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- Many More Than Five Tips to Combating Ageism in Hiring, Summary
- Five Tips to Combating Ageism in Hiring, Part 3
- Five Tips to Combating Ageism in Hiring, Part 2
- Five Tips to Combating Ageism in Hiring, Part 1
- Terrific Question for Assessing Culture in a Job Search
- More Recent Articles
- Search HTP | Johanna Rothman, Management Consultant
- Prior Mailing Archive
Let me summarize what you can do if you are a person of a certain age—maybe just over 30—and you want to find a job.
Prepare for your search in these ways:
- Look relevant to hiring managers.
That means you will do whatever you need to do your resume:
- Keep the resume to 2 pages or less.
- Add technical skills for the ATS. (Yes, I know this seems crazy. Do it anyway.)
- Show your value, especially with numbers for each job.
- Develop and use a target network to find people who will talk with you.
With a target network, you will find people who like you, and jobs you like. Network online and in person. Discover where those people with jobs go for meetings.
- Showcase your qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills.
As an older person, you might not have exactly the technical skill combination a potential hiring manager thinks they need. Instead, show how fast you learn and adapt. Show how you coach and collaborate. Show how you finish work so the organization can ship product.
- Create and practice the stories of your career. How have you solved problems in the past? What can you apply from the past to the present and future?
During your search:
- Be someone people want to spend time with.
Look clean and neat. Make sure you are groomed properly. I am always surprised I need to say this, and I do. The older we are, the less forgiving people are about our appearance.
- Practice networking, in-person and online.
You must leave your house to meet people in person. Meeting people in person is best for developing your target network connections, directly or indirectly. Also, develop loose connections online, as well as in person. Add more people to your network each day.
- Develop your loose connections. You are more likely to find a job via a loose connection than with a direct connection. Encourage younger people to connect with you. Use their connections to reach people in your target network.
- Practice interviewing. The best interviews are conversations. Practice your “let’s meet for an informational interview” pitch. Practice telling the stories of your career so you can showcase your work to its best advantage.
Here are the parts to this series:
Five Tips to Combat Ageism in Hiring, Part 1
Five Tips to Combat Ageism in Hiring, Part 2
Five Tips to Combat Ageism in Hiring, Part 3
Read more in Manage Your Job Search.
The people in the hiring “sweet spot” have between two and 15 years of experience. Once you have more than 15 years of experience, you will experience some form of ageism. Learn to organize and prepare for your search, so you can find your next job fast.
In Part 1, I described your job search planning. In Part 2, I discussed what you can do to help your resume. In this part, I’ll talk about the interview.
Any candidate needs to prepare for the interview. If you are worried about ageism, consider these tips for these challenges:
- Specify your value, first to yourself, and craft interview answers. (Your first sale is always to yourself.) Why are you valuable to this organization?
- Be ready to answer questions about salary and promotions.
- Be ready to answer common questions even if they are irrelevant.
- Looks matter, so make sure you don’t look old.
- Prepare in advance to understand what your maturity brings to an organization.
Let’s start with your value and how you prepare to answer questions.
Everyone has stories of their career. Have you prepared yours? What do you want to highlight for your interviewers about your career? Areas you might consider:
- Answer a question with your value. Organizations hire people to solve problems. What problems does this organization have and how can you help solve them? You might ask that question, “What problems do you have now?” during a phone screen. Prepare to show how you solved problems like that in the past and how you can solve them for this organization. Refine your answer for the in-person interview, with more examples.
- How you start and finished work that led directly to an increase in revenue, customer satisfaction, or customer retention/acquisition? Managers want to know about this. You might hear a question that doesn’t sound as if it relates to those questions. If so, determine a way to answer those questions anyway. Here’s an example:
Question: Tell me about a time you worked on a successful project.
Answer: Let me tell you about this recent project. (Point to it on your resume.) I was part of the team to reduce the time required to release our product. I automated scripts for everyone to use. (Or, whatever you did.) I estimate the scripts saved us each an hour every day of work. That was five hours each day. Over the course of the project, I estimate it was 25 hours each week times 26 weeks, a total of 650 hours. We thought that allowed us to release the entire project faster—by at least two months. (You have done the math in advance. You are helping the interviewer see your value as you walk through the numbers.)
