The job search involves plenty of rejection—most of us have experienced it to some degree. Unless a particular interview question stumped you, it’s usually difficult, if not impossible, to know why you didn’t get the job. However, when you’re over a certain age, there’s a chance another factor is at play.
Maybe they said you were overqualified even though you knew the position was a stretch for you. Or perhaps they asked extensively about your computer skills, and didn’t seem to believe your answers. It’s even possible one of your friends worked for the company, and you knew for a fact it came down to you and one other applicant with the same skillset as you. But they were younger.
Age discrimination in the job search is a problem. As reported by Workforce, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, age discrimination complaints have risen dramatically in recent years. In fact, “between 1997 and 2007, 16,000 to 19,000 annual complaints were filed, compared to 20,000 to 25,000 filings per year since 2008.”
In the face of such odds, finding a job can seem hopeless. After all, you can’t change your age—it’s a part of who you are. So what can you do?
Revise Your Resume
If you aren’t getting interviews and think it may be due to your age, remove any graduation dates from your resume. Although this can be a minor red flag to potential employers, it’s better than being completely discounted because of your age.
Next, only put the last 10 – 15 years of work history on your resume. Everything else has to go. This work experience is what is relevant, and best reflects your current skills. Your older work experience is by no means worthless, but the lessons you learned in those positions are hopefully reflected in more current job responsibilities. Most importantly, listing such a long job history can make your age more obvious.
But what if you haven’t been in the workforce for a number of years? This is a common problem faced by stay-at-home parents, individuals that suffered long-term illnesses, and those who spent years taking care of sick friends or relatives. One thing you can do is retool your resume to focus on accomplishments. Make a functional resume that centers on skills and abilities first and the companies you worked for second. This can help the reader focus on what you are capable of as a worker rather than when you last held employment.
Various certifications or degrees make sense for certain jobs. If you want to apply for a job requiring special training, make sure to get the required education. If you’re already competing with other applicants based on age, you don’t want to compete with them on education as well.
If you are applying for a professional position, you might want to create a Linkedin.com account. LinkedIn is the go-to networking tool for professionals. Research what a LinkedIn profile account should look like (you will need a professional headshot, as well as a well-formatted online resume).
You also may want to consider creating (or, if you already have one, updating) your Facebook account. Employers like to see that you have a life outside of work, one that supports their mission and values. You can also set certain restrictions on what people view on your Facebook page.
Hopefully your updated resume got you in the door. Now is your chance to shine. When you meet face-to-face, it’s obvious that you’re older. But still avoid actually mentioning your your age. Steer clear of dates as well.
Let them know why you’re right for the job. Talk about moments when you successfully delivered measurable results, not stories about how many years of experience you have. Your experience should come through in your accomplishments. Some employers stereotype mature applicants as being “tech-challenged,” so, if you have experience with technology, find an opportunity to mention that as well.
Use a Recruiter
If none of the above works? Consider a recruiting service. Because of their connections to local businesses, recruiters know about jobs you might never hear about. They’re experienced with helping others in your same situation. Their services are often free, so using a recruiting service can basically be two times the job search power for zero extra cost.
Express Employment Professionals is a leading staffing provider in the U.S., Canada, and South Africa, and can help out with these kinds of problems. If you have any questions about your job search, feel free to contact your local Express office or fill out our online contact form.