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Baby Boomers and job interview mistakes

Baby Boomer

Baby Boomers, be careful of what you say in an interview

I was talking with a Baby Boomer couple this past weekend about job searching, interviews, and their careers — which got me to thinking.  (Yeah, you know the drill, brace yourself.)  This couple is on the younger side of the Baby Boomer generation and they are still eager to continue working for another 10 years.  In talking with them, I heard a number of themes I believe would keep them from landing a job with most companies and I thought it would help to share my thoughts here.  (I did share my perspective with them as well.)  To provide some perspective on this couple:

These baby boomers did not have a LinkedIn account and only one was on Facebook but with minimal engagement.  Both spouses had been employed with their respective employers for the past 15 – 20 years and over time, although it wasn’t a conscious decision, a mentality developed:  

  • I am going to retire with this company I don’t need to worry about networking. 
  • I am going to end my career with this company so I don’t need a LinkedIn account.
  • For this couple at least, this mentality kept their personal networks limited to just the people they worked with within their immediate departments, and the only new ideas, technologies, and products they were exposed to came from their employers.
  • We don’t like to connect online.  When we want to talk with someone, we call them up.  

They both assumed they would not have the need to look for another job.  Even as the economy started to fail, they felt very secure working with their large companies, assuming the layoffs would never happen to them.    

They admitted they were a little out of touch from the job search/networking scene and were looking for some feedback.  One observation I made was that the resistance to social networking, specifically with LinkedIn and social media, in part, contributed to a lack of overall awareness when it came to networking in general. 

There were some common Baby Boomer themes that I heard throughout our discussion which I hear on a fairly regular basis from this generation.  I believe these end up hurting their careers and their job searches.  They are:

  • “I have been out of touch because I haven’t needed to look for a job.”
  • “Companies don’t treat employees like they used to.”
  • “I am over 50 and companies would rather hire someone younger.”
  • “I am looking for a company to retire with.”
  • “I don’t like to interview with recruiters and hiring managers that are 10 to 20 years younger than me.”

None of these attitudes is going to gain anyone any points in an interview.  I thought it might help to provide some perspective on the above and interpret what these themes mean to most hiring managers: 

I have been out of touch because I haven’t needed to look for a job.

As a recruiter, I don’t want to hire someone who is “out of touch”.  While you may not use the exact words “out of touch” in an interview, if you mention that you have not had to interview in the past 15 years, this could be interpreted as out of touch.  Here’s why:  If you haven’t had to interview in the past 15 years then what you just said is that no one has been interested in your skill set.  With the advent of LinkedIn, almost all profiles are getting “a look” from recruiters, net-workers, and hiring managers – even those not actively searching for a job.  The “look” may not be for a job per se.  It could just as easily be about keeping in touch, discussing new ideas, or asking for advice, but these conversations can lead to a job interview.  Companies are looking to hire candidates that have kept up with the industry, new trends, technology, and ideas.  We are not looking to hire candidates that only learned about new ideas or trends in the industry because their employer forced them.  There are candidates that embrace new ideas, new technologies, and new theories of their own volition and there are candidates that just go with the flow.  Guess which group hiring managers want to work with.  This same idea extends to the job search.  Just because you didn’t need to look for a job doesn’t mean you should give the impression that no one was interested in you.  If you haven’t had to interview in the past 15 years, that is a good thing.  Just don’t share it with your interviewers because they don’t need to know this.

(Yes, there are candidates that haven’t had to search for a job because jobs came to them.  I get that.  Generally speaking, though, there is some form of an interview with these offers.)

Companies don’t treat employees like they used to, or they don’t care.

I hear this from Baby Boomers regularly and, true or not, they need to get over this mentality.  Any mention of this will be an interview killer because hiring managers do not want to hire a candidate who is living in the good ol’ days.  No one wants to hire someone who isn’t in the present.  If I go out on a date with a woman, I don’t want to hear about how her ex-boyfriend was so great and so much fun.  I don’t want to hear about how she was treated like a queen and every night was New Year’s Eve.  This is living in the past.  I want to hang out with someone who is looking toward the future and new opportunities.   Come ON! What am I, lunch meat? 

Companies may not treat employees like they used to but this isn’t yesteryear’s economy and this is common knowledge.  If a candidate alludes to resentment over this, they aren’t going to be hired.   It’s OK to remember the great managers and great companies that got you where you are today.  Just don’t reminisce about them in a way that will make me feel like the company I am recruiting for isn’t able to compete with that memory. 

I am over 50 and companies want to hire someone younger and cheaper than me: 

There are plenty of positions out there that require experience and plenty of it.  What companies do not want to hire is a candidate that is insecure about their age, height, weight, or any other perceived weakness.  Yes, there are plenty of jobs where experience isn’t needed, but there are plenty of positions that require not only industry experience but maturity and good judgment as well.  And guess what, there are plenty of younger people pulling high salaries.  It’s not about age and it’s not about salary.  It’s about the ability to deliver results.    

I don’t like to interview with whippersnappers that are 10 – 20 years younger than me. 

I blogged about what you need to think about when interviewing with someone younger than you here.  Read that again.

I am looking for a company to retire with.

I don’t think this statement is going to kick you out of an interview loop.  I will say that I think this statement will make a candidate sound a bit naive.  This isn’t interviewing advice; this is my own personal advice.  I wouldn’t look to retire with ANY specific company.  I would go into a company and do my best.  I would hope that I have a long and fulfilling CAREER that may take me different places, not a long JOB at one company.  I think that if an employee works for a single company for 15 years, the chances go up that their skill set is very niche and not very transferable.  For my own security, I need to evaluate my opportunities every 2-3 years.  I will revisit the opportunities I have created for myself and the opportunities presented to me.  I will reset my opinion of where the company is in the marketplace.  If I am growing my skill set, career and the company is stable, I will stay.  If my options are becoming limited, I need to consider my future.  Too many large companies have been hit by the economy to rely on “any one company” for retirement.  

My last piece of advice for someone from the Boomer generation is to limit the experience listed on your resume.  You are only going to be hired at your desired salary for what you did within the last 5 years.  I see a lot of resumes that list 20 years of experience and the first 10 years of experience is VERY junior to the desired position.  The experience is too junior to be relevant.  The experience listed from the first 10 years is doing two things:

  • Making you look like you have years of unnecessary experience.  This experience doesn’t translate to qualified experience if it isn’t at the level required for the desired position.  This excess experience translates to something like: “How many trees did we kill printing off all these extra pages of irrelevance?  A Sr. candidate should know better.”  
  • Making you look old.  This gives away your age to a recruiter and makes the candidate look like they have been working for way too long and might be too “stuck in their ways” to make the transition to a new position.  

So — the moral of the story is to be excited about the future, the new position, the new people in your network and your skill set. 

See you at the after party,


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”.

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