If you know the problems the organization needs to solve, can you address that directly with your value?
- Know what you want for salary. Everyone has unique needs and value to the organization. What is your minimum salary requirement as a direct employee? Are you willing to take a contract job (and add more money for you to self-fund your own benefits)? Do you want more vacation for a lower salary? What is this job worth to you and what value can you provide?
- Prepare your answers to the irrelevant questions. I have ranted about irrelevant questions in several posts. Start with the summary post, How You Answer Irrelevant Questions in an Interview, Part 3. Your job is not to answer the specific question. Your job is to present your qualifications and explain how you will solve problems for this organization. Regardless of how the interviewer asks the question. (Politicians do this all the time.)
- Make sure you look young. For me, this is asking about what people normally wear. I like to look as least as good as the people in the office, if not better. I am not a fan of jeans on an interview (unless they are black dress jeans). I don’t like open-toe shoes, and especially not sandals. However, I am not a fashionista, so you should listen to yourself and not me. I do want to interview people whose clothes fit, are clean, and not wrinkled. You can have gray hair as long as your clothes fit and are not dated back to the 70s. (or, even the 90s.)
- Prepare yourself in advance. Interviews are stressful for almost everyone. If you are prepared, you look more mature (as opposed to old). You are ready to present yourself in your best light. What does your maturity provide you? Is it about your ability to facilitate, collaborate, see the big picture, see the details, coach others, help people see where open source solutions might work, and more?
I’ll have a summary post next, suggesting how you can combat ageism in hiring.
In Part 1, I suggested five tips for the “older” job-seeker. In this part, I’ll talk about what you can do to craft your resume.
The problem is this: you don’t have to be too old to have ageism happen to you. The older people perceive you to be, the more ageism you will encounter. Those of us over 30 hear all kinds of things: dye your hair, leave dates off your resume, trim your beard, etc. You do need to look put together and relevant. But that won’t get you in the door. Target networking will help you meet the right people. Your specific value and your resume will open the door to an interview.
You have to believe you have something specific to offer a potential employer. Make a list of what you bring to an organization. That will build your self-esteem. It will also help you articulate what problems you can solve and why. You can use this information as you create your target network.
You might do this with a career line. (I expanded on that post in Manage Your Job Search.) Also, think about what’s in Two Career Tools for a Job Search. Be specific about what you bring to an organization. Here are some possibilities:
- Technical skills. Be specific. Are those skills how you architect or design or test? Are they your familiarity with a specific language or tool? How about a specific domain/industry? Provide examples.
- Communication skills. Everyone says they communicate well. Are you a whiz at deciphering emails from the far reaches of the world? That’s what I mean by specifics and examples. Maybe you facilitate problem-solving meetings. Which ones? What specifically do you do to exhibit great communication skills?
- The ability to see the consequences in similar situations. If you’re a project manager, maybe you understand deliverable-based planning and what happens when people use it and don’t use it. You can explain specifics.
I bet you have many other non-technical and technical skills I have not listed. I don’t know what you have to offer. With maturity comes experience. Highlight your specific skills and experience in your resume.
Here are five tips for crafting your resume:
- Put the dates in your resume. Yes, some people say to leave years off, but come on. Hiring managers and HR people can subtract. Put in the dates. Don’t make hiring managers work to figure out what happened in your career.
- Highlight what you learned through experience at each recent job. You are selling your experience. How can you highlight that experience and maturity? What specifically did you do at each job that will help people see what you do, why you are good and why they should hire you. Think of this: how did you transform past organizations?
- Decide what to remove.Many hiring managers do not read long resumes. Keep your resume to two pages. Once I hit 30 years of work, I referenced where I worked for the first ten years: “Worked as a software developer/project manager at these Boston-area companies.” That allowed me to keep my resume to 2 pages and highlighted my more recent experience.
- Show workshops/other education that is more recent than your degree. I don’t know how you feel about your degree, but my Master’s is over 30 years old. No one will hire me based on the technical work I did then. However, they might hire me based on the classes and workshops I teach. It’s the same thing for classes and workshops you take.
- Highlight the list of technical skills in your resume. (Dwayne said in the comment on Part 1.) I prefer them at the back of the resume. Maybe the front as Dwayne says is better.
