Promote your working-life experience!
If you are a job candidate over the age of 50 and have become disheartened by disappointing interviews, it is time to take heart! As the old saying goes, “timing is everything,” and we here at BoomerRevolt.com agree.
Here is the good news: employers are now gradually becoming receptive to the notion of hiring older candidates for their experience and reliability. In February of this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics declared the unemployment rate for those ages 55 and older was 3.2 percent, contrasted with the unemployment rate of 4.1 percent for the entire US population, as of the same month. Millennial workers, for example, are known for tending to job-hop faster in pursuit of “job fulfillment,” along with other reasons, according to a post on GenFKD.org. Many employers much rather minimize the risk of continually hiring new people for the same position and desire individuals with stable employment histories. They need a steady workforce to maintain their workflow, avoid the added expense of recruiting, and the cost of training An Employee Tenure Summary taken by the BLS in 2012 indicated that the average tenure for employees 65 and older was 10.3 years. Despite the encouraging statistics, this does not dismiss the fact that there remains a reluctance among some business to hire folks over 50 due to the prevalence of implicit ageism in our hiring culture. This presents a serious challenge for aging job hunters: how to overcome the negative stereotyping affecting their chances of getting an offer.
At BoomerRevolt.com, it is clear to us that there is a fundamental issue affecting mature candidates, namely the obsolete meaning of being “old” or ‘older” commonly accepted by our culture and thus our business community, which is no longer necessarily valid. Thankfully, with medical technology and healthier lifestyles extending longevity prominent thought leaders, demographers, and social scientist are reexamining the practical implications in light of the demographic paradigm shift to reflect the reality of aging in the modern era. As often repeated, 60 is the new 40. To paraphrase Joseph Coughlin Ph. D. founder of the MIT Age Lab and author of the book The Longevity Economy, there is a prevalent common perception of people over 50 that assumes the entire cohort is restricted to a specific set of attributes. Such preconceived notions have a negative effect on aging job hunters and present impediments to getting hired, neglecting the fact that not everyone is the same.
Yes, the situation is changing in favor of older job hunters. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that those ages 65 and older will experience the fastest rates of labor force growth by 2024. The BLS further projects that by 2050 individuals 55 years and older will make up 24% of the labor force, by far the largest cohort at that point in time. However, it is incumbent upon older job hunters to adapt and take advantage of these changing times by embracing a more deliberate approach in fashioning their interview presentation based on the value inherently gained by their life experience on the job—something younger candidates don’t possess.
Employers hire people because they need help. It is up to candidates to identify the issues hiring managers are grappling with to satisfy their needs. They must answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” Astute job hunters will take advantage of every interview by probing the interviewer for insights to help themselves more effectively promote their candidacy.
Until the hiring culture further evolves to the point where aging job hunters are no longer under the cloud of specious myths, during this demographic transition it is imperative for candidates to take action by finding ways to assert their value. They must be more resourceful in their interviews in an effort to neutralize and debunk these false preconceptions premised upon the superficial–graying hair and a few wrinkles–despite available research to the contrary.
So, what is to be done? The answer: candidates over 50 must be prepared to create and promote their individual subjective narratives with a focus on aggressively refuting these common perceptions based upon the inaccurate myths related to aging. Further, through the use of their narratives they must explicitly emphasize the positive attributes associated with being older as value added to an employer seeking assistance with their individual hiring needs.
Here are a few suggestions that will help you to succeed in an interview. First, begin by examining what you bring to the table. By this I mean, what constructive lessons have you learned from your personal and working-life experience in the workplace? What have you gleaned from your successes and failures? What can you offer after decades of being on the job, aside from the necessary hard skills found in the job description? What sets you apart from the other candidates; particularly the younger candidates who have not experienced the unexpected or the extra demands placed upon everyone including the boss during times of stress and pressure? What have your working-life lessons taught you about other people and how to react to the benefit of the group in work emergencies and challenging situations?
Second, just ask the question! Go to the heart of the matter and create your “answer target.” For example, “What are the most important personal traits you are seeking from the person you hire?” “Where can the person you hire be of the greatest help? And more directly, “What problems are you facing where the person you hire can be of the most assistance?” Anyone can talk about why their hard skills are a match for a particular position, but those candidates that can identify the most critical issues and demonstrate they have an enhanced benefit relating to the employer’s specific hiring needs will likely make a more positive impression. Be an active participant in assisting the interviewer to reveal information that will help you to provide the most meaningful response to their questions. Note that employers are encouraged by candidates able to relate to the problems burdening them with the potential for offering some relief. Every job has its particular challenges and the better your ability to convince the interviewer of help with those challenges, the better your chances of getting an offer. People hire people that they think will make their life easier!
In the current environment, where increasingly aging people are planning to remain in the workforce due to economic necessity or a desire to stay engaged, older job seekers must be prepared to convey a more compelling message. They must establish their value as a matter of strategy by not waiting for the “right” questions to express how their working-life experience would be a significant gain. It is not enough to just merely react to questions, but rather to take absolute advantage of their interviewing time by making a meaningful connection. Remember, interviewers are seeking individuals that can convince them that they are the best candidate for the job. It is a competition and not the time to practice undue humility.
Interviewing protocol demands polite self-advocacy without hesitation or concern for standard social etiquette, which ordinarily might suggest a more humble attitude. Older candidates must be creative and dig deep into their personal toolbox, focusing attention on what their work experience have taught them to the advantage of the employer.
A life full of learning on the job inherently contains value, but only when communicated conditioned upon the needs of the interviewer. Promote yourself using the experience you have gained in the workplace and let the investment of time help you to get hired.
Good luck and good hunting!
Rick Manning is an employment specialist with 40 years of experience as a practicing independent Executive Recruiter and Search Consultant in California.
Manning has published articles on job hunting advice and other employment issues, presented and consulted on career development for non-profit and professional organizations, lectured university graduate students regarding interviewing techniques and strategies. He has also participated in public service programing for radio and television.
For more information to help you with your job search, please click on the Amazon link below to find Rick’s eBook; You are a Classic: An Employment Guide For Baby Boomers (for all job candidates over 50 particularly concerned with the potential for ageism in today’s employment market).