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Over 50: Beating 3 Employer Stereotypes

By Phyllis Mufson

Many job seekers over 50 I speak with assume that their age is a barrier to finding a job. They feel that employers look on older workers negatively. The reality is more complex.

Study after study shows that while employers and hiring managers have assumptions about older workers, many of the assumptions are positive. However, they also have real concerns.

To create a positive impression and land the job you want and are qualified for, it is vitally important to understand and address these issues proactively.

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Positive Employer Assumptions About Workers Over 50

Employers positive assumptions are that older workers:

  • Have in-depth knowledge.
  • Have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Are reliable workers with a great work ethic.

Employers are aware that statistically older employees are likely to have low absenteeism and low turnover.

These traits are seen as significant advantages.

Employer Concerns About Workers Over 50

On the other hand, many employers also wonder if older workers will request higher salaries than they plan to pay. That is an issue you can address directly.

However; there are other concerns that interviewers are unlikely to voice, although chances are they will be on their minds. Some of the unspoken questions behind the questions you are asked will be:

  • Are you continuing to learn and grow, or do you have a "been there, done that" attitude?
  • Are you vital and energetic?
  • Are you keeping up with new developments in your field?
  • Will you work skillfully with co-workers of younger generations?

It's up to you to create the right impression.

Beat the Stereotypes

You can address many of these before the start of a job interview or networking meeting, enhancing your market appeal.

1. Energy:

Employers wonder if potential older employers have the energy to keep up in fast paced work environments. In interviews they will be watching your body language and listening to your answers to evaluate if you are physically and mentally fit.

  • Working on your fitness and being mindful of your diet is certainly important in creating an impression of physical and mental fitness and in actually having the energy to compete.
  • But also, take the time for an image check-up. How is your posture? Are your haircut and wardrobe up to date, while not inappropriately youthful? Does your hand clasp convey self-confidence?
  • Are you showing your inner ageism in your interviews? Are you putting yourself down by excusing mistakes as "senior moments" or voicing other negative stereotypes about aging? The more you can become aware of conscious and unconscious negative beliefs you hold about aging, the happier you will feel - and you will also create a stronger impression in employers.

2. Technical skills:

Are your technical skills up to date for the job you are seeking? Fewer workplaces provide on the job training so it is up to you to upgrade your technical skills.  Having gaps in your technical proficiency will be a barrier to getting hired, and even to being invited for an interview.

  • You can get your skills up to speed with a class at a community college or online; or consider hiring a college student as a tutor.
  • Conducting an efficient online job search will help you find more positions, and also demonstrates to employers an interest in learning and keeping up with technology as it evolves. Some suggestions for getting started having a professional online presence include:

For more about beating back this particular stereotype about Boomers, read Beating the "Old" Bias 1: Being Visibly Up-to-Date.

3. Flexibility:

Employers will be checking to see if you will collaborate well with younger workers and if you appear to be willing to accept direction and learn from someone younger than yourself. They will be looking to determine if you will be resistant to new ways of working, or if you welcome challenges. It is up to you to disarm their concerns.

  • You can tell interviewers that you are flexible and not stuck in ‘been there, done that' ways. To make a greater impact, I suggest you illustrate your flexibility and collaborative work style with anecdotes that illustrate how you have flexibly and collaboratively solved problems in the past and the interests and skills you have developed recently.
  • This is the time to put your fears about whether or not you will land the job aside and call on your wisdom. Remember back to your experiences being the age of the interviewer, how you felt, how you viewed people older than you, and how you wanted to be treated by them - then demonstrate that behavior.
  • After you have landed your job and your co-workers know you and feel assured of your respect you'll have the opportunity to mentor and share your knowledge and become an inspiring resource for your team.

Bottom Line:

It's up to you to manage employers' perceptions of you, your experience, your energy, and your willingness to learn and contribute with workers from other generations. If you take a clear look at yourself and commit to any necessary changes you will see the positive results.


About the author...

Phyllis Mufson is a career / business consultant and a certified life coach with over 25 years of experience. She has helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate career transitions. You can learn more about Phyllis and her practice at PhyllisMufson and follow Phyllis on Twitter @PhyllisMufson and Google+.


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Guide to Job Search for Boomers & Those Over 50:

Over 50 / Boomer Job Search Concerns:

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Figuring Out What's Next for Over 50 / Boomers:

Developing Your Personal Success Plan for Over 50 / Boomers:

Making Your Best Impression for Over 50 / Boomers:

Over 50 / Boomer Career Pioneers:

Over 50 / Boomer Career Change:

Additional Resources:


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