Remember when you were a kid and you thought 40 was sooo old? When I was growing up, people called their 50s the “Golden Years.” And 65? The image of 65 was retirement and living out your final days with a plaid blanket on your lap in a rocking chair. Baby Boomers have proven getting older is not necessarily the END of anything, especially not work. Aging even looks different now and many people feel healthy into their eighties and beyond. There are studies that confirm the more your mind is stimulated by learning new concepts, brain function improves. Social interaction also has a positive impact on the aging process according to recent research. The problem is---Corporate America and business in general hasn’t necessarily kept up with these changes.
Hiring for all except C-level jobs at many corporations is often an entry-level function--now we have a disconnect. 20-something employees tasked with attending job fairs, screening resumes and performing initial telephone screening interviews with a person old enough to be (YIKES!) their parents or grandparents. I was chatting with a friend over the weekend who is a young-looking 60, relocated and looking for a job for the first time in thirty years. She shared the story of recently walking into an interview and the recruiter (who looked 25-ish) exclaimed, “Wow, you don’t look 60!” Clearly this was meant as a compliment no matter how inappropriate and after a full day of interviews; she was not called back for a final interview. In the back of her mind, the idea that her age was an issue was not missed. The HR recruiter mentioned it, but how many others in the process were distracted by it?
We can’t turn back the clock and we shouldn't have to, but we can implement 4 ideas to level the playing field when we finally have that all important interview.
#1—Image Matters: Come to the interview or job fair in something you know you look good in. For men, it may be the suit you receive the most compliments wearing. People tell you the colors in that tie look good on you or the shirt brings out your eye color. Ladies, wear an outfit that is up-to-date, but tried and true. Knowing you look good will give your confidence a boost. Your main goal is to dress age-appropriately in well-fitting clothes for a professional interview. Many department stores offer free personal shopper service and you can get objective feedback about what styles looks best on you.
#2—Watch your Words: You will hear job-seekers lamenting about how old they are, how old they feel or how this job is a step down, but they are desperate for work. That’s not appropriate for an interview. Even if the recruiter is mature, they are not your confidante. Don’t be your own worse enemy bringing up references to age or how you hate computers, technology or how your smart phone is smarter than you, ha-ha. Even self-deprecating jokes have no place in the interview. Keep your tone up-beat, be confident, friendly—and professional.
#3—Role Play & Practice the Interview: You should have answers to basic questions already in your head. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Rehearse how you are going to answer questions about extended unemployment. Have concise illustrations ready for behavioral interview-style questions. Those questions usually start with, “Tell me about a time when….?” Keep it short and focused because a lot of experienced people (myself included) tend to ramble. When they ask you for questions, have 2-3 questions ready and make sure they put you in a good light. Don’t ask about time off, health benefits or negative company comments you read on a corporate message board.
#4—Sell Yourself: You are at the interview to sell yourself as a high-performer with experience and maturity. You are a professional that works well with others and your skills can help the company meet its objectives. Use sales techniques to learn what problem the company is trying to solve and position yourself as the solution. In the interview ask some “closing” questions. How do my skills align with your idea of the perfect candidate? If there are gaps, you can address them. Would I have your support to move on to the next level of interviews? If not, you can address the issue and ask the question again later in the interview. Close each person you talk with for their support in hiring you for the job.
These four ideas can help you level the playing field and position yourself for success. It is tough out there, but it just takes one great offer to move your career into high gear. If you have advice, additional tips or strategies that have worked—share your comments.