Thwart Off Those “Old” Stereotypes

Here you are. Your dream job. This one will bounce you back. Twenty years of executive admin experience. A rockin’ LinkedIn profile. Fabulous dress. And your friend in accounting forwarded your resume. You strike the power pose because, you know, you got this.

But, then, the hiring manager greets you, texting as he approaches with stylishly ripped jeans on. Walking to the interview, you note people on couches. Is that a date or a meeting? Your throat tightens. Shoulders slump. The hiring manager looks at you remarking, “Yeah, people work pretty hard around here. It’s kinda fast-paced.”  

The voice in your head rouses.

I recently wrote a blog about deeply disturbing reports detailing hiring discrimination against older women. I don’t question whether it exists. And while I’m somewhat interested in long-term policy and legal solutions to combat it, I’m very interested in how to effect change now. We must empower older women with strategies to effectively battle discrimination – interview-by-interview, job-by-job – and, ultimately, drive societal change. In the words of an insightful JVS colleague, Jesse Golden, “While we can’t avoid discrimination, we can do what salespeople do: anticipate objections.”

What are common, ill-founded objections? Which unsubstantiated labels do hiring managers hold onto, despite countless examples to the contrary? What can you do?

Stereotype: Her tech skills are probably out-of-date.

Strategy: Demonstrate your tech know-how. Acquire new tech skills (for example, learn WordPress or Salesforce). List them on your resume, and talk about how you’ve used them to solve a business need.

Stereotype: She may not get along with the younger staff.

Strategy: Prepare accomplishment stories that demonstrate your successful collaboration with diverse (including those “just starting out in their careers”) colleagues. Choose relevant, current small-talk. Engage with everyone. Avoid categorizing yourself as “other,” or isolating yourself with words like the classic, “Back in my day…” or “You’re probably too young to remember this…”

Stereotype: She may not want to work hard. Or worse, she might not keep up with the pace.

Strategy: Talk about your activities – hiking, yoga, friendly debates, meetups or whatever it is you use to keep active and engaged in your work. Use your body posture, words and interview follow-up tactics to demonstrate energy and action-orientation.

Jesse Golden also suggests using stereotypes to our advantage. According to the Adecco Mature Workers survey many managers believe older workers are more reliable, professional and have good writing skills. If candidates have to suffer from discrimination, it seems fair game to exploit those attributes that work in their favor.

More than anything, though, check your “I’m too old” baggage at the door. How you see yourself, and what you believe about your worth, will be the biggest predictor of success.

Which stereotypes do you see?  What can job seekers do to turn it on its head?

Check our calendar for the next 50+ Job Search Strategy Group that will help you move forward with confidence. The informal group is facilitated by JVS staff and will include topics such as age discrimination and transitioning to new careers.