How does an older person get the job when a 20-something is the hiring manager? What mannerisms “seal the deal” instead of breaking it? What does an older job seeker need to do to fit in? Why is it deemed sketchy to put the name of college and degrees acquired but omit the graduate date? As an older women joining the work market, I feel as though I’m at an unleveled disadvantage: People with whom I have no relationship with look at me and think that because I’m over 40, I’m anachronistic and not a good new hire.
Getting Passed By
Hi Getting Passed By,
Full disclosure: I’m a 20-something. This doesn’t mean that I disagree with, or don’t acknowledge, the prevalence of ageism in hiring. However, what I’m hearing is that your particular situation is rife with misunderstandings by both employer and applicant.
Omitting your graduation date isn’t “sketchy,” in fact, it’s a very effective technique for older job seekers. There are plenty of tips and tricks out there, but here are three techniques that’ll propel you past the age-specific concerns that are getting in your way.
1. Get Ahead of Objections
Before you head into an interview (regardless of your age) you should ask yourself what in your background might be of concern to the hiring manager. Sometimes frequent relocation or short stints of employment raise eyebrows. For the older job seeker, they might be how your professional experience lines up with the role you’re after and what kind of salary you require.
For example, if you’re interviewing for a more mid-level role that won’t have you managing anyone, a younger hiring manager may wonder why you aren’t after a lead or management position. They may also presume that they can’t afford you based on your years of experience.
You can get ahead of their worries in how you answer the “tell me about yourself” question. Providing examples that proactively address a hiring manager’s age-based concerns is the way to eliminate them. Talking about your desire to remain hands-on can explain your lack of interest in a management position.
2. Align With the Culture
This is possibly the most important thing that you can do. Having a thorough understanding of a company’s core values, and being able to demonstrate your alignment with them is crucial to overcoming the unspoken concern that the rest of the team might be younger than you.
Pay special attention to the office culture, and if possible, try to land an informational interview with someone from the company. Nothing quite compares to having an internal champion singing your praises before you even apply to the job.
3. Do Not (Directly) Comment on Your Age
If you’re interviewing with a person several years younger than you, keeping the focus on your relevant skills is key. Avoid statements that shift the focus to your age. Saying things like “Oh, I’m probably aging myself” in reference to an industry tool or obsolete brand or “I’ve worked with this system—but not since 2004” isn’t helpful. Instead, refer to your experience by employer, not by year.
Try, “I had a chance to use this system with JP Morgan,” or “I’ve been playing with the most recent release”—both better options than unnecessarily dating yourself.
At the end of the day, a company that won’t even look your way because of your age is not a place you want to be. When experience is viewed as a liability instead of a benefit, it’s not a job you will love or a place you will succeed. Finding companies and roles that value employees for their skill sets is key to finding professional happiness.
This article is part of our monthly Ask a Career Coach series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our coaches are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at askacareercoach(at)themuse(dot)com.
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