Your Career Q&A: This Might Be the Reason You Aren't Getting Job Offers

 

By Martin Yate May 1, 2018
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Editor’s note: Attention HR jobseekers! For the week of Aug. 27, we are rerunning Martin’s most popular column of the year. 

You've got the experience. Why aren't you getting the job? Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.  

I have been interviewing for four months and have received no offers. I'm a very young-looking 60-year-old with 20 years of experience in my field. Will I ever get a job? 

When you can't reach your goals, you look for reasons. One of those reasons could be age discrimination. But you might be making some mistakes that you can easily overcome. Here are three specific ways you can assess your job search and make changes for the better. 

Rethink Your Resume

While you might not be getting interviews for the jobs you want and think age discrimination may be the problem, there are likely other, less obvious factors in play. It may well be that you are being rejected before a recruiter even sees your resume.

If you are like most people, your resume is an honest recitation of your work history that strives to show the full range of your experience and capabilities. A resume that's an unfocused general retelling, rather than a focused, objective statement on how you can fulfill an employer's stated needs, simply doesn't rank high enough to be discovered and reviewed when recruiters do database searches.

For a resume to be effective today, it must be focused on a target job and structured to reflect the common needs you have identified in a number of postings for that job. At the same time, technology has so dramatically changed the way all work is executed that your resume need not go back more than 10-15 years, because that older experience is most likely no longer relevant. Building a resume that is focused on the employer's needs is more discoverable and shows the skills you bring to that job. It's a better and more common-sense approach because it responds to the way recruitment works today. 

Don't Overcompensate

At every job interview, your goal is to get a job offer. But if you are fearful of age discrimination, it is natural to want to show just how much experience you have in all areas of your work. However, this approach can make you come across as a know-it-all.

Turn the tables and imagine yourself as a hiring manager interviewing someone 10 or 20 years your senior—someone who is doing back flips to impress you with their vast knowledge. What would you feel? Quite possibly a little intimidated, and almost certainly concerned about this person being a management problem; even worse, you might think the person was a threat to your job as hiring manager.

A good rule of thumb is to understand the responsibilities and deliverables of the job and to be careful not to anticipate a question, but to listen to it and focus your answers exclusively on that topic. Wait for the interviewer's encouragement before you discuss all the extras you can deliver. 

Address Age Discrimination

If you suspect discrimination is happening, it is. You can say nothing, stick your head in the sand and hope, or you can address the issue, citing the benefits your maturity brings to the job. If you don't address it early in the interview, then you can speak up when asked, "Do you have any questions?" At this point, you might comment that if you were sitting in the manager's place, you would be wondering about the age issue, but knew you couldn't ask. Then you can voluntarily make the case for hiring an older worker:

  • Maturity gives greater frame of reference.
  • Experience means you've made your mistakes on someone else's payroll and faced most problems before.
  • Statistically, younger workers, eager for growth, change jobs more frequently.
  • When crises occur, you can be relied on to step up and be a steadying influence.
  • You'll likely be the one person in the department who doesn't want the manager's job and would hope to prove yourself a trusted right hand.
  • You are someone who knows the work, can anticipate potential problems and can be relied on in all situations.

For more help with age discrimination issues, check out the very latest edition of The Ultimate Job Search Guide (Adams Media, 2017). 

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.   

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter. 

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Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions is available at SHRMStore. Order your copy today!

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