The average age of retirement is extending rapidly because of increased life expectancy (and health — the good news) along with rapidly shrinking nest-egg reserves and an increased cost of living. As a result, many older “boomers” are re-entering the work force.
This week’s focus: how older workers can better prepare for job interviews.
Job seekers with decades of experience face noteworthy hurdles directly attributable to their age. Despite federal laws barring age discrimination, reality means there are “tapes” and questions that tend to run through a hiring manager’s mind.
Does this person have the energy to do this job? Is this person looking for a job to coast until retirement? Why is this person applying for a job he or she is obviously overqualified for? Will this person fit with younger team members? Is this person rigid or set in his ways? Is this person technologically savvy and current with industry trends? Won’t there be issues for this person reporting to someone younger?
Older job seekers will need to prepare to overcome these hurdles in interviews.
As a professional career coach, here are some tips I offer to my clients:
- You get one chance to make a first impression. Look professional and stylish. Men: minimal or no facial hair (beards tend to make you look older), and avoid outdated clothing (that tie you bought a few decades ago!) Women: no clunky jewelry (it’s distracting), strong perfumes or clothing that screams frumpy. If in doubt, get an opinion from a young professional.
- Be prepared with recent examples demonstrating your willingness to learn new skills. Note specifics that establish you as being current with your industry. Identify yourself as a “lifetime learner.” Relay your continual interest in learning new technologies and ways to work smarter.
- Prove you are technically savvy. If you can’t submit an online resume through a company’s Web site, find someone to help you learn. Likewise, don’t say, “I don’t have a cell phone or e-mail address,” because this will signal you are way behind the technology curve. Consider bringing in a USB stick of some of your best work portfolio examples to leave behind. Find a way to convey your comfort level using the latest communication tools and/or software common in today’s workplaces.
- Demonstrate passion. Hiring managers I coach often relay a common apprehension they have about older workers — that they don’t have the necessary energy or commitment. Prove them wrong. Show up energetically and positive. Don’t give off body language that you are tired or depressed. When asked, “Tell me about yourself” skip the fact that you have grandkids and let them know (if it’s true) that you climbed Mount Rainier last weekend or play tennis regularly. Give examples of how you handle stress, deadlines and your track record of going the extra mile when required.
- Provide evidence that you are flexible and adaptable. If you come off as rigid, condescending or like a stern schoolmarm, odds are you won’t be hired. Don’t give off any cues that you are put out being interviewed by someone much younger. Keep good eye contact, smile and use a confident handshake.
- Don’t give away age clues (grandkid photos or the date you graduated from college). It’s illegal for them to ask your age, but reality is, interviewers will often try to find out in other ways. Reciting your experience engineering the Space Needle (for the ’62 World’s Fair) would be a serious tip-off. Avoid the temptation to list every single job you’ve ever held on your resume. Stick to the last several decades. Keep focused on relevant professional accomplishments/skills that apply to the open position.
Also, prepare for these common interview questions:
- What are your career goals? What they really want to know is, “How soon will you retire?” Reassure them that you plan to keep working because you love what you do. Use this question as an opportunity to relay your passion for work you enjoy.
- What are your salary requirements? Don’t scare them off using your top previous salary. Be prepared to accept less than your highest earning. Do your homework. Determine the going appropriate range for the position, ask if it’s within the range, then let them know you expect a competitive salary for what you will contribute.
- Aren’t you overqualified for this position? Tricky question. Assure them that your top priorities aren’t salary and titles. Convey your sincere interest in the new position and challenge. Emphasize your strengths (and how they are a fit for the position), your interests that led you to apply, that you’ll hit the ground running and that you can be trusted to get the work done.
Lastly, if you are dusting off the resume, consider hiring professional support for re-entry and/or reinventing yourself.
Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you land the right job. I coach professionals all over the world via Skype. Call me: 360 682 5807 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org