There has been a a lot of advice for job seekers on how to conduct a successful interview. However, there hasn’t been much focus on the toughest interview of all, the one you face when you are over 50. This age group has the highest rate of unemployment today, and the highest level since the Great Depression.
Interviewing can be especially challenging for job candidates over 50 because recruiters and hiring authorities can hold biases, and many are are not good at interviewing to start with. Many workers over 50 never really had to learn how to interview seriously for a job while out of work, or might still hold on to outdated standards when it comes to marketing themselves.
Here are five important strategies for the over 50 job seeker on how to ace the interview and use their age as an asset, not a handicap. —Tucker Mays and Bob Sloane
Preempt the age issue.
Know that the elephant in the room is your age. Should you sweep this under the rug and hope it does not come up or wait until it does and address it then? Neither. All effective salespeople know that the best way to counter a major, anticipated objection is to be the first to address it.
Don’t be defensive. Instead, subtly introduce examples in you career history that reinforce your “agelessness.” Specifically, describe the special timeless abilities you have gained that are most in-demand today that will give you an advantage over less experienced younger executives.
Describe your flexible management style.
There can be a perception that over-50 job seekers have become set in their ways and are reluctant to change how they manage. Describe how you modified your approach to fit different challenges and varied business cultures. For example, you could discuss how you altered management style when working on special projects. Detail how you had to adjust to changing priorities, make quick decisions with limited information, produce with fewer resources, and manage individuals on a team that did not report to you. You can also talk about how you responded to unanticipated threats to your business such as late shipments, a product recall, loss of a major client, or a new government regulation.
Describe intrapreneurial achievements.
Over-50 executives are often perceived as being too corporate. Having enjoyed the full resources of larger companies, many are not equipped to succeed in smaller companies where they have the best chance of finding jobs at their age. The best way to counter this objection is to relate examples in your career when you worked on projects with larger organizations requiring “intrapreneurial” skills. Explain how you led or worked on successful projects with cross-functional teams supported by a small budget and lean staff. Then you can stress your unique ability to combine larger company experience with small company skills.