Joseph, an executive with a solid record of accomplishment, was laid off.  He wasn’t financially ready to retire.  He immediately began to worry about finding another job.  He was 62.

A candidate’s age once they pass age 60 becomes an issue in many job searches — for the employer and the candidate. 

Yes, there are laws prohibiting age discrimination.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that protects workers and job applicants age 40 and over from age-based discrimination in all aspects of employment.  The law does apply to employers with at least 20 employees and employment agencies.  

How Do I Avoid Discrimination?

Courtesy AARP

There is one problem here:  If this is not the most ignored or violated civil rights protection, it is close.  Frequently the violation is unintentional, based on my observations over 20-plus years leading senior level executive search assignments. Employers typically are focusing on an executive who will provide longevity and energy to a mission-critical position whether they admit that or not, and they usually don’t.  So then the question for the candidate, one I am hearing more frequently as Baby Boomers sail pass the big 6-0, is how do they effectively compete for these jobs, how do they avoid subtle age discrimination in the screening process?

Presence & Presentation Are Critical

There are two keys words that come into play:  presence and presentation.  How do you present yourself and how effective are you in making the case that your experience is relevant to the needs of the client, how your years of experience will allow you to be more effective than the other candidates?  To be honest, this is not an easy sell, but it is worth the effort.  It beats sitting on the sidelines prematurely drawing on your retirement bank, or a job that may be menial in terms of scope of responsibility and compensation.   

Let’s be more specific about presence and presentation:

How You Look, Act Critically Important

Presence – This covers a wide array of issues, from your wardrobe to your overall health;  how do you look, do you exude confidence, mentally and physically?   An outdated wardrobe, poor posture or a low-energy, discouraged attitude will send a signal that will be hard to overcome. If you are are overweight, head to the gym. Older executives who are out of shape have more trouble finding a new job than those who are physically fit. Change your diet while you are at it.  These two routines will contribute to an increase in your level of energy and a boost in self confidence.  Even if you are in good shape, you still must  pay attention to your presence, making eye contact, a firm handshake, good posture, your shoes shined and your nails cleaned and clipped.  When it comes to presence, the details count for a great deal. 

Energetically Make Your Case

Presentation – This is an issue for candidates off all ages but it is especially critical for executives in the final years of their work life. Again, it all comes down to the details.  Are you prepared for the interview — have you done you homework on the prospective employer and have have you prepared yourself for the questions you know you will be asked?  Are you. Ready to make the case that age equals experience and experience translate to value?   Failing to make your case, failing to sell the employer on your value proposition is a problem that plagues candidates of all ages, but if the recruiter or employer sitting across the table, perhaps looking for a reason to eliminate you from the search,  you must connect the experience dots in a strong and compelling manner.  

Let’s not kid our selves.  There is age discrimination, but you do not have to allow yourself to be a victim.

Interviewing Skills For Senior Executives

John G. Self

JohnGSelf + Partners offers senior executives a comprehensive course on interviewing skills.  Mr. Self has lectured and written extensively on the subject.  He has served as a member of the faculty for the American College of Healthcare Executives annual Congress for five years. This course is built around eight weekly personalized coaching sessions.  He uses mock and video interviews, he helps executives develop their Value Brand Statement (value proposition) while fine-tuning the resume (the first interview).  Other sessions focus on reference management and developing strategies to deal with the tough questions that can derail your job search. For more information, emails us at careertransitions@JohnGSelf.Com