Executive Career Coaching - Job Search Debugged

Why Boomers don’t get hired

By , October 5, 2010
Are you angry because you feel your age prevents you from landing an executive job? Is it your age or is it something else? Many people over 50 have jobs. Even those over 60 are gainfully employed. Why not you?

My friend Phil is over 65 yet he is constantly courted for his expertise and recently accepted a spot as a CEO in an early stage company. He has had no gaps in his career for over 20 years. Why? Because he is well networked and people know of his accomplishments. In a nutshell, those are the keys to continuous employment.

FREE EXECUTIVE COACHING FOUND HERE. What can you do to improve your chances of getting back to work as an executive? Here’s career advice that is field tested and proven to work. The comments made below are not meant to blame the victim, they are honest reflections of what employers see and how they react. I didn’t script them, I only interview hiring authorities and report.

Please don’t flame me with how outrageous and unfair some employer’s position are and don’t regale me with tales of your abortive attempts to scale the age issue. The purpose of this post is to offer executive coaching that informs and advises what action to take to meet your career goals. If you know what the objections and challenges are, you can modify your behavior and reach your objective; a new job. Consider this post free career coaching.

If you have challenges beyond those you can manage, consider contacting me about career coaching and just for good measure, purchase my books. They are written based on hiring authority input and directed specifically at executives and technology professionals.

Don’t rely on yesterday’s techniques to land today’s jobs.  Networking takes the place of all that random resume submission we did 20 years ago. There is no substitute and the payoff is tremendous. Sorry for the sales pitch, but most people don’t know what they don’t know. Learn to get what you want from your connections and make it a policy to give back. Not sure how to network? Find it difficult? I wrote a book, Networking Debugged, that assumes it is hard. Lots of examples and scripts plus advice from hiring authorities. It’s an easy read and may make the difference between a long job search and landing a great job fast.

DON’T TELEGRAPH YOUR AGE. Hang on, I am not about to tell you to get clever and mask your age by deleting or lying about dates or any other subterfuge. That advice is typically given by people who have never hired executives. If you leave off dates, it forces people to ask for them or worse, they assume you left them off because you didn’t want them to know you are ninety-nine years old.

When you begin your LinkedIn profile, resume or emails with, “Seasoned executive with 28+ years experience,” you just told the reader you are an older worker. There is no other information contained in that statement, no matter what your intention.

While I know for an absolute fact that it is your years of experience that contribute to your success because you know how to navigate intra and extra-departmental politics, because you are experienced with hiring/firing and all the minutiae of doing your job, your 28+ years experience will not land you that interview or that job.

MYTH BUSTED. You have heard it so many times, you believe it is true. It is not. “Employers don’t hire older workers because they can hire younger people, cheaper and save money.

No company corrupts their bottom line potential by hiring inferior candidates, especially executive hires. You have hired many people in your career; has age or the prospect of hiring a bargain executive because they are younger ever been a factor per se? Employers hire the person they feel has the most relevant experience and who will fit in with the company culture. If you are passed over for the job, look to your own behavior before maligning the company. They interviewed you knowing your approximate age, so I promise you, it is not age that prevented an offer. You simply failed to make the sale. Besides, the ‘younger’ candidates I have represented were quite expensive to hire.

EMPLOYERS LOOK FOR HIT THE GROUND RUNNING EXPERIENCE. Employers want to hire executives with current, relevant experience. They only care about your success and the tools it took to garner that success for the last five years. Anything you did ten years ago, in their eyes, is obsolete. And if you cleave to your past for examples and reasons to hire you, you are perceived as old school, inflexible and not hirable.

Don’t take this as encouragement to leave off your older than ten years experience. The road you took to get to where you are is always important. Emphasize the most recent experience with bullets that are spot-on to the new employer and give less emphasis on the older, less appropriate jobs.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GET HIRED. I am convinced cloud computing, mobile and social networking are the new plastics. [As in "The Graduate."]

If you are not fully cognizant of the cloud, mobile and/or social media and all the implications for building sales, customer service, attracting talent, running a product development group and oh so many other aspects, you are out of the running for most jobs.

Do you have to become addicted to Twitter and Facebook? No. But you do have to read anything and everything you can find to understand the scope of those social media applications especially as they pertain to your own area of expertise.

Is cloud computing the future? You don’t have to agree with what you read, you just have to learn what is being said and considered, how companies are implementing, issues around same and their expectations. Think there is something else top-of-mind for your prospective employers? Get up to speed.

There are few companies or functions that are not concerned with or affected by the power of social media and mobile opportunities. Learn what that means with constant and thorough Google and twitter searches.

Maintain your edge. Follow social networking, mobile, SaaS, Cloud and other thought leaders on Gist and Digg. Set alerts, go to Twitter # groups on specific topics. Do your homework. Then, do it again.

You do have to have your own presence to prove you are up to the minute. Increasingly, prospective employers search for you on social networking sites and LinkedIn. They too set alerts and watch news postings.

ANOTHER MYTH BUSTED. My favorite myth to hate is, “They hire younger workers but they don’t have the experience and wisdom of older workers and they just don’t have the horse power to do what I can do.” Three recent clients were just 36 years old, held extremely senior positions in world class companies and had track records miles deep. They had people of all ages including several in their 50′s, working for them and not one was qualified through their experience to be the younger executive’s successors.

