Double-digit unemployment means double trouble for the senior job hunter. While age discrimination is against the law, you’d be naïve to think you are on equal footing with a younger job candidate when you are job hunting.
Use your in-person interview to address the special issues facing the age 50+, senior job applicant. Alleviate an employer’s fears and accentuate your strengths to land your dream job.
Ironic as it seems, at some point decades of experience isn’t beneficial to someone looking to get a new job. Before you go into a job interview, investigate the various concerns a potential employer may have in regard to your age. Here are a few of the things rolling around the employer’s mind when he sees a senior job applicant:
A cartoon circulating around the Internet includes a photo of a computer screen with a senior typist sitting at the desk. As the typist comes to the end of the line, instead of hitting “enter” on the computer keyboard, he reverts mentally back to the days of using an old-school typewriter. He uses his right hand and slides the computer monitor off his desk. If you would giggle at this cartoon, you’ve dated yourself as a senior.
–Technology. An employer wants to know that you’ve kept up to date with technology. You can detail the various programs and hardware you use and specific office equipment or you can let the employer know the same information by asking questions of the interviewer. For example, you might ask which types of database programs are used in the job. Then you can relate what you know of the field. Use the give and take to relay information and to express an interest in job specifics.
–Education. The employer worries that you are old school in your thinking. Talk about continuing education you’ve been part of, professional organizations you are active in and publications you subscribe to-anything to show that you diligently keep up with industry trends.
The interviewer needs to be assured that you intend to contribute to the company in any way you can and that you can physically and mentally handle the duties of the job you’re applying for. This is a bit of a two-parter. First is the physical ability to handle the job. As the interviewer details the needs of the job, you can relate how you handled x, y and z at your last job. Try to find something that relates to what the interviewer is describing. Work in the number of hours you’re used to working. If you regularly worked overtime, that will reassure the employer that you won’t be running for the time clock at a certain time.
Another way to make sure the interviewer knows you are physically up to the job is to address the issue when you are asked what sort off things you like to do. You may be an avid reader, but if you are SCUBA certified and you’ve done recent dives or you run marathons, you’ve just told the employer that you can physically do the job without looking like you are defending your age.
The next part of this need for assurance involves the mental aspects of the job. The employer needs to know that you intend to be more than just a warm body taking up desk space until it is time for you to retire. The best way to do this is to express an interest in the overall company. Show the interviewer that you will have the company’s well being at heart.
During the interview, you may be asked about particular accomplishments you’re proud of. This is where you can relieve the concerns of the employer that you will do only the bare minimum to get by. Tell him about a project you initiated and followed through on at your last job. It’s especially strong if you demonstrate to the interviewer that you saw a problem on the job recently, then went about solving the problem. It shows that your head is in the game.
Being Part of a Team
One of the concerns employers have regarding senior employees is that they just don’t fit in with other members of the office. Just as you elaborated on examples of seeing a problem and solving it on the job, give the interviewer examples of your team spirit.
Here’s where it may get tricky. You never want to make it seem like you are giving a bullet-type list of reasons why the fact that you are a senior should not be an issue. You have to get inside the interviewer’s head by thinking through the concerns he may have before you step foot in the room. Then work the answers into regular conversation.
For example, a normal question job candidates are asked is about likes and dislikes about the last job. In addition to speaking about specific job tasks, you can speak about team-building events you were responsible for or part of.
The senior job seeker is very vulnerable during a job interview. The key to setting yourself apart from other job applicants—in a good way—is to let your energetic, problem-solving personality shine through by anticipating job-related issues and addressing them in a positive manner.