Job Search Strategies for Older Workers

Businesspeople shaking hands before meeting
••• Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

I'm always a little surprised at how young can be considered old by employers. In some industries, especially high-tech, even mid-thirties can be considered old. In fact, I spoke to one computer programmer who thought that the workers in his office who were over thirty old! Unfortunately for older job seekers, the older you are, the longer it can take to get a job and the harder it can be to get hired.

What can you do to address age discrimination and promote your candidacy for employment? There are strategies older job seekers can implement to help expedite a job search and to find gainful, and meaningful, employment. Here are job search tips for mature workers from Peter Gudmundsson, CEO of Hire Maturity, a company that is dedicated to connecting employers with high-quality older talent.

Resume Tips for Older Job Seekers

One way to overcome the perception that your age is an issue is to age proof and edit your resume. Limiting what you include on your resume, from a chronological perspective, can help job seekers avoid the stigma of being considered "too old" by a prospective employer. Make sure your references to job skills and accomplishments use contemporary vocabulary. For example, “formatted documents” rather than “typed . . .”

Cover Letter Tips for Older Job Seekers

Your cover letter is critical, as well.

Review these cover letter tips for older job seekers, including what to include in your cover letter, how to showcase your skills, and how to effectively market your candidacy to employers.

Emphasize Your Relevant Experience

When writing your resume and your cover letters, there's no need to mention every job you've ever had.

Include only the most recent positions and, if you attended college, don't list your graduation dates.

Interview Answers for Older Applicants

Even though employers can't legally ask directly about your age, they sometimes ask questions during a job interview to try to determine how old you are. Here are some age-related interview questions and advice on how to respond. Anticipate these questions and have non-defensive upbeat answers.

Interview Tips for Older Job Seekers

Tips and advice for successful interviewing for older seekers, including how to make experience an asset, what to wear, how to address age issues and how to stay positive when interviewing can be especially challenging.

Fashion Tips for Older Job Seekers

You can strategically write your resume and cover letter, but you can't change the basic facts - your actual age and your employment history are etched in stone. However, there are ways you can work on your appearance when you are job searching. And that can make a significant difference when you're interviewing. Here's how to update your job search image.

Use Your Network

Networking is still one of the best ways to find a job. Regardless of when you graduated, if your alma mater has a career network use it to contact alumni in your field of interest.

Use online and offline networking resources to make connections to help with your job search.

Consider a Career Change

It can be easier than you might think to change careers. Here's advice on how to successfully implement a mid-life ​career change. Also consider “try before you buy” contract work in order to reduce the risk of hiring you for the employer.

Get Job Search Help

If you're struggling with your job search, consider seeking assistance. There are no-cost programs provided by OneStop Career Centers, non-profit groups, and local libraries, for example, that can assist. Also, seek out employers who advertise the fact that they value life experience in their hiring strategies. Some companies candidly do not value older workers, but many others do.

Keep Your Skills Current

Everyone applying for employment, regardless of age, needs to be computer literate.

If you can't send an email or don't know what Instant Message is, take a computer class. There are classes offered, free or low-cost, by continuing education centers, churches, libraries, and school. The more current your skills, the better your prospects for finding employment.

Don't Give Up

Keep in mind that it's not just you who is having a challenging job search. The Federal Reserve reports that most the increase in employment since 2000 (approximately 17 million jobs) has been among workers aged 55 and older. In 2017, 39% of people 55 and over were working, compared to 31% in 2000. The increase is due to the aging of the baby boomer generation and isn't expected to last. However, workers 55 and over are expected to be almost 24% of the workforce through 2027.

Job searching typically isn't always easy, regardless of how old you are. If you think age is hindering your job search, there are strategies you can use to address the situation. So, don't give up. It might take a while to find a job, but, there are employers who understand the value of an older worker with maturity, life experience, and skills.