You, as an older person, need to get past the ATS (Applicant Tracking System). The problem is that unseasoned hiring managers and HR believe they can identify “all” the skills a candidate needs in an ATS. They can’t. But, they believe this. Your job is to determine what to put on your resume so you look as if you are a valid candidate for the job.
About a year ago, I wrote “Hiring Trap: Don’t Hire Anyone Older Than….” Unfortunately, ageism is still rampant.
If you are a candidate over the age of 40, you have encountered ageism. If you are also unemployed while you are looking for a job, you might feel as if you are up the proverbial creek.
Many of us expect to work until at least 65. Many of us want to work for longer, although it might not be forty hours per week, or with just two or three weeks of vacation. See this article: How long should I work before retirement?
I am assuming you have done these things:
- Created your target network. You have a list of 20-25 companies you will consider for jobs.
- Updated your resume, articulating your value for each past position.
- Wear reasonable clothes to an interview or to networking: your clothes are clean and fit. You match the clothing culture.
- You exhibit reasonable grooming: Your hair is clean and shaped. Your teeth are clean and you have enough to smile. If you have a ponytail, I don’t care. If it’s long and straggly, it does not make you look young and vibrant. You look like an old hippie. Same with missing or gray teeth. You look old. You can’t afford to look old. Do what you need to do to look vibrant.
On paper and in person, you want to give the appearance of being fresh and vibrant.
If you don’t know how to do these things, read Manage Your Job Search.
Okay, so you’ve done all that. Here are five tips you might consider:
- Work with a recruiter. Companies pay recruiters, so you don’t. Here is the problem with networking for more senior positions (which you, as an older person, might want): Companies don’t always advertise these positions. Now, I have no idea why they don’t put the position on their jobs page, but they didn’t ask me. Companies who want to hire well will use recruiters for those difficult-to-fill positions.
- Discover ways to meet senior managers on your target list. Become part of their network. Be helpful. (I have a post upcoming about being helpful vs. providing free consulting.)
- Consider an open source project. Sometimes, companies have wacko reasons for rejecting you as a candidate. The more you develop “current” technical skills, the more they will consider you (even if the work does not require technical skills).
- Read widely and relate something “new” to every application. In your custom cover letter (yes, you customize your cover letter for each position, right?), you relate something about the news or agile or lean to the company. “I saw you have a patent application in the WSJ. Congratulations. I bet that was a fun project.” Or, something like that. The more you can sound relevant, the more likely you will get an interview.
- Feature your maturity. I sometimes use my experience (and gray hair) as a feature. I say things such as, “I am a seasoned consultant. I have seen and worked with many organizations I bet your organization is different in many ways. And, I bet I can use the patterns I have seen in the past here.” You would say things such as, “I have experience with changing opinions in a skillful way.” Or, “I understand how to talk with people so they see multiple options.” I once said to a manager, “I can help you because I don’t want your job. I want you to succeed and I am willing to help you do that.” What about your maturity will help the organization solve its problems?
Remember, companies hire people to solve problems. Focus on the problem-solving and you might have a better chance.
Part 2 will be about how you organize/craft your resume. Some companies rely too heavily on the ATS and don’t look at the humans. Part 3 will be about the interview itself.
In The One Question You Should Ask About Every New Job, Grant says,
Ask people to tell you a story about something that happened at their organization but wouldn’t elsewhere.
There are four categories of stories:
- The human-ness of senior management (or not)
- Promotion opportunities for anyone
- How the organization fires/lays off
- The consequences for mistakes
A terrific question for cultural fit. Does this organization make decisions the way you want a potential employer to make decisions?
Grant goes on to ask about the one universal practice: How does this organization have meetings? (See Ask Questions of the Hiring Manager and the Interview Team for this and other questions.)
If you have not articulated your values—what culture means for you—consider drawing a timeline of your career. (I have more guidance in Manage Your Job Search, but the blog post is a good start.)
If you interview with enough people, you can ask these questions during your interview. You can ask the questions on a phone screen. Don’t wait to ask until the interviewing is over and you already have an offer to ask. That’s a little late. You can rule out toxic cultures before then.
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