Combatting Age Discrimination in the Job Search: Part II of III

The second article in a three-part series on conducting a job search later in life.

After you’ve determined the right job goals for your search and developed a resume to support them, it’s time to begin your job-search campaign. Below are tips on how to advertise your brand on and offline, as well as pursue opportunities through multiple channels.

Personal Branding

In Jobvite’s 2012 Social Recruiting Survey of 800+ HR professionals and recruiters in the US, it was found that 92 percent of employers and recruiters use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for recruiting. The survey reported that 73 percent of companies found a new hire through social media (the largest percentage – 89 percent – came through LinkedIn). This means the job seeker never even submitted an application – the employer or recruiter found them because of their online presence. In addition, 86 percent of recruiters admitted to reviewing candidates’ social network profiles – whether or not the candidates gave them that information.

Bottom line? If you’re not utilizing these channels to brand yourself and pursue opportunities, you’re missing out on a number of job leads that may not be published anywhere else. Building a strong online brand that supports your job goals, aligns with your resume and highlights your accomplishments and areas of expertise is imperative in today’s job market.

In addition, building an online presence and utilizing social media helps boomers overcome the stereotype that they lack technical savvy. Workforce Engine Director of Talent Acquisition Jennifer Scott advises job seekers to demonstrate technical savvy wherever possible. You don’t have to be on Facebook, she says, but you do have to embrace technology. If you’re unfamiliar with these sites, check out the following links for free tutorials on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. At the very least, set up a fully fleshed-out profile on LinkedIn. When it comes to adding information, follow the same rules that apply to your resume. Include your professional title, summary and more recent work experience. Add specialties that align with your job goals and are often found in the job descriptions you’re pursuing. Exclude graduation or certification dates going back more than 15 years. Include a head-shot where you look professional and approachable. Your profile is 40 percent more likely to get clicked on if you have a photo. Leave the photo off, though, until you have one that fits these criteria. No photo is better than a bad one.

Elizabeth Mixson is a certified career coach and career advisor for Ladders, where she has counseled hundreds of senior-level job seekers. Mixson stresses the importance of staying relevant in your field, whether it’s through gaining new certifications or closely following industry developments via various publications. To really drive things home, she suggests participating in online discussion boards and other social media channels to brand yourself as a thought leader in your field, and make you look tech savvy and engaged with your professional community.

The Pursuit of Job Leads

In last week’s post, I spoke about harnessing the power of 3. It explains that to maximize the number of leads – published and unpublished – available to pursue, it’s imperative to incorporate multiple search methods into your strategy. These include: (1) applying (and properly following up) to online job listings, (2) networking with your social and professional contacts and, (3) engaging with recruiters.

Job Applications

When it comes to job listings, look for opportunities whose must-have requirements include your key skill sets and expertise. You can run an advanced search on many sites, including Ladders, to search for certifications or other qualifications you possess within the job description (try searching by acronyms or abbreviations, as well as the full name of the certification or degree, to see which yields the best results). You can also target job boards that post opportunities from age-friendly companies. These include: Jobs 4.0, Jobs Over 50, Workforce50,, Senior Job Bank, Retired Brains and National Older Worker Career Center.

When the company name is listed, research the opportunity using the company’s About Us section, and resources such as Glassdoor and Vault to make sure the corporate culture is in alignment with your values and preferred working environment. If you can’t see yourself working there, chances are it won’t be the right fit for you or the company – the application is probably not worth your time. When applying for the job, I recommend a T-format cover letter to clearly highlight your qualifications. Remember that being overqualified for a job can be just as bad a fit as someone who has too little experience. Consider how many relevant years of experience they require for the role before you take the time to submit the application. If an application requires you to fill out a college graduation date, be as vague as possible (i.e., “graduated in the ‘80s”). Leaving the question blank may prevent you from submitting the application.


Referrals are an incredibly valuable tool in the recruiting world, as the hiring time is traditionally shorter; the cultural fit tends to be better, turnover is lower. Employee referral programs (ERPs) are beneficial to the job seeker as well. An employee referral can help you bypass a gatekeeper– often you get to skip over the initial screening. Your connection to the company can not only advocate on your behalf, but he or she can also provide you with insight into the company culture and hiring process to (a) make sure it’s a good fit for you and, (b) better prepare you for interviews.

Ben Puffer works in human resources & development for First Community Federal Credit Union. He believes that utilizing a network contact within your target company is one of the best ways to find a new job. The current job market is flooded with qualified candidates submitting applications, he says. Job seekers improve their chances of landing an interview when they enter the applicant pool through an employee referral.

The data supports Puffer’s recommendation. Both the Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey 2012 and the 2012 CareerXroads Source of Hire Survey note that those who came in as a referral had a 1 in 7 or 1 in 10 chance of landing the role, whereas only 1 in 100 candidates who applied through the regular channels got the job. If your network needs some rebuilding, now’s the time to get started. Consider your professional network and personal contacts. When examining your professional contacts, don’t forget about the employees you’ve mentored or managed over the years. Reconnect with them on LinkedIn and look at their most recent work history. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to work as a consultant with one of these companies.


For those at the VP or C-Level, consider reaching out to recruiters that specialize in executive-level interim placement. These firms put candidates of this level into companies that require senior-level expertise for a short-term or temporary solution. Employers like this because they can test a candidate out to see if they’re the right fit before committing to a full-time, permanent role. There are a number of benefits to you as well. For one, you will once again be employed on your resume. Second, you’ll have an opportunity to meet new people and grow your network while working there. And third, there is the possibility of transitioning from a temporary role to a more permanent position at the company.

Also use resources such as Ladders and Recruiter Directory to identify recruiters that specialize in your industry or line of work. AARP also has a National Employer Team that helps connect mature job seekers with employers who value their experience. Once you’ve identified specific recruiters to contact, email or message the person through LinkedIn using these sample messages.

Click on the following links for more information on personal branding and using social media during your search.

*Note: click on the following links to access Part I and Part III of this series.