If you are over 55 years old and have concerns about age discrimination in the interview, you are not alone. Research by AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons (http://www.aarp.org) shows that discrimination against older people in the workplace is pervasive. Although there are laws that protect jobseekers and employees from age discrimination, it is possible that a recruiter’s perception of your age might be used against you during a job search.
Many say age discrimination is very subtle and more difficult to prove since most people genuinely think that the normal process in the workplace is for younger workers to replace older ones. Although this may have been the generally accepted practice in the past, today’s workforce has multiple generations coexisting in the workplace at the same time.
Despite that reality, an AARP survey of public perceptions revealed that nearly 40 percent of the respondents feel that older workers aren’t as effective as younger workers. Almost half of the respondents also believed that the majority of older people cannot adapt to change.
Despite these perceptions, mature professionals considering career reentry should know that a recent Go60 (www.go60.com) report shows that more than 16 million Americans over 55 are either working or seeking work. The following additional information from that report should reassure career reentry professionals that opportunities are available.
1. Older workers are getting new jobs at an annual rate of 4.1 percent. This is more than double the .8 percent rate in the general population.
2. Older Americans make up 10% of the workforce, but account for 22% of America’s job growth.
3. By 2015, the number of employees over 55 will reach a record 31.9 million, compared to 18.4 million in 2000.
4. Extensive research has found no relationship between age and job performance.
As you apply for jobs consider what employers might be thinking.
The reality is, employers may be thinking that experienced or older candidates come at greater expense due to higher salaries, pensions, training and healthcare benefit costs.
As you strategize for your job search, your goal is to consider seriously what you want employers to think about you. Your goal? To get the company to see that they can’t afford to NOT hire you despite any perceived downside.
Think about the following as you write your resume and prepare for your interview:
1. Stay cheerful and high energy for all phone or in-person in the interview
2. Speak to the benefits of experience, professional maturity and expertise you bring
3. Keep your resume content current and stick to relevant information
4. Speak to the long term value you can bring to the company
5. Tell stories about outstanding outcomes in prior assignments
6. Consider using a functional resume
7. Use a cover letter to focus on relevant, recent experiences
8. Speak to your ability to collaborate and work with everyone from Boomers to Millennials.
A word of caution as you proceed – before you conclude that you are not succeeding in the job search because of age discrimination, consider if you are guilty of sabotaging your own job search in any of the following ways.
-Did you share an unwillingness to relocate or commute
-Unwillingness to gain current knowledge and skills
-Unprepared for the interview
-Inadequate company research to be impressive
-Not really clear about long term commitment
-Salary expectations beyond market value
Companies seeking the best candidates for the job will look beyond age. If they succumb to personal biases, that is their loss. Know that you would not want to work there anyway.
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