Ask 40+, 50+ and 60+ job seekers and most will tell you they do not feel old. Yet even with resumes free of dates, hiring managers say some mature workers simply come across as “old”, making them less likely to be hired. Of course age discrimination is illegal. What these hiring managers are talking about is not discriminating based on date of birth, but rather preferring to avoid candidates who have traits and attitudes that make them seem out of touch, difficult to work with, unwilling to learn new skills or lacking in long term potential. Awareness of these conscious and unconscious messages can help job seekers of all ages come across better in every communication.
Avoid: Strongly stated opinions and beliefs without evidence or reason behind them.
Focus on: A well thought out point of view with evidence and real life examples to back it.
Avoid: Rigidity in thought.
Focus on: Flexibility. A willingness to think in new ways and explore new ways of doing things
Avoid: An overbearing sense of pride in stated abilities.
Focus on: Confidence based on past successes and a humble willingness to use those abilities to bring value in your next job.
Focus on: Warmth, supportiveness.
Avoid: Talking too much, making it all about you.
Focus on: Listening, understanding the needs and sensibilities of others, responding to what you hear.
Focus on: Relevance. If it relates to the current opportunity and problems at hand, include it and show the match. If it doesn’t relate, it’s a waste of time and space. Get rid of it.
Avoid: Appearing overqualified.
Focus on: Bringing out your qualifications as a perfect match to the current opportunity. Eliminate high sounding titles and achievements that are not relevant to the opening.
Avoid: Stories from way back when.
Focus on: Future value. Stories from the past are valuable only as they create a promise of future value. If you can create a link between a success in the distance past and the current needs of a company, go for it. If not, don’t bother.
Avoid: Rejection of new technology.
Focus on: Embracing new tools as they are relevant. Given the pace of change in the world of technology, a job seeker in any field is likely to look out of touch if they voice negativity about modes of communication and productivity that are being embraced by 20-somethings. Be willing to try new things.
Avoid: Anger, bitterness, desperation.
Focus on: Optimism. It’s vital for all job seekers to work through negative feelings about being out of work and the effort it takes to find a new job. Those negative feelings can sabotage a job search. Instead, look ahead to the great possibilities the future holds and be positive about what it will take to get there.
Avoid: Preconceived notions based on your interviewer’s age or experience.
Focus on: Open mindedness, finding ways to connect with the interviewer and show him or her how you are a match for the job.
Avoid: Fear that you will be the victim of age discrimination.
Focus on: Confidence in your ability to bring out your strengths, abilities and past successes as a way of showing how you can solve problems for the company.
Recruiters, even those who are 40+ themselves, note that many mature workers convey a sense of defensiveness in interviews, as if they are almost sure they will be discriminated against and not get the job. Ask a couple of friends to tell you honestly if you are acting defensive or showing any of the negative tendencies listed above. Focus on all the positive traits and your age will be irrelevant.