A manager shared something with me in confidence that the President of their billion dollar organization had issued a verbal decree saying "we aren't hiring anyone over 40 because they are too old to get the job done."
Yes, age discrimination does exist. Anyone over the age of 50 wishes it wasn't a fact, but sadly it is. You can overcome this issue. Whether you are employed and looking to make a move, or in career transition, handling these age biases effectively is essential if you are looking for a new position. After surveying hundreds of decision makers, here are the a few important strategies and solutions to overcome the problem.
Decision makers note that they have witnessed a decrease in productivity with older workers. Some said a significant decrease. One CEO said: "I want someone who can contribute now, not someone who did a lot ten years ago and still wants a large paycheck but has little to offer in adding to our results tomorrow."
Solution: Producing recent results. It's the factor that influences decision makers. Show how you have recently applied yourself and been able to get the job done. You will need to stress that you are good at what you do and that you deliver results. They want demonstrated initiative plus creative problem solving, integrity, honesty, hard work, self-start ability, a positive attitude and good communication skills.
Employers worry about this issue A LOT. Many job seekers stressed, "I'm willing to start lower and work my way up," but this seemed like an act of desperation and an out-of-touch, dated response to the hiring managers who hear it. Anyone who seemed desperate, willing to take "any" job, was "a major turnoff." Additionally, the overqualified person is often believed to want the hiring manager's job and that was a major concern. Employers frequently say they worry that the candidate sees the job as temporary until he or she can find a better position.
Solution: The simplest and wisest solution is to look harder for positions you are qualified for. There may be fewer opportunities, but you can spend your time putting maximum effort in to locate these positions that fit your level of expertise and experience. Then target your resume and cover letter to meet their specific needs. Be open to moving - you likely need to move where the job is, recognizing that a lot of the competition for that job often refuses to move.
If you still want to look lower, you may need to make some resume revisions that pull out or at the very least tone down some of the higher skills and accomplishments. It's not uncommon for job seekers with PhDs to remove this degree from their resume because employers label them as too academic for jobs outside of the field of education.
A CEO from a major U.S. company noted, "There is a presumption that if your look is out-of-date, your information and skills are also out-of-date. Most over-40 job hunters have not had a makeover in ages and don't realize how off-putting their appearance can be, especially to a potentially younger interviewer or when they will be working with younger coworkers and/or customers."
On the other hand, a HR VP stated that sometimes people forget to act their age. They try too hard to look trendy, young, and hip, and it backfires. "A woman dressing like a teenager," one said, "comes off looking ridiculous. And men in an outfit their kids would wear does not work!"
Another sentiment noted by a top-level HR VP, "We see too many people who are over 40 showing up at an interview and actually losing the job ten seconds into the interview. They have lost their enthusiasm for life, let alone the job, and when they walked through the door they look defeated and burned out."
Solution: A dated appearance and a lack of enthusiasm are career stoppers. Many people over 40 could care less about fashion. Reinvention is the answer. Reinvention may simply mean for you to buy a more contemporary suit, get a new hairstyle to update your professional appearance to throw off this stereotype. Burnout is a different story. This needs some serious remedies. Time off, vacations, daily exercise, exploring hobbies you enjoy-maybe even counseling is necessary to get you out of this defeated mode.
Your attitude - positive and encouraging, or negative, angry, and grumpy - has a big impact on those around you. A great many of these employers commented that a bad attitude was often the reason they skipped over hiring someone over 40. Therefore, you must show up enthused, vibrant, and excited.
Hiring managers DID point out several very positive characteristics of more mature workers, including:
Stress the positive and the results you can deliver and the employer will take notice.
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Robin Ryan is a career counselor offering individual services including Interview Coaching and Resume Writing. She is a Speaker and the bestselling author of seven career books including 60 Seconds & You’re Hired and Over 40 & You’re Hired! She has appeared on over 2000 TV and radio shows including Oprah, Dr Phil, CNN and ABC News.