In Defiance Of Ageism: Right Now This Is The Best Advice On How To Overcome Bias When Applying For A Job

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How do you deal with a hiring process that’s more out of date than you could ever be?

Are you a mature job seeker, yet despite your years of experience you are still out of work?

I know exactly how this feels. I recently experienced being out of work for the second time in 4 years, yet I kept going. It can be soul-destroying, but I knew I would get there eventually. And so will you.

In the UK around 3.3 million people over the age of 50 are currently out of work. Sadly, many in this age group have real difficulty getting back into full-time work; far more than our younger counterparts. Around 38% of the over 50s in the UK have been out of work for around a year, compared to only 19% for the 18-24 age range. Click To Tweet

In today’s world, many people do, and are capable of, working beyond the age of 70. Let’s face it, most of us need to work to carry on paying our mortgage well into our 60s (unless we win the lottery!). So you have at least another 25 years of working life in front of you.  It is important that you do use this time putting in the effort during the employee hiring process with those that are recruiting candidates for a career match.

Some reasons why recruitment strategies may exclude older candidates seeking job placement (we need to convince them they’re wrong!):

  • Hiring Managers may not think you are flexible in your work approach. They could assume it may take a while for you to be trained in the latest software.

 

  • Employers may feel you will not stay in the job for a considerable period of time (ie: you may want to take early retirement). They are concerned not only with hiring top talent, but also employee retention. Turnover isn’t cheap.
  • They may think you are more likely take time off to care for an elderly relative. Employers today want company culture to reflect work life balance, but still frown upon excessive absenteeism.
  • Your employer may think that getting health insurance for you will be too expensive.
  • Employers may think a younger person will be more ‘energetic’ and fit into the mold of the organization. The pros and cons of culture fit is hotly debated, but the value of neurodiversity is proven. A “set” thought process could benefit from a more “flexible” approach, and vice-versa.
  • Your potential new boss may feel insecure that you have more experience than they have and could show them up. Hopefully you won’t have to face that, as more companies are investing in leadership development, and are redefining the role.

 

Reasons why recruitment strategies should include older workers (in addition to many of the skills that younger candidates possess):

 

  • An older worker will probably not have to consider, or leave the office early for child care.
  • We are less likely to be side-tracked by socialization. When hiring good employees, companies consider the importance of employee engagement during talent recruitment, however, productivity must not suffer as a result of too many water cooler conversations.
  • We are less likely to come in with a hangover, or other evidence of outside life spilling over into “work life”. Work life balance is important so as not to suffer burnout, however most of us have already gotten those negative aspects of socializing out of our systems.
  • We can usually cope well in a crisis, as we have more life experience. This wealth of knowledge can be harnessed, and called upon in a myriad of ways, including in the mentoring and professional development of younger employees, and when recruiting candidates. It’s another investment in how to attract top talent.
  • We are loyal to an employer and will usually stay for a considerable period of time. We know the grass is not always greener on the other side. Employee retention is a huge concern with younger workers, as many millennials are hired today, and gone tomorrow.
  • We have substantial life skills that lend themselves to a wide-range of problem-solving abilities. We’ve had the time and practice to hone our emotional intelligence.

 

There are laws against discrimination, but sadly, age-bias persists against the over-50s, although it is so often well-hidden. So then, what are other major problems we are facing when applying for a job, and how can we overcome them during the hiring process? Below are a few suggestions about what we can do when we need help finding a job.

 

Review Your Spending Habits

Sadly this is a major concern for job seekers. Each week of not working means a loss of earnings. As a rule of thumb, ideally you should have at least 6 months savings while you seek employment. Click To Tweet Of course this is not possible for many people, so a practical review of your budget is essential. Do this now, so that if you are faced with being out of work for a long period of time, you will have a safety plan as you search for the best way to find a new job.

Consider all your expenses, and work out exactly how much you need each month for your basic living. List all of your outgoing money (be honest!), and check your bank statement to see if you are paying for services you no longer use. For example, do you really use that gym membership? While you seek employment, can you do without satellite TV? Would that money be better used to find employers on one of the best job hunting websites?