Just because someone is young (and 36 is young to someone 50+ vying for the same jobs) doesn’t mean they are not qualified or have the experience and wisdom to be sensational senior executives. It does mean they are attractive to employers because of a track record, proof of their creative, high energy leadership and outstanding references. In each case, those young executives routinely reported extremely low turnover in their 250+ teams and showed impressive ROI results. That is the competition, not their age.

HOW DOES AN OLDER WORKER COMPETE AGAINST YOUNGER EXECUTIVES? Since it isn’t about age, let’s focus on credentials. When you relate your experience in a manner that maps directly to the prospective employer’s needs, they pay attention. Tell stories and give examples, don’t offer theory or expound on the why and what of your work. The only thing memorable is the examples, the more current, the better.

HOW TO NAIL THE INTERVIEW. Use the job description and line by line, write down an appropriate recent example that proves your skill and experience with that priority. Learn to relate that story succinctly with the objective, the process and the outcome. Include the metric by which you judged your success. This is career coaching I offer my executive clients. They learn to relate their career expertise in a way that is memorable and on-point to the employers. Many of my clients, some over 60, find age is never an issue and they land the jobs they are after well within six months.

MISSING CREDENTIALS. Don’t have current technology under your belt? There is no substitute for active participation in solving problems or reaching objectives similar to those of prospective employers. Unfortunately, what you need is proof you have done what needs doing and you won’t get that from taking classes or watching webinars. If the employer sees your resume and invites you to interview, it is because they see something that offsets the lack. Don’t bring it up if they don’t and do the best interview you can. If you don’t get the job it is because you didn’t make the sale, not because you lacked a specific credential.

MORE CAREER COACHING. The only way to prove you have done it is to do it publicly. Sitting in front of your computer and practicing or learning online is not going to cut it. It may be a place to start, but research is no substitute for raw experience.

  1. Volunteer for a project in a not-for-profit or charity that mirrors the needs of your prospective employer. Do it extremely well and secure a reference.
  2. Ask a colleague who is conversant with appropriate technologies if you can shadow them for a week or two. Perhaps do some of the work.
  3. Job share with someone who is doing what you need to learn. Invite them to mentor you.
  4. Accept a free consulting gig with a needy small company. Learn by doing but make sure there is someone in the company you can use as a resource.

Once you are certain you have a grasp on the technologies or approach and can relate your experience as described above, communicate to your network that you are current. If you are getting interviews but not offers, it is time to regroup and evaluate all aspects of your interview. But that is a topic for another post.

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More links on Age discrimination:

Listen to Peter Clayton’s Total Picture Radio podcast with Rita. “Overcoming the ‘grey ceiling.’

Rita’s website for books, blog and coaching information
Solutions to Ageism
Employers Point of view on Ageism
Overqualified? I just want a job.
What keeps you from getting hired? Ageism or attitude?

Combat Ageism. Articles and posts.

Rita Ashley is a career and job search coach for executives. In the last two years, 98% of her clients, even those over fifty, obtained their goals within six months. Is it your turn? For more support, consider career and job search coaching.
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Holiday offer: Purchase one book, get the other one free. Once you purchase the book, contact me with your email address and it will be my pleasure to send you the other book.

Read “Job Search Debugged” for clear and field tested advice to create a compelling job search.





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5 Responses to “Why Boomers don’t get hired”

  1. Rita Ashley says:

    Love being misquoted. What I did say, and you can check this above, is that younger workers are not necessarily less qualified. Age is not the defining factor; relevant experience is. I believe an older candidate injures their self confidence and job search experience if they focus on age instead of accomplishments. Employers want the very best and the extend to which an over 50 worker can communicate their achievements and how they map the the employer’s needs is the extent to which they will receive offers. Always has been true, regardless of age.

  2. [...] workers (50 +) because they are inferior and possess substandard skills. (see  http://jobsearch4execs.com/2010/10/05/why-boomers-dont-get-hired/ ). The new survey and recent news suggests otherwise:  employers are requiring existing workers [...]

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rita Ashley, GregAtGist. GregAtGist said: "Cloud computing, mobile, and social networking are the new plastics" -@jobsearch4execs on your next #job: http://bit.ly/ajIRlB [...]

  4. Rita Ashley says:

    Weight-ism may be even stronger than ageism, racism or any other ism. Appearance sets the stage for expectations. Like it or not, people prefer to associate with pretty people. The nicer you look, the more high energy and engaged you are, the more people are interested in what you have to say and what you can contribute. I wrote extensively on the elephant in this closet as it pertains to those over 50: http://jobsearch4execs.com/2010/03/26/is-ageism-hurting-your-job-search/

  5. Bill Vick says:

    What great advice and so much from the heart. I spent over 20 years as an executive recruiter before pursuing my personal passions and boring my grandsons with attempts at sharing wisdom. I’ve seen time after time that age is far too often between the ears and rather that feeling that we ‘oldsters’ need to compete with the Gen y,x and others, it is they who should be trying to compete with us. We have the skills along with the wisdom that only age and experience brings.

    The article touches on the majority of points I’ve seen holding back many candidates, and does it well, but it does not touch on the ‘other’ elephant in the room. Along with age bias I’ve found an equal bias with perceptions of size and fitness or health. You cannot control getting a day older tomorrow than today but you can control how people perceive you by being as fit as you can. It shows discipline, energy and trust me, you’ll feel better about yourself and have more confidence and a more positive attitude about work and life.

    Thanks for another great article Rita.

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