To start with, here are some statistics:
- Only 28% of workers 55 and older find jobs within one year versus 71% of those aged 25 to 35, reports Career Builder.
- 63% of workers 55 and older applied for positions at lower levels than their previous jobs.
- 48% of workers 55 and older found positions at lesser pay.
The picture is clear but not surprising. Age discrimination is evident despite being against the law. Mature people still need jobs because they have financial commitments in addition to not having enough saved for a longer retirement. So, how can they win in the marketplace while competing for fewer job openings—and against younger applicants? The answer is by having an outstanding résumé (drafted by a recommended, certified, professional résumé writer) and, ideally, working with a career coach to improve their interviewing skills. Interviewing is a learned skill like any other skill. No one was born being excellent at interviewing. The way to prepare for an important interview is similar to the way of preparing for an important college test. Here are a few tips on how to properly answer the following interview questions when age discrimination bias could be detrimental.
Aren’t you overqualified?
This question could—but not necessarily—mean you’re too old for the job. It also could hint that you want more money. Another possible thought behind this question could be that you’ve held bigger positions and you might leave once you find a better job, or it could imply that you’d get bored with this job within a few months. The point here is that you simply cannot answer this question before finding out what the interviewer is actually after. The answer might be, “I’m glad you raised this issue. It gives me a chance to deal with it objectively.” And then you can say, “I suspect you mention this because you may think that [list here some of the possibilities mentioned earlier].” Make sure you end your sentence with “Is that it”? Based on this, the interviewer’s answer will reveal the intention behind the question. Now that you know the intention, you can provide an example of a success story from the past that is relevant to the question.
What are your strongest skills?
Here the interviewer may be testing you on whether you’re up to speed with today’s rapidly changing technology. In your answer, you should be emphatic about how advanced with technology you are—provided this is so—and how extensively you used technology skills at your jobs.
What are your interests outside your career?
This could be another trap question by which the candidate inadvertently reveals actions associated with more-mature people. Such an answer might be, “I enjoy family, reading, watching TV, and going to the theater.” On the surface, this is a good answer, but for a more mature person, it would be better to talk about physical activities in addition to intellectual ones. Notice that the family, reading, TV, and theater examples represent sedentary activity. A better answer would be, “I enjoy intellectual activities such as reading or watching TV, but above all, I jog on a regular basis, I play tennis, and I bicycle on weekends.” Physical activities prove vitality and high energy. And what employer would not like that?