Finding a new job when you’re over 50 isn’t easy. Recruiters eye you with suspicion, wondering whether it’s worth it to hire someone who’s “so old.” Their main concerns revolve around your salary requirements, your ability to master new technologies and your ability to adapt to and thrive in a new work environment. Here are 5 tips that will help you earn their trust and put the odds on your side.
1. Tailor your resumé
Should you list all your past jobs on your resumé when you’ve got several decades of work experience under your belt? “No,” says Lucie Dubé, Assistant Executive Director at Midi-Quarante, a career transition and management service that helps people age 40 and over with their job search. “Don’t go 30 or 40 years back. Limit yourself to the last 15 to 20 years, and to positions related to the one you’re applying for. If earlier experience is relevant, you can just add a paragraph about it in the “Other experience” section of your resumé without including a date,” she explains. The point is to avoid handicapping yourself by emphasizing that you’ve been around the block more than a few times. You want to get an interview – don’t disqualify yourself at the resumé stage.
2. Show your effectiveness
What can you do if you earned your degree in the distant past, or if you learned things back then on the job rather than at school? You’ll need to prove your effectiveness in the interview. “That way, you’ll be showing the employer that you’re worth the investment,” says Dubé. “Showcase tangible examples of your value from your recent work experiences. This will help illustrate that you can create solutions for the business, not problems.”
You need to provide relevant examples that relate to the position you’re applying for. “Make sure to read the job posting carefully and research the company to get a better idea of what is expected of you,” says Dubé.
3. Don’t hide your age, but…
Several questions are legally off-limits to employers in an interview, including asking your age, but you can’t stop interviewers from making a judgment at first glance. Still, you can put a positive spin on things without needing to lie or distort the truth. “For example, if you’re 57, say that you’re in your 50s and in great shape. You could also mention that you intend to work as long as you are having fun at your job,” says Dubé. Answers like that are meant to reassure the employer about your health status and your ability to stay with them for several years.
“If a recruiter asks the question, it’s because they’re worried about something,” she says. “You need to reassure them about your career goal.”
If the employer is still not convinced, bring up the fact that young people are very mobile and change jobs often, whereas older people will keep a job for a long time if they’re comfortable.
4. New technologies? No problem!
Another frequent line of questioning for recruiters concerns how familiar you are with new technologies. Once you’re past a certain age, they’ll start fearing you’re not up to date, or worse, unable to adapt. “You’ll need to explain that you’re used to working with new technologies, computers, etc. Even if you’re not familiar with the specific software the company uses, you may have used something similar in the past. Also mention that you’ve been able to keep up with technological change over the years – from typewriters to computers, from dial-up to wi-fi – and that you intend to continue doing so.”
Dubé points out that unfortunately, if you have an extensive resumé, employers may anticipate high salary requirements. “Many recruiters are depriving themselves of expertise that could prove very profitable for their business, simply because they don’t want to loosen their purse strings,” she notes. But experienced employees can create a lot of value and should be compensated as such.
“But what you’ll often see is that people in their 50s are looking for a job they can be happy at, which makes them willing to compromise on salary,” she adds. So know what your priorities are and negotiate accordingly.
And while your time horizon might be shorter than it was when you were job-hunting in your 20s or 30s, it still pays to sign up for any retirement savings programs your new employer might offer. You could well have fewer demands on your income than you did back then, and may be able to put more in your savings – and take advantage of matching contributions from your employer.