FARGO — You thought your job-hunting days were over.
Unemployment rates for workers ages 55 and older have exceeded those of mid-career employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.
And it is harder for older workers to find jobs again. One study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that workers over age 40 are only half as likely to get a job offer as younger workers, if employers know their age.
But don't despair. Career experts agree that experience in your field is a big asset, as long as you show an interest in staying tapped into your field's trends and have kept up with the latest technology to perform the role.
Here is a list of tips for mature job-hunters from several well-known job-hunting websites as well as from Jill Berg, who heads Spherion Staffing Services in Fargo.
1. Lose the 'War and Peace' resume
The average recruiter scans a resume for seven seconds, Berg says.
With that in mind, Berg advises more mature employees to try and keep their resume as brief and effective as possible. Some general tips:
- List jobs only from the last 10 to 15 years. If there are several relevant positions you've held before that, condense them as a brief, undated bullet list at the end of your work history, under "Other relevant experience."
- Include only current leadership roles and trainings.
- State not only what you've done, but what you've accomplished. Concrete, quantifiable achievements — "grew my territory by 200%" — will convey more than listing, "Regional Sales Director," Berg says.
Include those all-important soft skills too, such as "organizational skills," "team-building" or "resilience," and include examples of how you used them.
Also keep in mind that many employers now use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which uses algorithms to identify which resumes best fit the job description. So maximize your chances by reflecting the keywords used in the job listing and utilizing a clear, clean design that won't confuse the software.
One tool to help you "ace" the ATS is JobScan, a free online tool that will assess a job description for you and let you know which keywords and skills should be emphasized for that particular position: www.jobscan.co.
2. Avoid revealing your age on your application materials
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes it illegal to discriminate against age when hiring. Yet it still happens. Berg speaks of a client with an impressive research background who applied for 100 jobs — and received just two responses. "Unfortunately, whether we believe it or not, there is discrimination against older adults in the job market," she says.
Avoid getting culled out of the first crop of resumes by leaving out the year you graduated from college or mentioning expertise in outdated technology.
Another tell-tale sign is using a Hotmail or AOL email account instead of a Gmail, according to The Muse. Some employers view these platforms as so outdated that you might as well add "butter-churning" and "bonnet-making" to your list of skills.
If you land an interview, don't make comments or little jokes about your age or say anything that could be viewed as patronizing or condescending about the age of a young hiring manager ("You're so young for such a big job!"). Everyone at the table is aware of the age difference; there's no need to draw attention to it.
3. Communicate your willingness to learn new technology
If the job listing mentions a technology you haven't used, take time to learn it. Sites such as LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) offer classes to help you sharpen your skills in everything from SEO basics to administration of Microsoft 365. If you do get an interview, you can honestly say, "No, I haven't worked with Apache Kafka yet, but I'm taking a course on it right now!"
In general, amp up your online presence. Update your LinkedIn profile by adding your newest trainings and skills as well as positive recommendations from friends and colleagues. If applicable, create a personal website or online portfolio of past work through sites like Dribbble.com, Behance.net or Portfoliobox.net.
4. Reassure young managers
It can be intimidating for a 20-something supervisor to realize they will be in charge of someone who entered the workforce while they were still teething. So make it clear you are OK with the role you're applying for, that you don't want their job, and that you are a team player — ready and willing to take direction from them.
5. Use your network
One CEO of a job-training and placement company told The Muse that 85% of her 50+ clients get jobs by networking vs. simply sending in an application because resumes from older workers often get overlooked. So use those connections. Reconnect with former colleagues to ask if they know of any openings in their field. Before interviews, check on LinkedIn to see if anyone you know might have a connection to the hiring manager. An internal recommendation from a valued employee could make all the difference and save your resume from the "No" pile, Berg says.
6. Demonstrate your knowledge of the business and job
It's impressive if a job candidate spends time learning about a company and seems to understand their industry or field. It shows initiative and an authentic interest in the organization. Do more than simply skim the company's website before the interview; dig deeper, so you can better understand the history, structure and culture of the company — and ask pertinent, thoughtful questions.
7. Be prepared for the tough questions
Got an interview? Remember that brevity is your friend.
“The key is to answer these behavioral questions in a very tight and clear STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format,” Regina Rear-Connor, a New York–based talent acquisition leader and consultant, told Monster.com. What you don’t want to do is bore your interviewer. “You must remember that the human attention span is much shorter these days."
Be prepared for comments or questions such as "You seem overqualified," "Don't you think you'll get bored with this position?" or "I'm curious as to why you would want a job that pays less than your previous jobs." You might avoid some of these queries by addressing them in your cover letter, pointing out that you're fascinated by specific work they're doing or that their organization's mission aligns closely with your personal values.
A good response to the overqualified/bored issue might be: "I don't view myself as overqualified, but as someone who will bring valuable experience and added expertise to the company."
If reduced compensation isn't an issue, make it clear. A good response could be: “I know what it’s like to have a job that pays a lot of money but makes you unhappy. I’m willing to take less money for the right role.”