Tips for Applying for Jobs as an Older Worker

As an older person, you may find yourself in a unique position when applying for jobs. On one hand, you have the benefit of experience and maturity. You’ve likely worked in many different positions that have allowed you to develop unique expertise and skills.

Key takeaways:

On the other hand, you may face age discrimination from employers who are looking for younger workers. Age discrimination is a serious problem in the job market, and it can make your job search much more difficult. In fact, according to an AARP survey, more than half of adults over age 45 have experienced some kind of age discrimination in the workplace.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many people hold implicit and even explicit bias against older adults on the job market. Knowing that this is the case, what can you do about it? Here are some tips.

Applying for jobs

Here are some tips you can use as you apply for jobs.

Highlight your experience

Over your years in the workforce, you’ve undoubtedly gained invaluable experiences and navigated challenging situations that many workers haven’t had the chance to do yet. Be sure to highlight the depth and breadth of your experience in your job application materials, as this will give you a competitive edge. Use your age and experience as an asset.

Remove age clues from your resume

A simple way to remove potential age discrimination from the equation at the outset is by removing any obvious cues to your age in your resume and cover letter. Instead of listing the year, you obtained your college degree, just list the degree and don’t mention the year. Similarly, highlight only your most recent and most relevant work experience, rather than listing all of your past jobs.

Use your network

Networking is often touted as a key tactic for job seekers, and for good reason - it works. Some estimate that as many as 85% of jobs are won through some kind of networking. With your years of experience, you’ve likely accumulated many different connections and contacts across different industries. Use this to your advantage. Reach out to your contacts and let them know that you’re job searching. They may be able to give you a leg up or a connection that could help you land a job.

Seek out resources and supports

Many different resources and supports are available to older adults on the job market. For example, the AARP has collected a list of employers who are committed to hiring older workers. Similarly, the Age-Friendly Institute maintains a list of organizations that have earned their Certified Age-Friendly Employer designation, indicating a commitment to creating exceptional work environments for adults 50+. Use these kinds of resources to your advantage during your job search to ensure you’re seeking out organizations that are committed to creating a healthy and diverse work environment for older workers.

Read between the lines

In addition to setting yourself up for success in your job search, you also want to make sure to avoid companies that don’t have a culture of age diversity and openness to different levels of experience. This might require some reading between the lines, particularly in job ads or other written material. Seeing words like “energetic” and “digital-native” in a job description might be a clue that a company isn’t making conscious efforts to hire older workers.

During the interview

You’ve made it to the interview stage! Here are some things you can do to avoid and respond to age discrimination. Try to find common ground, ask questions about their interests, and be genuine in your conversation. Building a personal connection can go a long way in making a positive impression.

Lead with enthusiasm

Your stellar experience got you in the door - now is the time to show how enthusiastic and excited you are about this new opportunity. Instead of listing off your past experiences and similar projects, make a point of letting your excitement and energy for the position shine through.

Make authentic connections

Interviewers are people too, and creating a personal connection can be a great way to leave a memorable impression and help your interviewer see you as someone they can relate to. Ask them about their day, mention a popular Netflix show, or ask about their favorite hobbies outside of work. Small talk can help break the ice and make the interview feel more like a conversation than a formal interrogation. Plus, it can help put your interviewer at ease and make them more likely to see you as a potential colleague or friend, rather than just another candidate.

Look out for red flags

You may encounter inappropriate questions during the interview process, so keep an eye out for red flags. For example, being asked when you graduated college can be a not-so-subtle way for an interviewer to learn your age. Similarly, if an interviewer asks multiple questions about your comfort with technology, they may hold some assumptions about older workers’ tech skills. One of these on its own shouldn’t cause too much concern, but if you see several red flags, it might be a sign that the organization isn’t the best fit.

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Kim V.
prefix 1 year ago
Thank you for the insightful tips! I have personally experienced a significant contrast when applying for jobs in my 50s compared to my earlier years in my 30s and 40s. It's disheartening to see ageism is alive and well in the job market.