In my previous post, “Three Ways to Avoid Age Discrimination with Your Resume”, I discussed ways to tailor your resume so that employers would not assume you are too old for the job. Those techniques can improve your odds of landing an interview, but it does not completely erase the potential for age discrimination. Once you are face-to-face with a hiring manager, you can’t hide those gray hairs. You must prove to the hiring manager that you have the advantage of experience and NONE of the perceived disadvantages.
Employers fear three primary myths about older workers, and it is up to you to bust those myths in the interview:
- “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – Managers often believe that older workers are more set in their ways, and that only younger workers are comfortable learning new skills, particularly technology skills. Unfortunately, many of us DO know older workers who perpetuate that myth every time they say “Oh, my kids understand all that techie stuff, but I could never get the hang of it.” Dispel that myth in the interview by slipping in mention of the social networking sites you are active on, the blog you write, the web site you have created, or some other current technology you have recently learned to use. Be prepared with a recent example of how you quickly mastered a new technology, new process, or new certification.
- “Older workers aren’t comfortable taking orders from younger managers” – Prepare an example story of a strong, positive working relationship you have had with a much younger manager or co-worker. Don’t talk about how you “showed them how it’s done”, but instead focus on the valuable perspectives and respect you exchanged and gained from each other.
- “Older workers won’t put in the long hours” – Let’s face it, many companies like hiring younger workers because they seem more ambitious, more energetic, and less encumbered with family commitments. It’s easier to expect them to work those 80-hour weeks. While I would not recommend signing on to a company where 80-hour weeks are the norm, you should let a potential employer know that you are ready, willing, and able to put in extra effort when the need arises. Come prepared with a recent story of a “crunch time” where you had to burn the midnight oil to get the job done.
One other caveat – be careful not to let the conversation inadvertently stray into areas that emphasize your age difference. For example, if the hiring manager talks about expecting a first child, don’t start talking about your grandchildren.
Once you have busted the myths of older workers, then you can emphasize some of the positive attributes – experience, maturity, perspective, and responsibility – that give you an advantage over the younger competition. Your years of experience are valuable to an employer. Don’t let their myths keep them from seeing your full value.