Cover Letters Tips for Older Job Seekers

Tips and Advice for Age Proofing Your Cover Letters

Older man using digital tablet in cafe
••• Resolution Productions / Getty Images

Applying to jobs when you're in your fifties, sixties, or beyond brings with it some unique challenges. Sure, you have plenty of experience. But hiring managers don't necessarily see all those years on the job as an asset. They may believe seasoned, mature candidates will expect more money or responsibility, struggle to work with a younger manager, or lack up-to-date skills. 

And while the Age Discrimination Act in Employment Act means that discriminating against older employee and job candidates is illegal, we hear from many unemployed job seekers who feel that their age is an issue. They say things like: 

  • I have learned that age does matter in employment.
  • My age seems to be my biggest enemy.
  • I think my age is my downfall right now.

It's true — despite legal protections, being considered an older job seeker can hinder your chances of finding employment. However, there are ways you can age-proof your resume and address age issues when writing cover letters. Review these cover letter writing tips for older job seekers to help market your candidacy effectively to employers.

Cover Letter Tips for Older Job Seekers

  • Target your cover letter. The most important way you can convince a hiring manager that you're worth interviewing is to customize your cover letter. Take the job posting and list the criteria the employer is seeking. Then list the skills and experience you have, either in paragraph form or in a bulleted list. This way, the hiring manager can see why you're qualified for the job.
  • Don't summarize your entire resume. This advice applies to candidates of all ages. A good cover letter doesn't read like an autobiography or a distillation of your resume. For older candidates, it is important to veer away from a sequential recounting of your employment, and instead focus on experience relevant to the job at hand. 
  • Don't include years of experience. Don't list the length of experience you have in your cover letter. For example, it's not advantageous to say you have 20 or 30 years of experience. It will flag you as an older candidate.
  • Don't promote your age. Avoid terms like seasoned professional, a wealth of experience, worked for many years, or anything similar. There's no need to highlight, in general, your years of experience. Instead, stick to the facts (e.g., "I led a team of 10 marketing professionals over at XYZ company."). 
  • Do emphasize your related experience and strengths. Your cover letter is an opportunity to mention your proven experience, which a less experienced candidate may not have. Again, specify how that experienced is related to the job you're applying for - the more specific you are, the more relevant a candidate you'll be.
  • Do mention connections. As always in a cover letter, it's powerful to mention a connection. Here's more information on how to mention a referral in a cover letter and here are examples of cover letters with referrals to review. 
  • Focus on flexibility. Mention your flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to learn in your cover letter. It will peg you as young and eager, even if you aren't so young in years. Similarly, highlight any knowledge of current technology that you have since this is often a big concern for hiring managers. 
  • Be careful about salary requirements. If the job posting requests your salary requirements, note that you're flexible. That way employers won't think of you as being overqualified and/or overpriced.

It's essential that your cover letter does not look old-fashioned. Watch for dated language, too. Your word choices can potentially make you seem older or younger than your actual age. Favor short, snappy sentences over longer, more complex syntax. Consider having a younger professional - preferably in your industry - read through your cover letter to make sure your phrasing doesn't date you. 

Be prepared to email your cover letter. Be sure that you are following email etiquette guidelines when you email your cover letters.