December 9, 2011
Interviewing tips for mature job seekers
Tribune Media Services
When John Hemon interviewed for a job as a salesperson with a major electronics retailer in St. Louis, the 61-year-old father of four knew he would have to overcome perceptions about his age. He just didn’t think he’d have to do it in front of someone at least 30 years his junior.
“I saw this kid walk in to interview me and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m out,’ ” Hemon says. “I figured I could be this guy’s grandfather, so there was no way he would hire me.”
But Hemon was wrong. He got the job by playing down his age and turning up his enthusiasm.
“You really don’t have anything to lose when you’re looking for a job at my age,” Hemon says. “I just kept telling the kid about my own stereo system and asking his advice about plasma TVs.”
Unemployment rate lower: The jobless rate for people 55 and over fell to 6.4 percent in November from 7 percent in October, compared to 8.6 percent overall.
But it takes longer to find work: In November, the average duration of unemployment for older workers rose to 58.2 weeks. For younger workers, the duration of unemployment was 38 weeks.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job experts would agree that Hemon played the situation correctly. By focusing on the business, as well as current and topical subjects, he steered the perception of his value as an employee away from his age without ever bringing it up.
If you’re an older adult interviewing for a job, John Challenger, chief executive of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, offers the following dos and don’ts when looking for work.
Do try to get the initial interview through phone calls and networking, not your résumé. You want to build a level of comfort with your interviewer before she sees your résumé. This way, you will have already won her over, making your age a non-issue.
Don’t tell the interviewer you took early retirement. By mentioning it, you may be giving the impression that you are thinking of retiring in a few years. It also reminds your interviewer that you’re older. Finally, there’s a message about you not wanting to work anymore in there somewhere. Best to leave it unsaid.
Do mention accomplishments from more than 10 years ago only if they are extraordinary or the only example of experience you possess that meet the employer’s needs. Otherwise, leave it in your “unmentioned” pile.
Don’t patronize or talk down to your interviewer. Odds are that you’ll be working for someone younger than you, so check your ego and illustrate that you’d be a good employee not only to work with, but also to manage.
Do stress examples of loyalty to your former companies in order to demonstrate how you won’t be jumping ship at the first available opportunity.
Don’t be afraid of new technology. If you don’t know how to use a computer, take a class or find someone to lead you through it. Don’t date yourself by calling attention to your disdain for new products and services.
Do take the interview seriously. Your previous experience and former stature won’t matter much if you interview as if you expect the job to be handed to you. Your interviewer will take his hiring responsibilities seriously. You should, too.
Don’t apologize or act defensively. Avoid phrases like, “Nobody really wants to hire someone my age” at all costs. Employers want to hire people who are confident about themselves and their abilities, regardless of age.
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