Older Job Seekers: Show Why Experience Matters

kathy-bates-fried-green-tomatoesThere is this defining moment in one of my all-time favorite Chick Flicks when Kathy Bates’ character, Evelyn Couch in ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ plows into the car of some young, beautiful and incredibly snobby girls who have just whipped into a parking spot Bates’ was in line to receive.

As the girls walk by waving and smirking, they chide her with ‘face it lady. We’re younger and faster.’

By this point in the movie, Mrs. Couch has already decided she’s fed up with not feeling like she is important, respected or valued. So she backs up and repeatedly smashes into the little red sports car the two girls who mocked her were driving.

As the blonde bimbos run to her yelling ‘what are you doing’ in high-pitch hysterics, Bates smirks back and says …

‘Face it girls … I’m older and I have more insurance.’

It’s funny that this has come to mind several times in the past couple of weeks while speaking to friends who are over 40 and are in the job market. The media isn’t lessening the blow either; as repeatedly there are news stories about the jobless rates between older job seekers and how they are losing job opportunities to less experienced, cheaper help.

As the complaining drones on and on and yet another news short highlights a ‘senior’ job seeker with droopy eyes and a discouraged outlook rattle off a tale of woe and worthlessness, I’m reminded of the importance of a positive outlook and of absolute confidence in oneself and her abilities.

Even though there are older, experienced workers seeking employment now and there are just as many younger workers out there, too doesn’t mean someone has to concede. On the contrary, it means if you want the job, you’ve got to show an employer why YOU – the older, more experienced candidate – are the best choice. It’s a cutthroat market out there – and experienced workers know this from experience.

Seems silly to have to remind the more mature unemployed out there how to get a job, but we all need a refresher course at one time or another. It’s so easy for the basics to be completely lost – especially when in the past experience spoke volumes.

Now that experience takes second place to a salary requirement, your job-seeking strategy has to change. Don’t worry, though. It’s virtually painless – especially since you obviously know how to use the Internet …

Just because you have experience, doesn’t mean you have to look it. Resumes are paper. Hiring managers run down the list of jobs a person has had, read through them a little but don’t make a huge leap about age. And even if they did, you don’t need to walk into an interview LOOKING like you are as old as your experience might suggest.

This isn’t a ‘let’s go crazy and have a midlife crisis’ situation. This is a ‘make yourself look like you belong in this job market and are up to the task’ situation. Get a new suit. Buy a new tie. Wash out the gray and trade in those outdated frames for a pair of contacts.

Appearance matters. Let me say it again: Appearance matters.

An up-to-date look, coupled with a sparkling resume tells a hiring manager you’re experienced, can roll with the times and aren’t going to be looking over everyone’s shoulder like a hovering parent or grandparent.

One more time: Appearance matters.

Own your experience and don’t be afraid to work it. There isn’t another person sitting in your interview who is going to tell this HR person or hiring manager what you’ve done in the past. Therefore, YOU have to be your own loudest, most passionate cheerleader.

We’re not talking gloat city, with a population of 1. It means you carry on a conversation and interject at key opportunities what you bring to the table by virtue of your experience. Have anecdotal interjections or jump in a polite way with ideas from past experiences. Share what you know to be true about business as it pertains to the job.

Your interview is certainly an ‘audition’ but it is also a conversation between two people who might be working together. Set the right tone by showing you know how to engage and be engaged.

 Age is just number … and you don’t have to share it. If you have your age on your resume, delete it right this second. How old you are has no part in being hired. In fact, you shouldn’t be asked your age in an interview.

Now obviously, some hiring managers can deduce it from your work experience, etc. But many resume specialists are even telling people to leave off dates now when it comes to experience, etc. and just put the number of years a person was with a company. This tactic allows a potential employer to see a work history but doesn’t allow them the chance to make any preconceived notions about age.

Experience adds bank to the bottom line. In the end, an employer hires who they think will be the most cost-effective for the business.

Some immature managers pick the person they can get the cheapest with potential to eventually get their experience level up. But a wise manager looks for a few things that YOU need to make sure to point out.

They are:

  • Whether or not you are loyal to a job
  • If you are flexible and able to adjust
  • Do you drive results
  • Can you hit the ground running
  • Do you bring fresh ideas the company can capitalize on

By showcasing to a hiring manager that you offer all the above and are worth your salary, there is a chance your experience can outweigh the immediate money crunch. It just takes some coaxing on your part and some deliberate thought. Being ready to showcase the above will make an impression – and that’s experience talking.

Know what you should know. If there is one more media story touting the fact the ‘older’ generation doesn’t know how to use Social media and that’s a reason they’re getting shut out of the workplace, we should all revolt.

If you are in a demographic that does not know social media and you need to know it to get a job GET OFF YOUR CAN AND TAKE A CLASS.

Don’t walk into an interview and say you’ve never heard of ‘the Facebook’ or ‘the Tweeter’ thing. In this area, there is no excuse for lack of knowledge.

Know what you need to know before walking in and be able to talk about it effectively – even if you’re still learning.

Show some personality and sell it. This tip is paramount. There are few things in the corporate HR world worse than a boring, terrible interview.

If you need to ramp yourself up with a 6-pack of Red Bull and a few Yoo-hoos before going in, DO IT. Show a hiring manager what you can add personality-wise to his team and why your presence is valuable beyond experience. Show how you can add to a company culture and really help foster ‘team’. Assets like that are intangibles hiring managers don’t have a problem finding a little extra money for – especially if you can sell it.

It’s quite sad we are in such a desperate state when it comes to people needing jobs. But regardless of age, savvy smarts are what gets a person a hired and knowing how to play the game doesn’t hurt, either.

… And some things are only learned through experience.