If you are interviewing and need a new outfit, consider looking at second-hand shops. They offer a great range at low prices. All you will need to do is to dry clean the outfit, and you will be ready for your interview.

When out food shopping, try the stores basic brands – you usually won’t be able to tell the difference. If you do this, you may see your food bill drastically reduced.

 

Update Your Resume

When applying for a job, your resume must be clear and concise. A recruiter or hiring manager will only spend around 6 seconds glancing at your resume, so you must make an immediate impact. Try incorporating bulleted lists, headlines, and inserting links to a Professional Bio, Online Portfolio, or appropriate Social Media Profiles for resumes that will be emailed. This will help streamline your resume.

You may have over 40 years’ experience but, a future employer does not want or need to know everywhere you have worked. Click To Tweet Make sure you only show the last 10-15 years on your resume. This will also minimize the focus on your age, and it will free you up in the interview portion to showcase your skills during the hiring process.

Never put your age on your resume. In fact, it is illegal for employers to ask your age during a job interview, at any stage. The only time they may see your age is if they require a copy of your ID for verification of who you claim you are.  However, by this stage you will have created a good impression and be in the running for the role so your age should not be an impediment.

Of course, no one likes rejection and sometimes you will not be successful in a job interview simply because there is a better candidate.

Pro-Tip: Make sure your email address does not list the year you were born or include your age. For example do not have XYZ1960@emailaddress.com. Click To Tweet

 

Review Your Network

As an older worker, you have probably made many contacts throughout your working life. Now is the time to reconnect with these people, and let them know you are job hunting. However, it is important to remember to reconnect authentically. You don’t want to pop up from the past to say, “I want a job”, or otherwise demand something from someone with whom you’ve had no contact for 20 years. No one likes to feel used. Start a conversation, rekindle a friendship, and then broach the subject. Click To Tweet

These connections may be able to become your referral to the company where they currently work, or knows someone who has a need for your skill set. Your application will be seen more favorably by talent acquisition personnel, as the person who is referring you will be able to speak of your excellent qualities.

Also, think about joining local business groups, as they may know someone who is looking for staff solutions. If you are networking, then a good tip is to have some business cards prepared. They can simply state your name, address, telephone numbers and email address. Plus you can personalize the card to state that you are an active job hunter, open to possibilities of a career match.

 

Consider Contacting Companies Directly

One action I took to get a job was to hand-deliver over 1,000 letters to local companies. This works best if you are in a major town or city. Be sure to think outside the box, and consider small business hiring. What about the local organizations which are slightly off the beaten path? How about using your skills in a different industry altogether? Many skills are transferable if you stop to think about the different ways they can be applied. Click To Tweet Keep your chin up if not hired today: there may not be a vacancy presently, but there may be a need in the near future, and you’ll be top of mind.

When delivering the letters in your effort to find the right job, make sure you dress smartly, as you never know who will be in the reception area. If you do not want to meet anyone, and have to explain that you are going places to find jobs, then go on weekends when you can just drop the letter in their mail box. Be sure to address your resume “Attention HR” and the name of the company. To methodically follow up, make a note of the companies you have contacted, and then call them a few days later to ensure that they received your resume.

During one stint of unemployment, I actually made a “work wanted” sandwich board! Yes, it may seem drastic, but I was determined to take action, looking for a job in less traditional ways. I embraced social media and did my own marketing. I contacted the local London paper and they did a feature (see attached).

I went to local train stations each day, and stood outside with my board. Eventually, I secured a new role. It was tough to do and perhaps not for everyone but ask yourself, “Why not?”  I still have the board, and you never know, I may go out with it again!

 

 

 

Temping/Maternity Contract Roles

You may desire full-time job placement, but also consider temporary work. Click To Tweet These positions can often lead to a permanent career match, and it also looks good on your resume that you are temping while looking to secure a more permanent work.

