Applying to jobs when you're in your 50s, 60s, 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.
Discrimination Against Older Workers
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.
Age-Proof Your Cover Letters
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.
Pay Attention to Word Choice: 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.
Keep It Snappy: 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.
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.").
Cover Letter Tips for Older Job Seekers
Your cover letter is a sales pitch. In a few short paragraphs, it needs to convince the hiring manager that you’re a good fit for the job. These tips will help you close the deal.
Target Your Cover Letter
The most important way you can show the employer 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.
Emphasize Your Related Experience and Strengths
While highlighting your years of experience isn’t helpful, talking about your related experience will get the hiring manager’s attention. 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
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, 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.
Polish Your Cover Letter
Presentation matters. Make sure your cover letter is correctly formatted. That means opting for the right font (and font size). Use a plain font, never a scripted one. Include a space between every paragraph, and choose an appropriate salutation and closing sign-off, too.
Be Prepared to Email Your Cover Letter
Be sure that you are following email etiquette guidelines when you email your cover letters.
Review a Cover Letter Example
You can view a sample of a cover letter for an older job seeker, and download the cover letter template (compatible with Word and Google docs).
Cover Letter Sample for an Older Job Seeker
123 Shady Rest Lane
Tampa, FL 33605
February 25, 2021
Ms. Catherine Collins
Helping Hands Nonprofit Organization
1234 Sunset Way
Tampa, FL 33605
Dear Ms. Collins:
It was with much interest that I learned, through Indeed.com, about the Executive Assistant position that has opened with Helping Hands Nonprofit Organization.
Your position announcement intrigued me, since many of the qualifications you list are ones I’ve developed as an Executive Assistant to four C-level officers of ABC Enterprises, a global development group. Examples of my skills and experience that align with your requirements include:
- Demonstrated efficiency and accuracy in calendaring and appointment scheduling, travel planning, and in drafting correspondence to project stakeholders.
- Well-versed in coordinating all venue, catering, travel, and entertainment details for large-scale events including fundraisers, stakeholder meetings, and conferences.
- Effectiveness scheduling and supervising office teams of ~5 administrative assistants and receptionists.
- A proactive stance in learning rising administrative and office management technologies, as evidenced by my recent transition of the ABC Enterprises office to a cloud-based communications system.
As part of ABC Enterprises’ community outreach program, I’ve had the privilege of working with Jason Edwards, one of your trustees, and have found him to be a passionate advocate of the good that Helping Hands Nonprofit Organization does for underrepresented groups in Tampa. I would thus welcome the opportunity to use my administrative talents to ensure the smooth running of your initiatives.
Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to your response and hope to meet with you soon to learn more about the great work you do.
Signature (hard copy letter)