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April 22, 2014 > Interviewing Tips for ÒOlderÓ Job Seekers

Interviewing Tips for ÒOlderÓ Job Seekers

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Going for an interview, in and of itself, is a scary proposition, no matter what age you are. But age can be an additional source of stress if you are looking for work and are an ÒolderÓ candidate. I deliberately use quotation marks around the word ÒolderÓ because it is such a subjective term. Some late 40-year-olds feel old while others in this age group might feel at the prime of their life.

As a career counselor, I have noticed that ÒolderÓ job-seekers tend to report the following concerns:

* Discomfort being interviewed by people decades younger than them
* Fear that their skills are outdated
* Concern about not fitting into youthful work cultures
* Worries about being judged by their age.

I will tackle each of these concerns in this article as well as provide strategies for handling tricky interview situations that may come up.

First and foremost, take pride in who you are as well as your life and work experiences, wisdom, and smarts that youÕve accrued because of your age. Age is an asset that younger candidates simply donÕt have. Remember that inexperienced candidates can cost employers a lot of money in terms of training and mistakes made. List the things you have learned that you can bring to your employer. Commit these to memory and take pride in your assets. Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the job, including the extras that you have accumulated through life experience.

You might also want to mention that you are looking to work for the long-term and are not looking to job-hop. This is a concern that employers have of younger candidates so be sure to remind the employer that you are loyal and are looking to work at the same company for many years.

It is illegal for an employer to inquire about a candidateÕs age and to discriminate based on age. This means that they cannot ask you any questions (even casual ones) that are designed to ferret out your age, such as ÒHow old were you when you went to college?Ó or ÒHow old are your kids?Ó Of course, not all employers are aware of employment laws so it is best to be prepared with a graceful response to questions about age. There is no one perfect answer to all such questions. Your options include answering with a straight answer (ÒI was born in 1950Ó), deflecting the question with a humorous response (ÒI like to keep a bit of mystery about me, if you donÕt mindÓ), or turning the question back to the interviewer (ÒWould you be kind enough to tell me what you have in mind when you ask that question?Ó). Whatever option you choose, be sure to give the interviewer a response that reassures the interviewer that you are more than capable of handling the work and that you are a great (or even perfect) candidate for the job. If you have an intuition about the employerÕs concerns, be sure to address these proactively. For instance, if you sense that the employer is concerned about your health, you can add during the interview that you take great care of your health and take pride in watching your diet and working out regularly.

It is nerve-wracking to be interviewed by someone who could be your childÕs age or even your grandchildÕs age. My advice in this regard would be to treat any interviewer, regardless of age, the same way Ð i.e. with respect, enthusiasm, openness, and interest. If itÕs been a while since you interacted with a twenty-some year old, then be sure to get in some practice with that age group before going for an interview. Get honest feedback on your tone and the content of your words Ð you donÕt want to be appear to be a lecturing sort, a know-it-all, or someone who is hard to manage.

If your skills are outdated, now is the time to update them, whether itÕs through taking a class, reading current periodicals, or attending conferences. Remember that doing all the above can also serve as important avenues for networking and/or job searching. In addition, doing extra to keep current can also be valuable additions to your resume.

Another legitimate concern for ÒolderÓ candidates is feeling like a fish out of water in todayÕs youth-oriented, tech-heavy work world. This is a legitimate concern that is worth giving a few moments thought: if you feel like the culture of the organization you are applying for is in line with you, then be sure to mention this to the interviewer and demonstrate it with a few concrete examples. On the other hand, if you are concerned that the organization is likely to demand certain things that you are hesitant about (such as working long hours and weekends), then you might want to reconsider applying to such organizations. There are plenty of different organizations with radically different work environments Ð some are more friendly to families and work-life balance; others are not. Choose and apply to the ones that are a good fit for you. Be honest about what you can handle and what would be too much of a stretch for you to tolerate.

If you can set aside your insecurities, concerns, and worries about your age, you can perform brilliantly at interviews. Remember this last tip before you go for any interview Ð employers generally are looking for candidates who fulfill the job requirements, work well with the team, and will stay for a long time. Show them that you ARE that candidate!


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Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. Her website is www.annechanconsulting.com

© Anne Chan, 2014

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