Also, consider a maternity contract role, which is generally about 3 months. There is always a chance that, if you are a good worker, they may well find you job placement within the company when the contract comes to an end, rather than going to a job staffing agency. Talk to HR after you’ve been in the role for awhile to discuss the possibility, and remember to keep looking. Just because you have job right now, doesn’t mean you can’t keep your options open. Click To Tweet

 

Embrace Social Media

It is vital that you embrace social media when you need help finding a job. Often, employers think older workers cannot use social media or technology as well as a younger worker – so prove them wrong! Click To Tweet As mentioned above, create a professional bio, online portfolio, and social media profile. Linking to those in an email and on a resume will prove that you are just as savvy as younger top talent.

In fact while I was out of work, I completed and passed (hurrah!) a Diploma in Internet Marketing. Not only does this show that I am social media savvy, but that I was actually educating myself while job seeking. Some places I have interviewed have been very impressed with this action, as it shows I am making good use of my time while looking for work; sharpening my skills, rather than letting them collect dust.

Why not have a blog? You can show your future employer that you have excellent writing and marketing skills. I have a blog aimed at women over 50 called “Over The Hill And Under The Radar”. It is, at the very least, proof that I am current and comfortable with the use of technology, creative, active, driven, and a host of other positive attributes that hiring managers are looking for when hiring top talent.

During the interview, it is vital that you state you are very comfortable with social media and technology in answer to hiring questions. You can expand on this in a very simple way by including your links on your resume, cover letter, email, etc. An easy way to impress during the interview is to mention something about their company that you saw on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s an easy thing to research, and it shows that you have done just that.

Make sure your Linkedin profile is up to date with a good profile picture. Be sure that you are smiling, looking at the camera, wearing something professional, and to crop the image to a headshot size. Be sure to comment on various company posts that are appropriate, and remember to always be positive on social media, as employers pay increasing attention to social recruiting by reviewing your online profiles. Twitter is also an amazing platform to personally connect with those that are actively recruiting candidates.

When you do land an interview, you should research the company online. Often, the company website will have a “Team” or “About Us” page. Click To Tweet It’s a good idea to see with whom you will be meeting. Read their bios, follow links to their social media profiles, and get a feel for who they are. Be careful not to form concrete opinions, because it may not be truth. Find out something that you have in common, or that you admire or find interesting about the person (or people) with whom you are going to interview. Bring it up as an ice-breaker, part of the conversation, or if you find yourself faced with an awkward silence during hiring questions. 

Pro-Tip: Make sure that whatever you’re commenting on is something found on their professional pages; you don’t want to come off as creepy.

 

I am delighted to say that after 5 months of job hunting I have now secured a new role and am very happy working for a fantastic firm. I had several interviews during my job hunting spell and, throughout my candidate experience, I learned a lot about the hiring process. I found that most employers and personnel agencies simply do not understand that we job hunters do spend the majority of our time while out of work actually looking for a job in our “time off”.

The amount of times the hiring question, “So what have you been doing while out of work” was asked by talent recruitment was staggering. I always responded by saying that I devoted several hours each day in order to find the right job. I also highlighted my organizational skills while seeking employment by using an excel spread sheet to keep a check on the roles (and outcomes).

Important point: I was never negative about how difficult it is to get a job. Employers do not want to hear that. Also, it’s important to discuss other hobbies in which you are participating while out of work and waiting for a job match. For example, I mentioned that while searching places to find jobs, I simultaneously took a marketing course to improve my skills. In fact, there are many free courses in which you can enroll online to increase your desirability during the employee hiring process. Click To TweetIt would be well worth your time looking for a course you could complete online, as it would increase your skill set, have something proactive to talk about when asked hiring questions, and improve your chances of standing out from the competition.

Finally, I hope this post will inspire you to take action in your search for job placement. We all have something to give, and remember to never, ever give up. Keep in mind that an employer would be lucky to have you working for them, enriching their staff, especially if you follow the tips above.

 

Have you had any experiences in the talent acquisition or job search capacities with a company that got it right? How about one that got it completely wrong? Share what you liked, didn’t like, and what you would like to see done in the future in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you, and be sure to connect with us on Social Media!

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