For Baby Boomers making a career change, fear of age discrimination looms large. You have a great set of skills, you are a good team player, and you have plenty of energy to work for many more years. Yet, you have the sinking feeling that the world is judging you based on your age.
There are two myths that everyone “knows” to be fact:
#1: Ageism can’t exist because it’s illegal.
True, explicit age bias is illegal. Under Federal law, an employer cannot discriminate in its hiring process based on a job applicant’s race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, or religion. State and local laws may specify additional protected classes based on factors such as the sexual orientation of a job applicant.
There is, however, something called “unconscious bias” – or preconceived stereotypes – in evaluating others, despite a conscious effort to do otherwise. Unfortunately, in the hiring process, It can cause recruiters and hiring managers to make decisions that are not objective; and ultimately they miss opportunities.
#2: Age is the #1 bias that companies have during the hiring process.
False. Every minority feels that discrimination is working against them. Unconscious biases are manifested in communications and relationships with women, minorities, people with accents, people who dress differently – anyone who is physically, culturally, or behaviorally different. While hearing “you’re not alone” is not helpful, it’s important to consider.
[clickToTweet tweet=”#Age is just a #number, it does not need to define you. #wordstoliveby” quote=”Age is just a number, it does not need to define or limit you as the right candidate for a great position.”]
Minimizing age discrimination
Your goal is to minimize ageism. By “minimize,” I mean remove the most common triggers of a hiring team’s unconscious biases. Put yourself in the recruiter or hiring manager’s shoes for a moment. We might profile them thus: their age is 28 – 35, if they are a recruiter, and 35-45, if they are a hiring manager. Their concerns about someone “too old” could be based on any or all of the following questions:
- Are they comfortable with using business software?
- Can they use our technology?
- Can they be social with the team and collaborate with a diverse group?
- Do they have the energy to roll up their sleeves and work long hours, if needed?
- Do they appear to be overqualified for the position, so they are likely to be bored after 6 months and then leave?
Change your job search process to maximize your success
Update your résumé
Use a template optimized for an Applicant Tracking System and an automated review, yet is readable and appealing to human readers as well. For example, I prefer the Calibri font throughout. Remove the dates of your college or university graduation, only provide the last 15-20 years of detailed work experience. Create a category called “Positions prior to <the date of the last detailed position you provided>” and simply summarize the top skills you want to highlight
Here are the most rules important to follow:
- Do not include the contact information that appears at the top of your résumé in the “header” section of the document; put it in the “body” section.
- Submit a Word document, not a PDF.
- Remove any underlining, graphs, or tables.
- Ensure you have the most common key words and phrases found in most of the job descriptions you are aiming for.
- Remove unnecessary information about your prior companies.
Have an excellent LinkedIn profile
It’s simple; if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you don’t exist. Period. Hiring teams will look for you on LinkedIn and you must be found. You need: a current picture, at least 15 years of work experience displayed, recommendations, and a summary. LinkedIn has great tutorials and will walk you through every step to get you to a “100% Profile.” I recommend you copy and paste your résumé into LinkedIn so your information is consistent.
Use LinkedIn to make connections
Just having a profile is not good enough. Build your network by adding connections with personal contacts. Connect with current and past co-workers, bosses, and professional associates. Reach out to total strangers that you would like to communicate with. Contribute articles and updates. Show that you are current with the latest network techniques. Use the LinkedIn tutorials located in the help section.
[clickToTweet tweet=”This isn’t #college; don’t wait until the night before your #interview to prepare!” quote=”This is not a college assignment; don’t wait until the week or the night before your interview!”]
Prepare your interview answers NOW
This is not a college assignment; don’t wait until the week or the night before your interview! You need to be high-energy, confident, clear, and concise in your responses to their questions. And, you need to have great questions to ask them. You never know when you will get a screening call from a recruiter. Guess what? Those are interviews, too. You need to pass through that gate to get through to the face-to-face interview.
Be prepared for video or web-based phone interviews
Most first round interviews are via the phone, with a recruiter or the hiring manager. Some will send a SKYPE link or use any one of the many web conference technologies (WebEx, GoToMeeting, Zoom), so be prepared to “go on camera.” As a career coach, I use these technologies and find that some of my Baby Boomer clients struggle with them.
Test all links, run the compatibility test sent with most web conference invitations. Make a Skype test call to a friend to make sure your audio and video functions properly and get help if you have any problems. Dress nicely – at least above the waist – and be ready to be seen. Be sure you are on the call a few minutes early!
Face-to-face interview energy
Invest in a nice, updated interview outfit. Stand tall, smile, look everyone in the eye, have a nice handshake, and lean in a little. Be sure you have a neat folio with a pad and pen to take notes. Show high interest, ask interesting questions, and be sure to express your desire for their position.
Be aware that ageism is possible, though likely hidden. You can be prepared. Learn current techniques for every step of your job search and present yourself as energetic, confident, and highly relevant to the needs of the hiring team. Age is just a number, it does not need to define or limit you as the right candidate for a great position.