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5 tips for older job seekers

January 27, 2012

By Lynnette Khalfani-Cox | Money Rates Columnist

Finding a new job can be a difficult task for anyone. But if you're over 50, you may face even more challenges in getting the right position.

Older job seekers often face tough competition from younger professionals in the same industry. This is true even when the older candidates have more experience, because employers often favor younger recruits who will accept smaller salary and benefits packages.

While older workers can be at a disadvantage in the job marketplace, there are still ways they can secure satisfying positions that match their background and qualifications.

Here are five job-hunting tips for seasoned professionals:

1. Highlight your problem-solving abilities

Instead of just listing various accomplishments in your resume, provide more details about how you were able to solve a particular problem for the company that contributed to its growth. As an older worker, you likely have more experiences available to illustrate your strengths, so use them to your advantage.

Nick Corcodilos, who publishes the Ask The Headhunter newsletter, suggests taking the emphasis on problem-solving one step further during the interview. While this move is somewhat bold, it can be a great way to distinguish you from the other candidates -- no matter their age.

"Be ready to discuss or do something in your meeting that will help the manager with a problem she's facing now," Corcodilos says. "Ask the manager to put a live problem on the table, so you can show how you'd go about solving it. This single technique -- which relies totally on your work skills -- does more to impress an employer than anything I've ever seen a candidate do in an interview."

2. Include your full skill set in your resume

Make sure prospective employers know you are computer-savvy, web-literate, and open to learning. Create a bulleted list of all computer and Internet-related skills you've picked up over the years so the hiring manager is well aware that you are up-to-speed.

If you lack skills in these areas, it may be time to consider ongoing education courses through your current job or local college. And once you've taken this on, be sure to ...

3. Highlight continuing education

Taking classes when you're older proves that you are a lifelong learner and open to mastering new subjects. So be sure to spotlight any continuing education courses completed, advanced diplomas or degrees received, and other examples of ongoing learning -- even if you're only taking the course now.

Employers want workers with current skills, or at least someone who is highly trainable -- not someone who went to school decades ago and seems completely set in their ways. Showcasing all of the recent investments you've made in your education is a great way to show your flexibility and dedication.

4. Consider a pay cut when merited

If you're at a point in your life where money isn't the only motivating factor for getting a new job, make sure your prospective employer knows about it. Don't blurt out that you're "willing to work cheap," of course. But if you're willing to consider a pay cut for the right job where the new opportunities and other benefits are appealing, convey the importance of these factors to your prospective boss.

Such candor can result in a potential employer seeing you as a better candidate, and it may also help you deal with any employer who frets about you being "overqualified" and suspects you're just killing time until a better-paying position comes along.

5. Talk to a career counselor

If you're struggling with the job search and receiving lots of rejections, seek guidance from a career counselor. Whether you need to polish your interviewing skills, position yourself differently to break into a new industry, or explore other career options, a career counselor can steer you in a better direction.

This is particularly important if you're looking for new employment due to a downsizing.

For those who've been laid off, "job placement services are a must," says Kate Wendleton, president of The Five O'Clock Club, which offers a variety of career coaching services. Wendleton says the sting of being let go sometimes makes laid-off workers decline any help from a previous employer.

But don't let pride or anger get in your way of a successful job hunt. Anyone who has received a pink slip should take advantage of "any and all job counseling and career outplacement services offered by their former employer," Wendleton says.

Seeking a new job when you're older can be a trying experience, but by applying these tips -- along with the other lessons you've learned in previous job hunts -- it can also be a rewarding one.

Your responses to ‘5 tips for older job seekers’

Showing 3 comments | Add your comment

30 April 2012 at 6:10 pm

What is really sad is that I wouldn't mind working for less money, but the companies don't believe me. I have no debt, (including no mortgage) and don't need any other benefits. It's just that I'm only 55 and would like to work for another 10 years. How many "kids" will still be working there in 10 years? I would say I'm a pretty good bed I'd out last them. Oh well...


22 February 2012 at 8:08 am

I love the last line where she writes that the job search can be a rewarding experience. Oh, pleassse! I'm 65 and until last month I held a part time job (3 days a week, 6 hours a day) as a courier for a Radiology company for the last 10 years. The office manager then informed me that the college student who worked the other 2 days would be replacing me because they pay him less and it would save the company some money. So after 10 years and 4 months out the door I went with a polite thank you for the great job you did. Gee, thanks.


31 January 2012 at 1:23 am

What a bunch of crap this article is. I am over 50 (Sr. Management - Fortune 500), and have basically given up looking anymore due to companies practicing age discrimination in the hiring process. They simply want young, and cheap, and inexperienced, and people that they can replace at the drop of a hat.

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