Interviewers, in recruitment settings, are not supposed to ask people’s ages. But it’s perfectly natural to judge maturity by the timbre of a candidate’s voice, physical presentation and the ways in which individuals express themselves.
All of these aspects can work against an aspiring mature aged candidate.
But there are easy ways you can counter these negative impressions.
Start by doing some homework
There have been any number of very positive research studies published that sing the praises of older workers – their loyalty, adaptability, common sense, great attendance rates and –yes – their willingness and facility in learning ‘new tricks’.
This is quite a good summary: 12 Benefits of Hiring Older Workers by Stephen Bastien at
www.entrepreneur.com Start by considering all the benefits that you represent. Read, believe and pat yourself on the back. Pin your mind firmly onto the idea that you are indeed marketable. Then get into the serious business of cutting yourself down to size. Contemporary size.
Bear in mind that no matter how much experience you bring or how truly you believe you are the greatest thing since sliced bread, no one appreciates an opinionated know-all – particularly in a situation where there is a lot of competitive talent to choose from.
Continue on to your resume
Anything that happened before the turn of the millennium should go. If one role just happens to mirror the job you’re actually applying for, it should be encapsulated into a very brief summary. Even then, you’re better to detail this in a cover letter and still keep your CV contemporary.
Clever people may offer to produce a ‘more detailed version of this earlier period’ on request.
Check that there is nothing in the resume that will date you – and that includes when you gained (early) qualifications as well as your style of language.
Language is actually quite a big issue for older applicants.
You might consider asking a younger, well educated person (most families have at least one of those) to check out the way in which you’re expressing yourself.
No one is asking you to hip-hop. But what he or she should be looking for are those tired old buzz words and clichés that were bandied around so prolifically in the 80’s and 90’s. Without getting silly about it, you need to contemporize your offering.
Obviously a younger business person will be helpful here.
But one other thing you might do for yourself (which incidentally could improve your chances all round) is to immerse yourself in some classy, authoritative business publications – online newspapers and mags such as The Australian, Australian Financial Review, Wall Street Journal, The Age, Business Review Weekly and so on.
It’s all good information – and the language and ways of using it will soak into your brain without you even realizing you’re having an upgrade.Going on-line is also helpful because you can also read business blogs – and these will bring you into the mood and language of corporate Australia perhaps more immediately than anything else.
A professional resume writer is also an option although may not help improve your interview language.
Interview language can be a stumbling block for mature candidates
And there’s nothing – except for a 1980’s physical appearance – that will turn off your interviewer faster than using vague and antiquated phrases like: ‘Been there: done that’ or ‘We used to …”
You may need to practise for a week or two until you’re comfortable with staying in the moment. If you have a friend who’s also job hunting, it can be helpful to get together and critique each other’s expressions.
When you’re asked to provide examples of professional accomplishments, make sure they’re in the current century! (Note exception above). Share recent examples, especially where they demonstrate that you’re up to date with technology, information and are adaptable to growth and change.
You may think that this is not very important? In fact it’s crucial.
Even the best trained, most meticulous recruiter will form many impressions of you through the way you present. If your presentation is outdated, then that’s the picture that your consultant will have of you – regardless of what your resume has to say.
So make sure you are as contemporary as you can be
If money is no problem, and you’re in a hurry to get started on your jobsearch, you can very easily book yourself into a short-course refresher in office procedures and computer use. And don’t think these are only important to office support people. Everyone – right up to the highest executive – is expected be IT savvy these days. And it’s amazing what it will do for your confidence.
If you’re feeling the financial pinch, check out your local TAFE, Centrelink or the job placement agencies that are run by major nonprofit organizations. Many of these offer refresher courses for people hoping to return to the workforce or to upgrade their skills.
With these skills all fresh and fabulous, think about how you can use them to present your portfolio of work in a thoroughly modern and upbeat way.
Get a fresh look
No-one is saying that you will only get a job if you actually look young any more than we’re suggesting that you should present as ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ – and that goes for men as well as women. We’re not even suggesting that you need to change at all.
What you do need to do is review your all-over appearance – from your hair-do down to your toes – to ensure that the package you present projects as smart, professional and as up-to-the minute as you can make it.
Check out what others are doing. Looking at real people (not stock shots) in business magazines will give you a clearer idea. Or, prop in a nice café in the business district of your town and watch the professionals go by. Another source might be a quality department store, where advice is free but you don’t have to buy what you see.
Anything that’s guaranteed to boost your confidence is good. So, maybe you might indulge in a hairdo update (if you haven’t had one in ages) and perhaps splash on an interview outfit – something you keep for these occasions that makes you feel absolutely over the moon. Then, polish up your shoes and your bag (no they no longer need match!), put on your best smile and sail forth!
Be prepared for age related questions
Although it is not illegal for an interviewer to ask your age, it is extremely inappropriate. And it is something that consultants would never do here at Windsor.
However, in the interests of a good ‘fit’ you could be asked how you would feel working for a younger manager or with younger employees. Of course the only way to answer questions like these is with absolute honesty. But take the chance to stress that your age is not a barrier to being an effective team member.
An opening like this allows you to demonstrate enthusiasm and to emphasize your willingness to learn from anyone who has something to teach you.
Finding the right job is difficult for everyone – and not just senior workers. So you need to keep a positive approach.
Just because you hold the perceived disadvantage of being over 40, be very careful not to project that you expect to be discriminated against. Once you’ve spruced up your act and are comfortable that you’re the best that you can be, then get out, apply for jobs and forget the age stereotypes.
There’s a real reason for this. Because as long as you feel that people are ‘against you’ they probably will be.
We tend to see only what we’re looking for. So, if you’re looking for insults, discrimination and negativity that’s what you’ll see – even when it’s not there. Opening doors, offering water, pulling out chairs and so on are simple corporate etiquette and not meant as any sort of comment on your seniority!
And don’t blow it by expecting too much money.
You may have succeeded in a specific role for 20 years more and feel that you have extraordinary abilities in that area. And perhaps you do.
But you have to expect pay to match the job, not your experience. That means that the salary rate is based on what it costs to get any qualified person into the role and is pegged to remuneration throughout the company.
If all this seems like a lot of work, just remember that in a situation where competition for every job is high, those who are most likely to succeed are the candidates who are the best prepared. That’s everyone.
But who’s better practised in strong, all round preparation that mature minded professionals who have (although they would ever dare say it) done it all before?