Older workers on the hunt for a job often find themselves in direct competition with a robust market of younger candidates. Instead of focusing on the positives that come with many years of work experience — benefits such as hindsight, perspective, maturity and wisdom — older applicants can get intimidated by the younger generation’s advanced technical skills and seemingly endless energy.
Don’t fall into this self-sabotaging way of thinking, advises John Rossheim of Monster.com, one of the world’s largest employment websites. Rossheim goes on to explain that many older workers, discouraged by their situation, aren’t portraying themselves in the best light at the job interview stage. Rossheim tells older candidates to “present yourself as an optimal combination of what you are and what the employer is looking for: an energetic, lifetime learner who knows his industry, keeps up with technology and can communicate effectively with colleagues of any age.”
How can older workers ace the job interview?
A positive attitude is one of the most effective ways for older adults to earn high marks during an interview. Enthusiasm will be noticed immediately and appreciated. “Attitude is the maker or breaker in an interview," says Sarah Hightower Hill, CEO of Chandler Hill Partners, a career search strategies firm. "A combination of fear and ego most often causes older job seekers to fail."
Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains.com, advises older workforce members to gather information on the company before meeting with the hiring manager. Learn who the customers are and who is considered competition. Find out about the company’s products or services, and research the company culture. Showing up to the job interview equipped with background knowledge makes engaging in conversation with your interviewer that much smoother.
Older workers may find themselves being interviewed by a Human Resources associate or hiring manager who is younger. “One of you may be unnerved. Make sure it’s not you,” advises Rossheim. A way to clear this hurdle is for the candidate to focus on professional experiences the interviewer and interviewee share, regardless of the age difference. Show what you know.
“Older workers can most effectively land a job in today's competitive market by showcasing transferable knowledge, skills, and abilities that are mainly obtained through experience. Older workers are typically better equipped to communicate effectively at various organizational levels, resolve conflicts favorably, and exhibit greater patience than their younger counterparts,” explains Lynda Zugec, managing director at The Workforce Consultants, a human resource consulting firm with over 300 specialists worldwide.
Review and Report Accomplishments
While prepping for an interview, older adults are advised to jot down their career highlights in an effort to be aware of forgotten accomplishments. Beyond the resume bullet points, be ready to talk about specific workplace challenges you’ve resolved. Practice the interview by putting yourself in the place of the hiring manager.
Art Koff lists some questions to ask yourself as you prepare, such as, “What unique skills do you offer? In past positions, what was your role, title, team type and position within the team? What was the result of your efforts?” Practice your answers and if you have measurable numbers, go ahead and use them. For example, “As Director, I increased productivity by 25 percent.”
Expect Age-Related Questions
According to AARP, older workers should anticipate and prepare for job interview questions that focus on age. Questions older candidates might face, and advice on how to answer include:
- Aren’t you overqualified? Make clear why this job and this employer interest you at this stage in your career. Refocus the conversation on what you bring to the position.
- Will you be comfortable working for someone younger? Using examples from your employment history, showcase your ability to work with many different personalities across multiple age groups.
- You haven’t worked for a long time. Why is that? Be straightforward in explaining gaps in your professional history. Highlight skills and experience gained through community posts, volunteering, raising a family, or caregiving.
Borderline “ageist” interview questions aside, older members of the workforce should take heart with the reality that many businesses aren’t hesitating to hire older workers. In fact, Business Insider points to the fact that some corporations are hosting job fairs and training courses with the specific goal of attracting older, more experienced candidates.
There are many reasons employers are finding older candidates more desirable talent than younger ones. Older workers:
- Have less turnover;
- Are more reliable and committed to their projects;
- Have fewer missed days of work;
- Are more productive;
- Better understand the nuances of company culture;
- Are more punctual;
- Show greater customer service skills.
Years of experience must be earned, and cannot be taught. Many of today’s top employers are eager to tap into the skill and wisdom an older worker brings to the table.