Have decades of work experience but are still struggling to land a job? Allworth co-founder Scott Hanson shares a few pieces of advice to help you overcome the age stigma.
Experience, success, leadership, and years of innovation. A consultant with dozens of awards and accolades.
A dear friend of mine has had what is by any measure a long, exemplary career in a white-hot industry.
And yet, he recently revealed something surprising when he said, “I have not had any headhunters or even actual people reach out to me on LinkedIn to talk about a position in well over three years.”
“But you’re always working,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s entirely via word of mouth and networking, or only because I hunt them down mercilessly and show them again and again what I have done and can do,” he said.
I let that sink in for a minute, and then I asked him to clarify.
“The most experienced and many of the hardest working people are over 50,” he said. “But I know highly qualified pros who cannot get an interview or call back because of their age.”
After decades in the workforce, from their 20s until now, most of the people I know who are over 50 or 60 are battle tested veterans who have gone through numerous drawn-out job interviews that lasted for weeks or months, and ultimately came out on top. After successful careers, they know that if they can just get in front of the decision makers, they’ll be fine.
And often that is the case.
Unfortunately, however, whether on your resume, or on LinkedIn, when what the hiring manager (or as is often the case nowadays, the “bot”) has in front of them is a resume that screams your age, just getting those first or second interviews can be a challenge.
While there are companies that are rethinking age and smartly emphasizing outreach to mature workers, when 80% of people over 50 report that they’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace,1 - even though you can’t turn the tide overnight - you can take steps to combat and even circumvent any seen or unseen obstacles that are in your way.
Here are 5 tips for mature job seekers.
1. Focus on using resume keywords - or even hire an industry-specific writer
After months of not having any luck getting interviews in her field, my neighbor hired a keyword expert to help with her resume and immediately started getting calls.
Why are keywords so important?
75% of resumes are never even seen by a human being, and are instead only viewed by hiring bots, also known as “applicant tracking systems.” 2
It is indeed a brave new world, so embrace it. Use an expert in your field to help you write your resume, and, short of that, do not hesitate to “borrow” the relevant words that repeatedly show up in the job listing you are interested in. (In short, make certain you liberally emphasize those words and phrases in your resume’s text.)
2. Do not try to be everything to everyone
If you are over 50, you may have had three or more successful, though disparate, professional roles throughout your career. But my experience as the employer of over 400 people has shown me that taking the “big tent” approach and including everything you have ever achieved, especially when you are trying to land a specific type of job, rarely works.
Instead, use bait that attracts the precise type of fish you are trying to catch, presenting decision makers with a concise resume tailored to your specific pursuit rather than a generalized accounting of your entire professional past.
3. Upgrade your email address and only use your cell phone number
Sorry Hotmail, AOL, and landlines. While it is kitschy to be old school, do not give a recruiter who has never met you an excuse to eliminate you from their search.
4. Brush up that LinkedIn profile (yes, it really matters)
93% of employers surveyed say they use LinkedIn (and other social networks) to research applicants.
LinkedIn serves a dual purpose of helping recruiters find you and research you.
Simply, they would be silly not to use it and you would be limiting your reach not to prioritize it.
Also, show recruiters just how savvy you are about your personal brand by customizing your LinkedIn profile’s URL.
5. Lastly, when it comes to your resume, you should:
Always use one space after a period
Emphasize technological expertise
Customize your resume to each position you apply for
Make certain your resume looks as good as it reads (professional design)
Cite examples of your prowess (“Increased sales year-over-year by 50%”)
Searching for a new job is physically and emotionally trying, but it is also one of those challenges that, after it pays off, immediately morphs into one of life’s sweetest victories.
It may be counterintuitive but refuse to become discouraged and do not take the rejections personally. You know what you have to offer, and your complete package is difficult to distil down into a one-or-two-page resume.
Tweak it. Keep improving. Emphasize LinkedIn. Network with friends and former coworkers. And, above all, consistently remind yourself that, no matter how long you have searched, that it only takes a single moment for everything to turn in your favor.