description, indicate that you’re a strong candidate, and demonstrate a match between the employer’s needs and your experience.
“If you have a strong skill set, age isn’t such an issue,” Duche says.