Overcoming age issues at a job interview

Unconscious bias is hard to overcome. Age discrimination can be a significant issue for many jobseekers. Interviewers often assume that bright young things have ‘too little experience’ and anyone over 50 ‘doesn’t have enough energy’. It’s sometimes hard overcoming age issues at a job interview.

Employers often have a picture in their minds of the ideal candidate, which can include an age bracket. That creates a bit of a mountain to climb for top notch candidates who just happen fall into the “too old” or “two young” baskets.

Overcoming unconscious bias in your interviewer’s mind is hard. The bias is very firmly rooted in the human brain and shortcuts in the hiring process such as “gut instincts” towards or against candidates are that bias playing out.

Employers can quite literally seek out copycat versions of themselves and look for convenient “facts” to confirm that they’ve made the right choice.

The first step is to make sure that you acknowledge and examine your own biases, says Tania Sinibaldi, chief operating officer of the Chandler Macleod Staffing Services business.

Then make sure that your capabilities are presented so strongly in your CV and cover letter that they overcome the visual bias that will inevitably come about in the interview, Sinibaldi adds.

At the interview it’s important to address your age, which is the elephant in the room. Instead of pretending to be younger or older than you are, acknowledge the issue directly and how your age is a positive for the organisation. If you’re older, demonstrate your energy, and knowledge. Conversely if you’re younger, highlight your experience and transferrable skills.

By doing so you’re convincing the employer that your value to the organisation is greater than their unconscious bias.

How to use being a little older as a positive:

  • Sell results not years. Be ready to list your successes to your potential employer. Show how they’ll get return on investment from you.
  • Emphasise your skills. Highlight both your hard and soft skills, built up over a lifetime of work.
  • Show your savvy. Talk about the tricks you have up your sleeve for dealing with problems that would stump less mature candidates.
  • Share examples. Use narrative to highlight those positive examples of where your age and experience were a bonus in a work situation.
  • If you’re fit, tell them. Some 50-year-olds can run faster than 20 year olds. If you’re fit and healthy and never miss a day’s work, make sure you point this out.
  • Discuss recent learning. Employers may assume that you did your study years ago and haven’t upskilled since then. Make sure your interviewer hears about any recent upskilling and qualifications.
  • Talk about technology. Front foot the bias that mature workers don’t understand technology. Spell out your understanding and use of technology/online trends.

 

Whatever you do, be assertive not aggressive or complaining. You need your employer to connect with you, not be defensive, if you stand a chance of clinching the role. By overcoming age issues at the interview you can achieve significant opportunities for your future

Parts of this article were first published by Seek.com

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Alana Lowes
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