You probably heard about “Equal Opportunity” or “Equal opportunity Employer” in one way or the other. There are laws that are supposed to protect you in certain situations. But let’s forget about it, because if you get screwed over by equal opportunity, it will be very hard to prove.
Don’t get me wrong—I wish the equal opportunity laws would really work 100% of the time, but I have my doubts. I am not saying they are not working, but I am just trying to be more realistic. I am not the type of guy who sues a company about not being hired for whatever reason.
So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about difficulties older job candidates might face. When you get older, quite a few hiring managers might consider you a risk. “Older people tend to get sick than younger ones. They work slower; they have problems keeping up with technology. All they think about is their retirement.” The list can easily be extended, but you get the idea of what I am trying to say: Being 55 years or older makes it more difficult to get hired.
You can put your head in the ground and hope for the best (and face the consequences) or you tackle the situation before it turns into a problem.
Rule #1: You’re not old!
There is an old saying: “You’re only as old as you feel.” I already talked about self-motivation earlier in this book. We’re going to use it again here. It does not matter if you are 55, 58, or 61 – you are not old. You need to change your mind to reflect this fact. You are not old. If Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone can make action movies at age 67+, who says you cannot be a great employee for a company?!
I am not saying it is going to be easy, but if you program your mind and have the attitude that you are experienced but not old, it will reflect on your during the interview. Sell your experience as a benefit; point out why you especially can help the company to reach target goals. Having the right experience is a great reason to explain to an employer that you are able to cut down on time training somebody.
Rule #2: You’re not old!
How do you sell yourself as a youngster while your body shows experience? Start with your clothes that you will wear for an interview. Do not wear the suit that you bought 20 years ago. Invest a bit of money and go to places like the Men’s Wearhouse or other stores of the same type. Talk to a salesperson and get a new suit (if you are a guy—ladies, choose accordingly) that makes you look professional and young. Stay on the conservative side in general, but you do not want to look like a senior citizen who is already in retirement (no offense!!!! Senior citizens earned it). You want to look energetic.
Rule #3: You’re not old!You are experienced and bring a lot of value to the table. Show that you are current with technology and business trends to further make the right impression. During interviews, use given opportunities to mention that you are not stuck in the 1980s. As an example, you could mention how much you like LinkedIn groups to connect with other people. Of course, you will need to have a very current LinkedIn profile and it better have 50+ connections associated with it. Spend some time to build up your LinkedIn profile.
I would probably not mention Facebook if you can mention LinkedIn because Facebook could be considered too casual and less professional. Some companies and managers are afraid that you would spend too much time on Facebook socializing on a personal level. However, you could mention Facebook and point out that you set up pages for former employers or non-profits to support a good cause. Twitter is another good way to show that you are current on technologies. But use it carefully. A good way of mentioning Twitter is by pointing out that you are following certain industry leaders on Twitter to pick up new industry trends.
If you are 55 years or older, it is important to stay focused when looking for work. You will experience situations that would violate the EEO pact (Equal Opportunity Employer) if you look closely. You waste a lot of time complaining or even suing a company, but will it get you where you want to be? Not really!
Use your energy and move on to the next application/interview opportunity. Have patience, but be persistent. You will probably have fewer interviews compared to younger applicants and therefore it is very important to be ready and prepared for when you have an interview. Don’t waste your opportunities to shine. Prepare twice as hard for the interview process.
Networking is very important for older job applicants. For one, connections can get you a foot in the door for an interview. Second, networking can help tremendously when it comes to preparing for an interview. Former (or current) peers might be willing to help you to prepare for an interview.
Practice as much as possible. Self-program your mind and build up the right level of confidence and have a positive attitude. Present yourself as a go-getter during interviews.
Are you more on the slow side when it comes to responding to questions? While a well-thought reply can make a good impression, there is fine line to walk between having a well-thought answer and making the impression you’re simply slow and not very energetic. Again, that’s where a lot of interview practice can come in handy. There more you practice and prepare responses for standard interview questions, the better off you’ll be.
Again, you are not old (well, that is how I see it). But it is not easy to overcome prejudice regarding your age. Unless you are prepared, it will be difficult to land a new job fast. Also, keep in mind that you might have fewer interviews and you better grab each opportunity by the horns.
Here are some age-specific interview questions you might experience.
Q.: “This company is on the fast track and everyone works at a very energetic pace. Do you feel that you would fit in very well into that kind of environment?”
Hit this question head-on and make sure there are no doubts on your side that you will succeed if being hired. You can reply by saying that you are so (much) motivated and so full of energy and that you thrive in fast-paced environments. Point out that you work better in fast-paced environments because they keep you on your toes.
Your reply needs to eliminate any doubt about your age—even though they are not really allowed to discriminate you due to your age, but remember what I said earlier. Be prepared to be faced with interview questions that are simply inappropriate, borderline illegal, or downright unlawful.
Q.: Your resume shows a 6-month gap. Can you explain this interruption of employment?
Same deal as with the question above. They cannot directly ask you about your age, but by using these types of questions, they actually do. Here is a good way to respond and to eliminate any kind of doubt.
A.: I have briefly tried early retirement, and it’s just not for me. I am a doer and like to be active and challenged. I feel have quite a few years of enhanced productivity left in me. I have done this type of work in the past. I can hit the ground running.
This type of response shows that you are aware of the break, but you give a valid reason for why the break in the first place and then why you are a great candidate to be considered.
Q.: We have state-of-the-art computer technology and use the latest business productivity suites. How familiar are you with the latest business technologies?
This is a great opportunity to shine – if you know your stuff. If you are not up to date with the latest technology, spend some time getting up to speed quickly. Don’t pretend you know something that you don’t. Emphasize training classes you have taken to keep your skills up to date.
A great way to respond goes like this:
A.: I have always stayed on top of the latest industry trends as well as technology. I love working with newer technology all the time. It makes life so much easier and helps me to be more productive.
If you have special (up-to-date) technology skills or certifications, make sure to mention them during your reply.
Here is a weird tip, but definitely worth considering.
Make yourself look taller. Statistically it has been proven that taller people not only make more money, they are also considered to be more self-confident, have more power, and usually have a higher status (whatever that translates to, but that is irrelevant for this book).
Now, you can barely grow yourself 3-4 inches overnight (or at all), but you can work on body language and you could buy a pair of shoes that help you look taller. I have not tried this myself, but it might be worth buying some inserts for your shoes (think Dr. Scholls inserts as an example). Combine higher shoes with an insert and work on your body language, and you might appear taller and eventually reap the benefits. Remember what I said earlier this book—I personally look at items even if they maybe make up only a single-digit percentage of everything that defines interview success. Your competitors might not go that far, and that is where you can eventually beat them.
Interviewing is a competition—treat it accordingly.