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Overcoming The 'Age Barrier' In Interviews

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 18 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Overcoming Age Barrier In Interviews

Age discrimination legislation which was introduced in 2006 has provided far more opportunities for older people to not only work beyond traditional retirement age but to also succeed in finding new employment. However, in spite of the legislation, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that many interviewers will still hold stereotypical views on what an ‘older’ worker will be like, just as they’ll hold similar stereotypical views about a young person, fresh-faced and just out of university with little or no job experience. And, whilst the new legislation prevents companies discriminating against you because of age - whether young or old - it can often seem daunting to an older person to go for an interview for a job which might typically be done by a person far younger than themselves. However, it’s important to grasp the mettle, to understand the stereotyping and to learn how to ‘play the game’.

Appearance Really Does Count No Matter How Old You Are

One of the first things you should realise when going for an interview is that appearance really does matter and will possibly be the most lasting impression an interviewer will have of you and that also applies to the older worker.

As an older person, you can often end up comparing yourself to those a lot younger than yourself and end up feeling that you’ll never be able to compete with them on appearance so why bother trying? The answer to this…..? Stop making comparisons and still try to impress. If you’re going into an interview with that attitude, you’re already defeating yourself before you’ve even set foot through the door. Therefore, although you shouldn’t turn up trying to dress in a fashion that makes you look ridiculous by wearing clothes suitable for people 20 or 30 years younger than you, make sure you dress smartly and in a contemporary, suitably modern style that suits your age. This approach should apply equally to your hair style and, perhaps, even the glasses you may be wearing. No matter what age you are, you can still look contemporary and be up-to-date in a style that befits your age.

Conquering The Stereotypes

If you’re over 40 - yes, as young as that these days - you may have been told to emphasise all of the positive qualities associated with being a more mature worker. A lot of interview guides will point to you using examples which demonstrate your ‘maturity’, ‘reliability’ ‘stability’, ‘loyalty’ and ‘experience’ etc. and, whilst these qualities are, indeed, prized assets to employers, most interviewers will have heard all of this before. Therefore, a good technique is to conquer the stereotypical image the interviewer may have already formed about you and instead, try to demonstrate those attributes which are often more associated with a younger applicant. For example, telling a interviewer you’re keen on using computers and are eager to learn more about using new technologies or emphasising physically energetic sports or other activities that you’re involved with will often make you stand out as being somewhat ‘different’ to the ‘usual’ kind of older applicant the interviewer will have come across.

That’s not to say you should not be looking to demonstrate qualities that you’ve gained from your years of experience such as maturity and loyalty etc., but by using more examples of qualities that are usually associated with younger applicants, you’re able to provide an interviewer with evidence of the complete package. Remember also that you have the upper hand here as younger applicants do not have this advantage in that they can’t fool an interviewer into thinking that they’ve had years of experience.

Emphasise Your Willingness To Fit In and Learn

Many older applicants tend to focus on the point that they add value to a company because they can pass on their experience to younger members of the team whereas what you should be focusing on is how you enjoy working with people of all ages and backgrounds and how much you can learn from that experience. Make sure that you’re not condescending in any way if you’re being interviewed by a much younger person and that, if asked, you have no problem being supervised or managed by a person younger than yourself and that you have no issue if they ask you if you’re comfortable with a lower salary than what you might have been used to previously.

Of course, the extent to which you’ll use some of these techniques will vary depending upon the type of job you’re going for. For example, you’re going to ‘play the maturity card’ more if you were, say, looking to enter the caring profession whereas you’d more likely emphasise your ‘freshness’ and vibrant approach to keeping up with technology and popular culture, for example, if you were trying to get a job in, say, I.T., advertising or PR.

The real issue is that if you’re not concerned about your age, the chances are that neither will the interviewer be and the conversation will focus more on your skills, qualities and what you can bring to the role and the company as well as what you hope to get out of it.

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