Have you experienced ageism in your job search? Though it’s illegal for an employer to reject a job candidate for their age alone, there may be unrealized biases that prevent older workers from getting hired. And as this is National Employ Older Workers Week, we want to address some of the misconceptions about older workers and how you can minimize those concerns when meeting with a prospective company.
This is such a critical time to deal with the issue of ageism directly. The number of older workers is huge: Baby Boomers are now between the ages of 57-75 years old, and workers 55+ now make up about 25% of the workforce (up from 13% in 2000). With so many companies hiring right now, it makes sense that these workers be considered as least as often as their younger colleagues.
If you are an older job seeker, how can you combat ageism in your job search? Our recommendation is take into consideration 3 common misconceptions about older workers and be ready to address them directly in an interview.
Misconception #1: Older workers are getting ready to retire
Training a new employee can be expensive and time-consuming for companies, so some companies may want to hire workers in their 20’s, hoping they’ll stay with the company for the next 30-40 years. And while the data does not back this up (the median number of years someone stays with a company is just over four years), as an applicant in your 40’s, 50’s, 60+, how do you make it clear that you’re not ready to retire in the next year or two?
The truth is that many older workers are planning to work much longer than retirement age if possible and have no desire to give up the career they’ve worked so hard to build. They are skilled, experienced, and often incredibly dedicated to their workplaces.
In an interview, let your interviewer know you are not at the brink of retirement and have no desire to “jump” from job to job. Expressing a desire to continue working for a long time, or stating how meaningful you find your work can help dispel some concerns.
Misconception #2: Older workers are too expensive
If you’ve been working for decades in an industry, it makes sense that you may be at the top of your pay range for your field. Use this to illustrate your experience and skill. Let your interviewer know that your knowledge, perspective, and background, which may span decades, can be so valuable when times are difficult or when considering future challenges at work.
When talking to your recruiter, be clear if you are willing to negotiate your compensation package to allow for some flexibility in salary. Maybe you’d like more vacation time, flexible hours, or the ability to work from home some days.
If your salary goals are firm, please say so: Your recruiter will work on your behalf to try to get that salary for you.
Misconception #3: Older workers lack up-to-date skills
If you want to keep working into your 60’s and beyond, it helps to keep up on new ways of doing business, whether that be learning new technology or joining social media platforms that you know your prospective employer uses.
Your resume should highlight your software skills and technology expertise, especially anything used in your specific field. If you learned a version of a software that now goes by a newer name, list both on your resume with the newer name first (e.g. Sage/Peachtree). Online courses and even YouTube tutorials can help close any skills gaps.
Speaking of resumes, let us help you tweak the content to showcase the best parts of it. We may recommend you remove graduation dates or your first entry-level jobs in order to spotlight your most recent work experience. We may ask that you insert a section of “skills” into your chronological resume which is a more modern resume layout.
And to demonstrate that you are comfortable in this new online world, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up-to-date. Learn how to use Zoom in advance of a potential virtual interview (and read our tips to insure that goes smoothly!) Also check out your prospective company’s website, their social media pages, and any recent press they’ve received to see if there are ways to work your knowledge into your interview.
Final tips for older workers
As recruiters, our job is to present our applicants to our clients in a way that highlights their skills and experience first. Our clients come to us for our expertise in staffing and know that we have selected applicants that we think are best for their job.
In the same spirit, remember that if we ask you to tweak your resume or your interview style, it is because we want you to shine in your interview. We have successfully placed many later-stage employees into fulfilling positions and hope you’ll let us do the same for you.