The third and final article in a three-part series on conducting a job search later in life.
Age discrimination doesn’t disappear once you’ve made it to the interviewing phase with a job opportunity. Read on for tips to help you maneuver around interview questions designed to reveal your age.
Interviewing and Follow-Up
Before you head into an interview, do your research. Visit Vault, Glassdoor and the company’s employment page on the web to get a better sense of the company culture. If you have any connections to the company, reach out to them for an informational interview to help you prepare. Depending on the company, you may need to adjust your interview wardrobe. For instance, if you walked into an interview at Google wearing a full suit and tie, you would look out of place. Set a Google News Alert for the company in the days leading up to the interview so you stay up-to-date with relevant news.
Know your rights. There are certain questions that are off-limits – including those about your age. Oftentimes the interviewer isn’t aware of these laws, and is naively trying to break the ice by asking about your family, which may lead to inappropriate questions. In these cases, the best thing to do is redirect the question back to the interviewer. For instance, if they ask about your marital status, you can reply by saying, “It sounds like family is important to you. Are you married?” You’ve kept up the friendly chitchat without having to divulge any information about your personal life.
You are not required to submit a photo ID (which has your date of birth on it) during the interview process. If asked, you can simply not include it when filling out the initial forms, or tell the interviewer that you have concerns about identity theft and would prefer not to hand it over until it’s determined whether or not you will be joining their team. Keep the conversation light and friendly – you don’t need to come off as angry or defensive. Be conscious of how you answer even the simplest of questions, such as “Are you at least 18 years of age?” If you make a joke about your age, you are drawing negative attention to it.
Prepare to overcome any objections you expect to hear in the interview, such as your salary requirements. Don’t be afraid to be proactive during the interview to ensure no assumptions are made about your candidacy. Interviewers will often assume your near-term plan involves retirement, which may not be the case at all. If they don’t ask about your long-term plans, bring it up. Make sure the employer knows you’re in it for the long haul, recommends Elizabeth Mixson, career coach for Ladders, and explain how this role fits into your long-term plans.
Also, stress your flexibility regarding work hours and availability for travel. Candidates with young families may not have as much flexibility to offer, Mixson points out, so emphasize your ability to work outside of the conventional nine-to-five box.
Consider your experience and wisdom to be a competitive advantage, advises human resources & development representative Ben Puffer. Sell your track record and relevant accomplishments (i.e., your ability to deliver results) to show the interviewer what you’re capable of doing for the organization. They’re getting a bargain by hiring someone with your track record – show them your potential value.
Mixson also noted that enthusiasm is a big way to differentiate. Speak passionately and sincerely about the role and the company, she advises. Taking the “been there, done that” approach is rarely effective. It’s up to you to convey your willingness to work hard to get the job done. Don’t assume the interviewer will ask you about your drive.
This is no magic bullet that will suddenly land you a job tomorrow. But there are things you can do to make yourself a more attractive candidate with a better shot at landing that job. Focus on building a personal brand, online and face to face, that positions you as full of energy and vitality, in touch with technology and current with industry news. Develop a resume that supports your job goals today, and utilize your network to identify opportunities for employee referrals.