It’s not legal (or ethical) for employers to discriminate against job candidates based on age. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Employer perceptions about age do often influence hiring decisions.
When there is a large applicant pool, as there is for many jobs, it can be hard to prove your age was held against you, because there are many candidates who apply for every job.
If you are an older job seeker, there are steps that you can take to minimize the impact your age might have on your interviewing success.
Make the Best First Impression
Your appearance could be a concern, especially for roles where other candidates may be younger than you. Make sure your interview attire is of a current style. Pay attention to skirt length, tie width, lapel width, color, and fit. Keep in mind that appropriate interview attire may not be what you have worn previously.
Many interviewees dress more casually for interviews now, and wearing an overly formal outfit could make you look more mature.
If you’re not sure what to wear, take a look at these fashion tips for older job seekers and speak with a stylist or knowledgeable business attire salesperson. You can also reach out to friends and family who are younger than you.
Along the same lines, consider your hairstyle when cultivating a more youthful appearance. Talk to a stylist about a more youthful cut that is still age appropriate, if you're interested in changing your look.
Consider Your Experience an Asset
One way to capitalize on this asset is to bring a portfolio of relevant projects to your meeting and turn the interview into a show-and-tell experience. Older workers might also showcase their experience by thinking of the interview as a consulting engagement.
Be ready to discuss some of the problems and challenges the organization may face along with the solutions you envision.
You can also use the interview to show how you've been a mentor in the past, as well as playing up how your age can help you provide insight into an older demographic of customers, clients, or users.
Get the Right Tech Skills
In the digital age, most jobs have taken on a heightened technological profile, a trend that has gained pace due to remote working needs arising or expanding.
Employers looking for candidates who have the latest skills may fear that older workers will not keep up with technology trends. Make sure you know what technology is most valued in your target field, take steps to master it, and be ready to share how you have applied this technology to your work.
Add a Skills Section to Your Resume
If you do not have a skills section on your resume, consider adding it to highlight your knowledge. Be strategic—if you are proficient in programs that are old and no longer frequently used, do not include them.
Get Your References Ready
Securing written recommendations from past supervisors and offering them as evidence during or after the interview can be a useful mechanism to prove that you respond well to supervision of all kinds.
Talk to prospective references to discuss some of the age-related perceptions you are trying to combat and discuss ways that they may be able to support those efforts in their recommendations.
How to Address Age Issues
Focus on the Future
Older candidates who are forward-looking about their professional life will have an advantage over those who appear to have already achieved their goals.
Be prepared to speak enthusiastically about what you hope to accomplish in the next phase of your career, within the context of your target job and employer. Have an answer prepared for the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
Clarify That You're Not Eager to Retire
Employers often fear that older workers are biding their time until retirement and will be less aggressive about learning what they need to know to excel on the job. You can counteract this possible perception by designing, carrying out, and communicating a professional development plan during the interview.
Be prepared to discuss seminars, workshops, professional meetings, and online tutorials that you have completed recently and what you have learned.
Address Being Overqualified
If you are downshifting your career, as many older workers do, employers may view you as being overqualified for the job you’re applying for. You can combat this perception by clearly describing your enthusiasm for the specific duties associated with the work. It will help if you can reference how satisfying it was for you to carry out similar functions in the recent past.
Address Being Unemployed
Unfortunately, being unemployed can also impact your chances of getting hired. Therefore,if you have been out of work and are an older applicant, you have two strikes against you. Be sure to review interview questions about being unemployed, so you are prepared.
Show Your Willingness to Work for a Younger Manager
Employers may have concerns about the willingness of older workers to take direction from younger supervisors.
You can reassure employers by sharing examples of how you have thrived under the direction of younger managers. Your opening may come when asked about your ideal supervisor.
Refresh Your Interviewing Skills
If you haven't interviewed in a while, you may be surprised to learn that interviewing has changed. Many interviewers now employ behavioral interviewing techniques.
You will need to provide examples of how you have applied sought-after skills in various projects and roles.
Employers are also now more focused on evaluating how candidates have produced results and impacted outcomes.
So you will need to review each of your past jobs and be prepared to describe situations where you applied relevant skills and the results that you generated.
Keep It Positive
It can be discouraging when it seems like what you’re doing isn’t yielding success. Try to stay positive:
- Consider each interview another chance to hone your technique and do your best to be upbeat.
- Your posture and body language provide an opportunity to exude energy and vitality.
- Stand up straight, practice having a spring in your step, and greetwith enthusiasm all the people you meet.
- Make sure your voice is vibrant and not monotone.
- Think about projecting an appropriately energetic aura at all times.