Job seekers over 40 and 50 years old are challenged. Ageism exists and finding a new job can be frustrating. You have two battles to fight:
Recruiter and Hiring Manager Perceptions of You
Your own Perception, Confidence and Job Search Strategy
You will probably hear the dreaded word, “overqualified”, from a recruiter or hiring manager at some point in your job search. Often that term really means:
You require a salary so high that the company either cannot afford you or it can find someone else (stay tuned and read below how you can convince them that you are worth your salary) at a lower salary.
- If you are hired at a lower wage than you used to earn, you won’t be as happy and either start looking for another job or not be as committed to the job.
- Based on your experience, and especially if you have held a management position, you will start trying to change things or tell people how to do their jobs.
- You may not get along with the younger employees or your manager if younger than you.
Much of an older job seeker’s perceptions that they are too old or overqualified are self imposed. Once you see yourself as modern and up to date, you can be proud of your years of experience and convey that confidence as the most qualified candidate.
If your resume format is the same one you have had since the 1990s, you need to rethink your strategy. Resume format, organization and terminology have changed with the technology used to apply online for a position.
- I am still amazed at how often I see an objective statement. Employers want to see an executive style summary statement which includes a snapshot of your experience and achievements; they translate to what value you have to them.
- One page, two pages, three pages? There is no fast rule. Your resume needs to be long enough to include your body of experience and career achievement highlights; however, it is likely that someone with 25 years’ experience would have a longer resume than someone with 10 years’ experience.
- Been with the same company or organization for a long time? Be sure to include the breakdown of roles and key results for each. It will demonstrate your career promotions.
Inadequate LinkedIn Presence
A widespread perception is that the older a person is, the less technologically savvy they are. We know better but you have to demonstrate your tech know-how with a completely optimized LinkedIn profile and being active by sharing your knowledge via articles and discussion threads. Recruiters also look at who you are connected with and what they say about you (i.e. LinkedIn Endorsements). Someone with decades of experience would be expected to have a large network of colleagues and clients. This is especially true of certain professions: sales, marketing, human resources, administration.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting until your job search to adding to your network and joining groups. LinkedIn is your career website and the perfect platform to build your brand so you are always ready for opportunity to come knocking.
Lack of Career Success Stories
Whether it is a networking event or a job interview, be armed with several stories you can share that demonstrate your success.
Strategy #1: Be prepared to share your top 3 successes or achievements in detail. What was the circumstance, what did you do and what were the results? (i.e. “I decreased turnover on the night shift by 21% within 6 months by changing my office hours to be present 4 hours of that shift every other week.”)
Strategy #2: Hiring Managers are not only interested in what you have done but how you accomplished your success so be prepared to share responses to questions like:
- Tell me about how you won over a new direct reporting team who was very loyal to their former manager.
- How did you go above and beyond in the last year at work? Be specific.
- Relate to me an experience you handled when you were misunderstood by a co-worker or client.
- What was the circumstance and what did you do the last time you disagreed with an assignment or decision?
- We all have lots of change at work. Tell me about the last big change and how you adapted to it.
The best way to find your next career chapter is by emphasizing the value you can bring to that job and to the company. Don’t bring up the question of being “overqualified”; the hiring manager may see it as no obstacle at all. Keep your focus on how great you will be in the job, and take steps to ensure the interviewer sees your experience and skills as the competitive edge that they are.