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How to Get Hired Even If you're "Too Old"

Many employers have a lot of opinions about older workers. They think:
  • You're over the hill
  • You cost too much
  • Your skills are out of date
  • You can't work with younger workers
  • You won't take direction from less-experienced bosses

No one wants to hire me--I'm too old
I run into a lot of older workers who have been out of work for a long time: six months, a year, two years, and more. Many have given up, though they're still technically in the hunt. A lot of them feel bitter. I often hear them say, "No one wants people over fifty any more."

So what can you do to make sure that you're not one of those who languish in long-term unemployment?

1) Be sure you're handling the fundamentals well

Many of the long-term unemployed aren't running very good job campaigns. Their resumes are mediocre, at best, they don't have a credible LinkedIn presence, they don't speak about themselves well, and they don't have a solid marketing plan. Sitting at home in front of the computer sending out bad resumes all day is highly unlikely to get you hired-especially if your marketing materials are substandard. All you're likely to get are calls for commission-only sales jobs where they hire anyone who can breathe and talk. "Here's the phone. Hope you don't starve."

I recently worked with an over-fifty client who had been laid off after working for the same company for over 18 years. Since then, she had been out of work for nine months, despite her impressive credentials and solid track record. But she didn't know how to sell herself. For years, she'd kept her nose to the grindstone and did great work, but never tooted her horn. She didn't have to because those who worked with her knew how good she was. When she was let go, she found that selling herself was a foreign concept. After I helped her upgrade her marketing materials and self-presentation and develop a solid marketing plan, she quickly got hired-and avoided the stigma of being long-term unemployed.

2) Be sure your skills are up to date
It's hard to compete if your skills aren't current. Get training if you need it, so you'll have the "right stuff" employers want. Low on cash?  A lot of excellent training is available free or very inexpensively. If you're near a community college, they may have inexpensive courses in what you need. Your local community center or public library may have free courses, and there is a lot of good material online. Just one excellent online resource is, with many offerings in software training and more. You can access it for a low monthly fee-or check with your public library. Ours gives library card holders free access to you can even access it from home.

3) Address the technology issue
Let them know that you're not a "dinosaur" and you know something about technology. If you're on social media, put your social media links on your resume. Likewise, be sure your command of technology is visible on your resume. Many younger hiring decision makers prefer texting, so communicate with them this way so they know that you know how to do it. You might take a tablet with you to the interview. You don't even have to open it; just have it with you. Borrow one if you don't own one. You may want to confront this issue proactively in job interviews. See my blog article on this subject.

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4) Use a job interview strategy that works-Look for Pain

It's not good enough to handle job interviews like everyone else. If you do, the boss may think, "Why should I hire this guy/woman (meaning YOU) when I could hire that college grad I met with yesterday?"

It is important to do what good sales people do. They know that people usually don't buy unless they are in some kind of pain. People think, "No thank you. My car works just fine. I don't need a new one." But if they ask good probing questions, they may uncover some pain. The sales rep might find out that:

  1. The prospect's car broke down last month when driving her friends to a party--it was very embarrassing.
  2. The neighbor just got a new sports car and the prospect hates being shown up by his neighbor.
  3. She wants to visit family, but doesn't trust the car to take a long trip.
Aha! PAIN! Now there may be room for a sale!

So act like a good sales rep. Probe to find the employer's pain. They're not hiring just because there's an opening. The pain may look like this:

 The Public Relations Director is in hot water because his staff bungled a sensitive call from a major newspaper. It made the company appear clueless, and the company president is LIVID.
♦ An ace project manager is moving to Alaska, and the boss is worried about all those upcoming critical deliverables.
♦ Sales are down and the boss is under the gun to turn things around-FAST.

After uncovering the boss's pain, you can talk about how you've solved similar problems in the past and how your experience and talent will make an impact far beyond what recent college grads can do. You've been around the block a few times, and have deep knowledge of how things work. Your database of useful contacts runneth over. You've demonstrated that you can be cool under fire and fix disasters. You've got good judgement. Plus, unlike the 20-somethings who often change jobs every couple years, you're a stable kind of person who the boss can count on to stay around for a while.

5) Convince the boss that you can work with younger people
The boss may very well be wary of you, concerned that you're not going to take direction. She may think you're going to be another arrogant SOB, like the last older guy she interviewed who didn't want to take orders from a younger person--especially not a woman.

Smile at the boss and put her at ease. Reassure her that you enjoy working with younger people and the great synergy that comes from teams composed of workers from different generations. If it's true, you might say that you've done the high-level, high-stress jobs like hers, and at this point, you're content to work under her.

Be sure to have a conversation with her about what you can do to make her look like a superstar (more on this in another post).

Remember, though age discrimination presents a tough challenge, people can-and do-overcome it and finish their careers in satisfying work. According to an poll of baby boomers, 61 percent surveyed said their age is not an issue at work; 25 percent called it an asset.



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