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5 age biases keep 50-plus job seekers unemployed

Hire Gray Matter's Ron Jamieson speaks at Happen Netowking Meeting, Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Hire Gray Matter's Ron Jamieson speaks at Happen Netowking Meeting, Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Rosemary Davies-Janes / Miboso Images

Why are senior professionals not only failing to land jobs, but giving up, and prematurely dropping out of the job search process?

This was yesterday’s presentation topic at a networking meeting I attended in Mississauga.

As explained by Ron Jamieson and Karen Tulk of Hire Gray Matter, a Toronto based recruiting firm, older job seekers must not only reverse their search tactics and be willing to keep looking for as long as 12 to 18 months... To get a suitable position, older applicants must also successfully override five common employer age biases.

Even though Jamieson and Tulk made a strong case for the significance of these negative perceptions, as the inventor of Authentic Personal Branding, I still believe that no matter what their age may be, candidates who understand and effectively communicate the value they bring to the hiring organization will get hired.

(If you're unclear about the benefits you bring to future employers, you won't have the tools you need to convince them to choose you. Get clear! Grab my free 4-Step Value Proposition Development Exercise and pinpoint your value!)

Adding my views to Tulk’s and Jamiesons’ perspectives uncovers a
formula older job seekers can confidently use to stand out and get hired.

Successful candidates are:
a) Self aware, and able to skillfully ...
b) Match the benefits they offer to each specific prospective employers' needs
c) Identify recruiters', hiring managers' and prospective bosses' biases, and ...
d) Deconstruct these biases as quickly as they appear.

Let's take a minute to check out the age prejudices Hire Gray Matter identified
as responsible for limiting older workers’ employment prospects.

Employers’ 5 Top Age Biases:

  1. Diminished Drive and Energy
    Older job seekers must overcome the stereotype that labels 50+ workers as old, tired, cranky, or worn out. Being in good physical shape, showing up dressed appropriately and stylishly, and projecting energy and vitality, all go a very long way to crushing this bias. Older workers can also add to their youthful image by including active hobbies and personal interests on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles "It goes without saying," Tulk quips, "No one immediately thinks of a serious kayaking enthusiast as being sixty years old."
  2. Technology
    Older professionals need to stay current with technology if they want to avoid being viewed as dinosaurs. They must quash their own biases against social networking sites, or mobile messaging, and if they can’t fully embrace them, they must become adept users. Thousands of free online tutorials are available to get older users up-to-speed on a vast variety of technological trends, tools and tactics.
  3. Skills
    Whether they were hired before certifications became necessary (or before they even existed), or have all but the most recent credentials, Tulk recommends senior workers give serious thought to the benefits of adding relevant certifications. HR professionals charged with meeting specific hiring criteria, like seeking out candidates with current PMP (Project Management Professional) certifications, won’t select an applicant with two decades of hands-on project management experience and no credentials over an applicant with a current PMP and less than a decade of experience. However, when choosing between candidates with equal training and unequal experience, the advantage will go to the more experienced applicant.
  4. Salary
    More experienced professionals command higher salaries than less experienced professionals. That’s a fact.
    To make themselves affordable to employers with limited hiring budgets, Tulk advises older workers to amend their salary expectations. Shorter work hours (3 - 4days a week, vs. 5, for example) or extended unpaid vacation (8 weeks unpaid, vs. 3 weeks paid) might do the trick.

    If senior professionals are aiming to change their life/work balance, they may find either of these affordability approaches appealing. However, if that’s not an objective, and the older worker wants or needs to get paid top dollar, there are other options to consider.

    If they offer to work as a consultant, their employer saves the cost of adding health, pension and other fringe benefits to their employment package. This makes an experienced worker more affordable, without diminishing their value as a professional.

    Negotiating a lower base pay plus a higher, performance-dependent bonus goes a long way to demonstrating the candidate's confidence in their skills and abilities, and make them more affordable. However, this approach has its risks, and should be adopted only by professionals convinced they can deliver.

    Here’s where the danger lies. While this situation reduces the employer's risk, it also gives them leverage they can use against their new hire, if they don’t hit their performance targets. Not only will they forfeit their hefty bonus, they also risk being fired for poor performance.

  5. Younger Bosses
    Older workers will have younger bosses. Current workplace demographics make this fact inescapable. Tulk counsels senior workers to treat their younger bosses with the respect they have given previous supervisors. She also advises experienced professionals to resist the temptation to mentor their younger bosses, uninvited.

Have you faced age discrimination in your job search? If so weigh in on this conversation.
Tell us about your situation , what happened and how you handled it.

My next post will continue this conversation by looking at the Job Search Myths keeping older candidates off recruiters' short lists, and the real odds older applicants face in today's recruiting "Buyers' Market."

Click the "Subscribe" link under my author photo at the top of this post and an email alert will arrive in your in-box as soon as my next post is published.

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