Over 40: Part 2, the interview
In this economy, there is a perception that being over 40 is a tough place to be. I think folks have it wrong. The assumption from the candidate’s perspective is that “over 40” is too old. I am as cynical as the next guy, and personally, I don’t agree.
As a recruiter, “age” doesn’t scare me. What does scare me is an “old school / slow school” attitude. What scares me are individuals who have not kept up with the times. There is a perception that folks over 40 think and act a certain way. The fear of hiring someone over 40 is that they may not have the strength, stamina for long hours, technology chops, stubborn to new processes, get sick, or any number of stereotypes. There, I said it. I am in HR, should be politically correct, but I recognize prejudice and human nature quicker than most.
What scares me in an interview
We have all met the person that called attention to themselves by saying, “I am overweight” or “I am short” or “I am old”. We really didn’t notice any of these qualities until they brought it up. These folks are NOT comfortable in their skin. These comments make everyone else feel uncomfortable and awkward. WTF am I supposed to say when I hear these comments?
It’s not going to be easy, but yes, age can absolutely be overcome. As a guy who has hired many individuals over 40, over 50 AND over 60 as individual contributors and managers, it absolutely happens. People over 40 are hired every day. How does it happen?
1. The folks we have hired were very comfortable with who they were. They were comfortable in their skin, their age, their looks, and their experience. Like their younger counterparts, they tend to be proactive in all facets of their lives. They showed that they had the ability to help others with less experience become better. Candidates over 40 years old showed this in a way that was calming, relaxed, and comfortable. These candidates give us confidence. They talked to people with less experience, in the same manner, they talked with their peers.
Are you jaded towards different generations?
There are plenty of young people who would appreciate someone who they could learn from that would act as a mentor and not as a manager. The workforce is filled with a generation of folks that are proactive when it comes to learning. Gen Y and Millennial are voracious learners. The workforce is also filled with a generation of baby boomers that are jaded with their attitudes toward young people. Break out of being jaded.
As successful candidates go through the interview process, they answer the questions with examples that show they are just as quick to learn, have the stamina to long hours, have kept up on technology, have adapted to new processes, and live a healthy lifestyle. They shatter the preconceived perceptions with their examples.
Interview Question: “Tell me about yourself”
Answer: Personally I love to exercise. I jog 2 miles every day and belong to a running group that runs a 5K a month. I really enjoy it and blog about it on a regular basis. Professionally, I have been in publishing for the past 10 years. I have been in Publishing for the past 20 years and seen technology change and make the world more efficient, blah blah blah.
Be proactive and stifle any doubts a recruiter may have around any of the above-mentioned hang-ups when it comes to being over 40.
2. A majority of recruiters are under 40. Most are probably under 30. Remember, this is a game, and the recruiters are the referee, the judge, and the executioner. We need to play by their rules. Figure out what they are judging you on, and score a 10 in all the categories. We need to score 11’s. You need to win them over. They not only need to like you, THEY NEED TO RELATE TO YOU. These are two very different mindsets.
HR is the face of the company
Most HR people are told and believe that they are the “face of the company”. It is an ego booster from the executive team to the HR department and HR is dumb enough to believe it. If they are the face of the company, they will want to hire people who they can relate to. They want to hire people that reflect them. They want to hire the next “winner”. Relate to them.
Young people will either look up to you or look down on you when you are 10 years older than them. In the workplace, they either want to learn from you, or not have anything to do with you. They don’t need a desire to hang out with you, but there needs to be a connection.
I have said this before, but how you present yourself matters. Dress matters, hairstyle matters, eyeglasses matters. Phone matters (if yours is old, then don’t bring it to the interview. You aren’t going to be taking any calls). If you are over 40, then you have had 20 years to be the subject matter in your particular field. Look successful. You have had 20 professional years to figure out how to present yourself. Smile.
Giveaways that date us in an interview
Tie clips, tie pins, clip-on suspenders, belts that show wear, old shoes, dated hairstyles, clothes that don’t fit perfectly and sweaters on both men and women. This is an interview, not the Mr. Rodgers show. I am NOT saying we need to have the latest fashion. Far from it. We just need to be current and conservative.
I have yet to meet a recruiter or HR person (representative of the company) that didn’t have a certain amount of polish. The company is going to try to put a great forward facing image, and they aren’t going to coach or develop it. They pick people who are conscious of how they present themselves. The company makes an effort to presents its best foot forward, and so should you.
Yes, folks over 40 get jobs.
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.