Job seeker feels passed over because of age

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Q: I am 57 and feel like I am being passed over because of my age.  I have applied for many different roles and seem to always be eliminated when a company asks me about compensation expectations.  I know I don’t have to tell them what I made in past roles, but I do.  I am re-thinking my strategy.  What do you think?

A: Great question.  You raise a reality that many job seekers are facing.  However, there are some steps that you could take, which may help you advance in the selection process.

In short, you have to convince the interviewer to focus on your value to the company, not your age.  Candidates who can demonstrate value get hired.  After all, an employer is buying your services trying to get the best bang for their buck.

Here are some tips:

  1. Limit your resume to two pages.  Consider eliminating your early career roles which may not be as relevant.  My resume is two pages long.
  2. Include keywords in your resume that showcase your skills as up to date.  Make sure that you have stayed current in terms of technology, industry trends and experience.
  3. Ask a trusted colleague for advice and feedback on your resume and your job search.
  4. Don’t offer hurdles that make it easy for a recruiter to eliminate you.  What are hurdles?  Comments like: “I won’t go into Boston anymore.”  Or “I don’t have the time to learn the newest version of that software.  I went to a training class in the 80s and that was enough for me.”  Instead offer what you can do.  Speak using flexible terms.  Examples include: “I know I could learn the latest version.  I enjoy learning new technologies.  In fact, this past spring I completed an advanced Python programming class.”
  5. Some of my clients perceive some email addresses, such as having an extension, as that of a candidate who is living in the past.
  6. Talk up your current experience.  Candidates who reminisce, at length, about companies that have died, are not perceived as vibrant candidates.
  7. Check your clothing and appearance.  Make sure that you are not wearing a suit that you bought in the 80s.  In fact, maybe you shouldn’t be wearing a suit at all.  Do some research on what is appropriate dress at our target companies.
  8. Think about what you are expecting in terms of compensation.  If you last made $90K and an employer is posting the role with a $70K salary range, is your $90K ask reasonable?  Many times our clients are focused on dollars and cents.  If another candidate comes along and will take $65K, then think about your salary requirements.  I find sometimes it is not a candidate’s age, but instead their salary requirements which scare off the employer.  A $90K base salary offer could disrupt their internal equity (what they are paying others in the same or similar roles).
  9. Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, be energetic, willing and enthusiastic.  Companies want to hire engaged candidates, of any age.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.