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Question of the Week: Will my age be a problem?
January 7, 2021 at 7:30 PM
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A question has come up multiple times over the past couple of weeks, and I'm not quite sure why it's more prevalent now. The question is: "Will my age hinder my chances of being looked at for this position?" To be clear, age isn't something I bring up, but it's definitely on the minds of many of the senior level executives that I work with.

I'm not disputing that age discrimination or age bias exists. I'm sure it does, but I believe it's rare. While someone may say it was ageism that kept them from landing a job, what may have been the real issue was their lack of enthusiasm or passion. Or, maybe they weren't able to demonstrate how they could truly impact the organization they were interviewing with.

Over the years, I have placed many people that were in their 50's and 60's. Their age didn't keep them from getting hired. In fact, many times it helped. These were candidates that had substantial professional contacts, had extensive skill sets that were in demand, and still had "fire in the belly". I can't tell you how many times I've had a hiring manager ask me to find candidates with that last qualification. These candidates were still hungry, loved what they did, and it showed.

If you are struggling to get call backs after interviews or getting responses after sending out your resume, here are a few key items that you might want to focus on.

Brush up your resume

This should go without saying, but your resume is your first line of offense. Your resume should be a clear and concise overview of your experience, skill sets, and accomplishments. With a quick review, a hiring manager should be able to identify how well you performed at each position and how you might be able to help him or her achieve their goals. For some, this is not easy. You may need to identify your audience and make sure your achievements and talents speak to them or that industry.

You may also want to shorten your resume. You will want to keep any positions earlier that are relevant to the position you are applying for, but you don't have to list ever single job you've had since high school. Let's try to keep it to a page or two. While you want to make sure there aren't any gaps in your resume, it's perfectly acceptable to just list the position and how long you were there. I would also recommend taking off any identifiers of age, such as years while in undergrad or graduate school.

Utilize your network and stay active in your industry

Reach out to your network and let them know you are considering a career move. Your contacts know you and your capabilities. The quickest way to build confidence and credibility with a hiring manager is having one of your contacts vouch for you.

Also, keep involved in your profession by continuing to go to industry conferences, networking events, and workshops. Many of my clients require their staff to stay heavily involved in the community as this helps with branding and identifying prospects. Keeping involved can help identify possible job leads too.

Be ready to answer the overqualified question

If you feel you are interviewing for a position that is a step or two below where you have been or currently are in your career, be prepared to answer. Talk openly about why you are considering that role and why your years of experience is a major asset. Having a clear answer here instead of stumbling on the question can make a world of difference. Many clients are concerned that candidates they feel are overqualified will quickly leave for the next position that moves them up a rung or two on the career ladder.

Demonstrate your ability to work with technology

Unfortunately, one of the pervasive stereotypes of older generations is their inability to work with new technology. There are some easy ways to signal that you are technically adequate. One of the easiest is to make sure you have a clean, professional, up-to-date Linkedin profile, and include the URL on your resume. While you can definitely use other social media platforms, I don't think they are necessary most of the time. As a recruiter, I often wonder how many times I have passed over qualified candidates because they don't have an active Linkedin profile.

Make sure to also list any experience with software, hardware, or specific platforms that you have used that may be relevant to your job search. I have candidates that have worked with CRM's like Salesforce that are essential or industry specific platforms that can make the difference when interviewing.

If you need to learn any new tech skills or just need to brush up on some, YouTube, Udemy, and Skillshare are excellent (and easy) resources. You can also utilize other continuing education options within your field, which can also help on the networking side.

Stay confident

Having confidence in what you bring to an organization cannot be overstated. I'm not talking about being arrogant or conceited. Someone who is gracious and can work well within a team but who also has confidence is a major asset to an organization. Knowing that you have a lot to offer and having the data to back it up will serve you well when looking for your next position.