As of 2020, workers 50 and older made up over 30% of the U.S. workforce. While experienced employees make up a substantial portion of the labor market, they also face significant challenges during a job search, including ageism. For example, in a survey by WerkLabs, 60% of respondents indicate that they have encountered ageism in their professional lives. Of those people, a whopping 75% experienced it in their job search. As it turns out, hiring managers even admit to age bias. ResumeBuilder published a recent survey where nearly 40% of hiring managers acknowledge reviewing applicants’ résumés with age bias. In addition, more than 80% of those managers also say they have concerns about taking on employees 60 plus and under the age of 25.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat ageism during a job search. Here are some tips to help you take matters into your own hands and set yourself up for success.
Revamp your résumé
If you’ve been working for 25 years or more, try to resist the urge to list every bit of experience you have on your résumé. Employers are only interested in the most recent and relevant information for the specific position you are applying for. Generally, it is only necessary to go back ten to 15 years or so. Also, when you update your résumé, follow some basic standards:
- As a general rule, make sure it doesn’t exceed two pages
- Don’t include your complete address—just city and state are sufficient
- Remove graduation dates from the education section and move that section to the bottom
- Use a current email domain like Gmail rather than other outdated domains like Hotmail
Prepare for inappropriate interview questions
It is not uncommon for mature job seekers to be asked inappropriate questions during an interview, so it’s best to be prepared. One example is the question, “How long do you plan to work?” At that point, try redirecting the conversation rather than giving a specific timeline. One example answer could be something like, “I think this position is a great match for my skills and experience and that it would allow me the opportunity to grow professionally. I hope to be here for as long as I can contribute.” That way, you’re showing enthusiasm for the position and a willingness to continue expanding your skillset.
Stay current on trends and technology
Some recruiters stereotype professionals over 40 because they assume that older workers don’t stay on top of the most current industry trends and technology. If you are in that age range, it’s essential to continue learning and developing your skill set. Be sure you know the latest jargon and buzzwords in the industry. This approach makes you more competitive in the job market and valuable in the workplace. Consider what additional training, courses, or certifications you can attain to help you stand out from other candidates.
Capitalize on your network
As a more experienced hire, you likely have an extensive network of contacts. Reach out to friends, family, and former co-workers to see who is hiring. If you apply to a position and know someone at the company, mention it in your cover letter and during the interview process. Also, don’t forget to leverage online networking sites like LinkedIn. First, ensure your online profile is up to date. Then, network with recruiters and hiring managers by joining groups, sharing content, and sending messages. Actively participating on the site will help you grow your network and, eventually, reach your career goals.
Look for age-friendly employers
The Age-Friendly Institute’s Certified Age Friendly Employer (CAFE) program is the only certification program in the U.S. that identifies organizations committed to being the best places to work for employees aged 50 and over. According to the organization, an age-friendly employer exhibits the following characteristics:
- Values employees based on proficiency, qualifications and contribution
- Maintains policies, practices and programs supporting people aged 50 plus
- Values employee knowledge, maturity, reliability and productivity
- Commits to meaningful employment, development opportunities and competitive pay and benefits for employees 50 plus
A comprehensive list of companies that have earned the Certified Age Friendly Employer™ designation is available on their website.
Job hunting is never easy, no matter how old you are, so stay positive throughout your job search. The energy you exude during the process is just as vital as the experience you bring to the table. While ageism is real, not every company is guilty of age discrimination. It’s just a matter of finding the right employer that understands the value of a mature worker with a strong work ethic, life experience and invaluable skills.