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Over 40: getting the job interview

over 40

The style says “now”, a big smile always wins

Over 40?

If you are over 40 and trying to land an interview or through the interview process? Right or wrong, a few things you can do to gain credibility and more importantly, the reasons why.

Being over 40 in this economy seems to be a hot topic and I am not able to say what I want in 800 words, so I am breaking this up into two posts.  “Over 40” is like any other labeled group.  It is what you make it be.  There are plenty of groups that face challenges when it comes to getting a job.  Being short, minorities, overweight, handicapped, are just a few of the categories that have faced challenges for decades.  My advice about any challenge you face is that it is mental.  Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be given a second glance on the street, but he is a world-renowned “smart guy”.  If he can do it, so can you.

Be confident and comfortable in how you present yourself.

A recruiter is a shark that can smell fear/nervousness in the water 10 miles away.  Practice your answers until you are comfortable. With 20 years of experience under your belt, we should have a better answer than our younger peers.

Getting the interview:  the following are steps that can help combat the misperception of “over 40”.

Your resume: There is plenty on the internet about what a resume should look like if you are over 40.  I will say this:  Don’t feel like you should keep your resume limited to 1 page. Would Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci have a 1-page resume?  If it is compelling and relevant, I will read it.  When it is 3 pages long and unrelated to the position I am looking to fill, I won’t.  The Iliad is a tome, and plenty of people read it.

More than likely, you will only be hired for the last 5 years of your experience.  Not the first 5 of your career, so avoid listing everything you have done in an attempt to cover all of the bases.  Focus your resume, and keep it relevant to the job you are applying for.

Cover Letter:  Some people say cover letters go straight to the garbage. If it is going to be thrown out, then you have nothing to lose writing one. Recruiters don’t like them because they usually suck.  If your particular recruiter is one that appreciates cover letters (I absolutely do when they are used effectively!!!) then don’t miss the opportunity to say something relative to the position that is not listed on your resume.

Below I have listed a few ways to give the recruiter a more visual picture of who you are.  Use them all to your advantage.  You want to give the recruiter a multidimensional picture of who you are.  You want them thinking, “I can work with this candidate”.  If you want to relate to the younger generation, show them you understand what is going on with technology and social media.  Forget the hearsay that recruiters respect your online privacy as it relates to Social Media in recruiting.  Cover your bases.  Recruiters do say “if there isn’t a Facebook and a LinkedIn profile, forget it”.  Remember, a recruiter is going to send you through a hiring loop.  They want to make sure you are presentable and there are no hidden skeletons that someone in that loop is going to turn up.  I don’t care what you think about Social Media.  If you are looking for a job, you need to have these standard boxes checked. Lack of these may hint to “old school / slow school”.  (Doesn’t keep up with the times)

Facebook:   This is a free site and should be used to show off your personal side. Keep it clean. Your picture can and should reflect what you like to do in your off time.  Avoid a picture of your pet, an avatar, or scenic picture as your profile picture. Anything other than your face, and I just assume you have something to hide.  In your photo library, the more pictures of you doing physical activities or outdoors the better.  Again, use current pictures. 

LinkedIn:  A free site that can be used to show off your professional accomplishments.  Your picture should be a recent headshot, dressed appropriately for the position you are interested in.  A head shot with a blue, button-down collared shirt is perfect.  Do not take an old picture of you with your spouse and cut your head out of that.  It is obvious, and a reflection of your work.  You can get a digital camera and load a decent picture in 5 minutes.  Have a friend take 15-20 pictures of you in front of an interesting background and pick one.  (You take 20 pictures and your chances of getting one you loud and proud of are much higher)  Fill out your profile 100%.  Do not leave any fields blank.  Consider this your online resume.

Blog:  These are free to set up.  You don’t have to blog about anything special.  Blog about what interests you. It can be as simple as your dog, as complicated as cooking and recipes you want to share, to fixing up your 69 Trans Am.  Just show your individual train of thought, and give them a side of you that isn’t easy to show on a resume.  If you are in sales and applying for a sales position, the blog on your experiences going through the sales process, or sales experiences where you were the customer and what you would do differently. If you exercise, blog about that. Your routine, your nutrition, your coaches.   It is even better if you can help or “give back” to others through your blog. Show thought leadership in a particular area. Show that you “think”, you “reflect”, you want to “help others”, or that you “appreciate” something.  Keep it simple. Don’t worry about traffic to your site. Worry about the content.

Common ways to send the right message:

  • Your image should reflect not only the times but the culture of the company you are interviewing for.
  • Your hair can be grey, but the style should be “now”.
  • Men, modern mustaches only  (unless you are applying to be a firefighter, police, or professional baseball athlete)
  • Your glasses should be modern.  If you are wearing the same glasses the last 5 years, they aren’t modern.  They don’t have to be extreme; they just shouldn’t say “old school /slow school”.  Invest in new glasses! If your glasses are dated, skip the glasses for the picture.

Being over 40 is an advantage in the job hunt.  It is how you go about the hunt that puts you at a disadvantage.

Good Luck,



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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