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Job Search Tips for Job Seekers Over 40

By Susan P. Joyce

Recently several job seekers over 40 have written to complain that they feel they have lost out on job opportunities because of their age. In many cases, they may be correct. But, probably not always.

Why does age discrimination happen? Younger hiring managers may feel uncomfortable telling someone older what to do (like bossing around their parents).

They may also feel that someone older is not as technically savvy or as physically and mentally "quick" as someone younger. They may even suspect that you'll be out sick more often than someone younger. Frequently, an older worker is viewed as having higher salary expectations and, therefore, being more expensive to hire and retain.

5 Key Elements for 40+ Job Search Success

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1. Keep (or get) up-to-date with your profession and/or industry.

Or, do a lot of research before you launch your job search to get back up to date (the web is great for this!).

This issue often torpedoes people who have been unemployed for several months and women who have taken a few months to a few years out of the job world to care for their children or other family members.

Learn the new software and the latest jargon before you send out your resume or apply for a job. Know who the important "players" are (companies, products or services, and people).

LinkedIn Groups can be very helpful for catching up, becoming visible to employers, and also for identifying those individuals (and companies) currently influencing an industry or profession.

2. Update your resume.

Since you need to get an interview to be considered, Job-Hunt Mid-Life Career Expert, Jan Cannon, recommends that you modify your resume:

  • Focus your resume on your future and the job you are seeking.

    Don't make it a laundry list of everything you've ever done. Most jobs that you had more than 10 years ago shouldn't be included because they aren't relevant.
  • Describe significant and relevant accomplishments vs. a list of duties and "responsible for" items.

    Show the employer how good you are at your job by documenting your accomplishments that are relevant to the job.
  • Change the "Education" section of your resume to "Education and Training" and put your most recent training first.

    Include the year and the source for each training entry. This shows that your skills are up-to-date. List your degrees following the more recent training, and don't include the dates, unless your degrees were earned in the last 10 to 15 years.
  • Be selective if you have had a lot of jobs in the past 20 years.

    Include only those that demonstrate the skills, experience, and/or industry knowledge you have that are directly relevant to the job you are seeking.
  • Limit your resume to no more than 2 pages.

    You only want to include the most relevant jobs, anyway. And, a longer resume is much less likely to be reviewed. For more details on your experience and accomplishments, include a link to your LinkedIn Profile.
  • When a salary range is required, generalize.

    When you must give your salary requirements to be considered, specify a range. Indicate that your salary expectations are appropriate for someone with your experience, and "fair in today's market."

[MORE: Job-Hunt's free Guide to Effective Resumes.]

3. Create/update your LinkedIn Profile.

A LinkedIn Profile is not optional for most professions and industries. The lack of a solid LinkedIn Profile will make you look out-of-date to employers, and that's the last thing you need right now.

Make sure your Proile is "All-Star" which means complete. Complete Profiles are 4,000% more likely to be seen in LinkedIn Search results, so LinkedIn offers a big reward for completeness. LinkedIn's current All-Star Profile criteria:

  • Photo - a nice recent headshot, recognizably you (only you - no friends, pets, or other family members).
  • Your Industry and Location (the Location can be future, if you want to work somewhere else).
  • Up-to-date current position (with a description of what it is that you do).
  • Your education.
  • Your Skills (a minimum of 3).
  • At least 50 connections (more are better for credibility and visibility within LinkedIn).

[MORE: Job-Hunt's free Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search.]

In addition to LinkedIn's requirements, pay attention to what employers and recruiters want:

  • Use the best keywords for you.

    Employers and recruiters relentlessly search through LinkedIn for qualified candidates, which is usually more effective for them than to dig through the resumes and applications after posting a job. Without the "right" keywords for the job you want next, you won't be included in the search results.

    [MORE: How to Identify Exactlly the Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile.]
  • Keep your LinkedIn Profile in agreement with your resume.

    Your resume will be compared to your LinkedIn Profile by most recruiters and employers, so these items should support each other -- same dates, employers, job titles, accomplishments, and more. If they aren't in agreement, the assumption usually made is that the LinkedIn Profile (visible to your family, friends, and network) is more likely to be true than your resume. And, if you aren't truthful in your resume, they aren't interested.

    [MORE: "Social Proof" Linked(in) to Your Resume.]
  • Focus on sharing your accomplishments, not just lists of duties.

    Like your resume, your LinkedIn Profile should provide recruiters and prospective employers with useful insight into what you have done and how well you have performed. Your LinkedIn Summary is a great place to collect your accomplishments that demonstrate how extremely well you can do the job you want next.

    [MORE: Building Your Best Pitch, Resume Summary, and LinkedIn Summary.]
  • Be professionally visible and active in LinkedIn Groups.

    LinkedIn Groups provide excellent networking -- and visibility -- opportunities, but stay professional. No sniping or grumpy/nasty comments or posts. Demonstrate what a great co-worker you would be!

    [MORE: 6 Great Benefits of LinkedIn Groups.]

[MORE: 5 Ways You Look Out-of-Date in Your Job Search.]

4. Be well-prepared for job interviews.

Next, Jan has several recommendations for that critical interview with the younger manager:

  • Describe situations where you worked with younger people on an equal basis or where you followed a younger leader.
  • Focus on your experience and excellent attendance record.
  • Look peppy and energetic. Walk into the room with a brisk step, and sit straight and alert in your chair.
  • Dress for success. Looking competent and confident goes a long way toward convincing others that you are.
  • If you are asked what salary you expect, respond by asking for the salary range. When you hear the range, say that you are sure that you fit within the range, even if you aren't completely sure.

[MORE: Job-Hunt's free Guide to Successful Job Interviews.]

5. Play the salary negotiation smartly.

Finally, Jan offers advice for the job offer and salary negotiation:

  • Try to postpone salary discussions until you have been offered the job.

    When they've offered you the job, you are in a much stronger position to explore options and to negotiate your starting salary.
  • Don't turn down a job because of the salary range until you've explored other ways to "sweeten the deal."

    If the salary isn't high enough, think of how you might negotiate a better "total package" with things of value to you: the amount and timing of your first raise, more vacation time, lower health insurance co-pay, a company car, free parking, spousal travel on business trips, free tuition for your kids, etc.
  • DO turn down a job or a salary that doesn't "feel right" to you.

[MORE: Winning Negotiation Strategies for Your New Job.]

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management since 2012, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and onGoogle+.

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