Finding a Job When You’re Over 55
If you’re over 55 and looking for a job for the first time in many years, there’s clearly the possibility that potential employers may be leery of hiring you because of your age. But older workers can take a proactive approach to overcoming employers’ possible concerns by staying focused on long-term objectives in both their résumés and in interview conversations. In the following Q&A from The New York Times, careers columnist Eileen Zimmerman offered the following insight and perspective on the topic.
Q. How common is age discrimination and what are the major concerns of hiring a candidate over 55?
Although it’s illegal to exclude an older candidate based on age, there is still plenty of age discrimination in the job market, said Robert P. Riordan, a partner in the labor and employment practice of law firm Alston & Bird in Atlanta. And while most hiring managers know enough not to ask about age, their concerns about energy level, technological ability and retirement still exist, he pointed out.
Q. Should you be direct about your age on your résumé, or is it likely to knock you out of contention?
Never lie about your age. At the same time, you can take steps to minimize attention to it. Your goal is to use your résumé to get an interview, because that’s where you will have an opportunity to show that your age is not an issue.
One strategy is to revise descriptions of your previous jobs so that the terms being used are current, said Genia Spencer of Randstad, a staffing agency in Atlanta. “If 15 years ago you were head of the personnel office, that should be changed to human resources” she told the newspaper.
Also, don’t list the years when you graduated from college or graduate school, advised Michael Neece of PongoResume, an online career advice and résumé-writing service in Northborough, Mass. “Leaving off the date might raise a red flag, but usually it doesn’t,” he said. “When a résumé is screened, they are looking for specific things like degrees and the minimum experience requirements, not dates.”
You can show your level of energy by adding a section on your activities or hobbies. If you are an avid runner or recreational cyclist, say so, Neece said. To demonstrate your ability to work with people of all ages, include any mentoring you have done, either at previous jobs or in your community thorough volunteer work, Spencer added.
Q. Many employers worry that older workers can’t keep up with changing technology. How can you reassure them?
It’s critical to let potential employers know you are comfortable with technology and can adapt easily. Join social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, Spencer said. Then put your LinkedIn and/or Facebook URL on your résumé with your name and address. “I would also recommend creating a Web site—get it professionally done—with a résumé and samples of your work, and include that Web site link on your résumé too,” she told the newspaper.
Q. If you get an interview, how do you handle issues that you won’t be asked about directly but that feel like the elephants in the room—like your health, energy level or when you plan to retire?
If you sense there is concern about your age, ask about it, said Judi Perkins, president of Find Your Perfect Job, a career coaching firm in Bethal, Conn. If you plan to keep working for a long time, you can say something like: “I have had a strong career in marketing and am still very creative. I love the work and as I get older I find I don’t want to move from company to company. I want to stay here for the next decade,” Perkins said.
Make sure you also mention any recent courses taken that relate to your field, like an updated management or accounting practices class. This will show that you are still learning and intend to be working in your industry for a long time, pointed out Joseph Scalice, president of RW Consulting Group in Holmdel, N.J. And if you enjoy taking bike rides on weekends, playing tennis and doing volunteer work, slip in a comment about them, too.
Q. Many companies welcome older workers because of the breadth of their experience and knowledge. Is there a way to capitalize on your age and use it to your advantage?
Rather than combing the large job boards for openings, you might start with job boards that cater to older workers, like retireworkforce.com, primecb.com and Retirementjobs.com
Research companies before you apply, looking for those with a diversity of age and experience in their workforce. Also take the same approach when you work with staffing agencies and recruiters, Spencer told the newspaper. That way, you will stop seeing your age as a liability and will be in a position to confidently convey the major professional advantages that your age—and the experience that goes with it—has conferred on you.