Acing a Job Interview After Age 50

Joe Turner, the Job Search Guy

interview"I was fully qualified and it makes no sense."

"They simply don't know how to hire."

"They told me that I was overqualified."

Randy Block, a seasoned career transition coach and consultant in the Bay area, hears these comments often.

If you're an "older" job hunter, more than likely, you already know that the ultra competitive job search process in today's economy is especially hard on you. Part of the challenge you're facing is a major generation gap between Baby Boomer job hunters and the Gen-Xer hiring managers of today. As Block noted, "30-somethings don't want to hire their parents. Unfortunately, that's how we often come across - as their parents."

You can succeed during interviews with younger hiring managers, but you'll want to think and act differently. Here are five areas to start with:

1. Show passion for your work

Relationships are based on shared values, Block says. He believes that shared values make up most of what we call chemistry. Chemistry is enhanced when we meet others who have a shared or common interest. This extends to your work, profession or industry. If there is little passion or commitment from you for your work, how can you expect others to get excited during the interview? On the other hand, if you consider yourself driven or committed to what you do for a living, you'll most likely meet up with a hiring manager who has a shared interest in the same area. This in fact, may be a new area for you as you undergo a possible career change. It gives you the opportunity to take your transferable skills and put them to use in some new ways for a different industry. If you're genuinely excited about your possibilities, your excitement can be contagious, especially during your interview.

2. Sell your brand

The best way to prepare for an interview is to start with a focus and brand that actually sells you. Develop a personal brand statement for yourself, a simple sentence that offers three very important selling points about you. First, it should say who you are. Second, it should offer your biggest strength(s) and third, it should offer the biggest benefit that you bring to your next employer.

The purpose of your brand is to go beyond mere duties and job descriptions and get to the "what's in it for them" benefit that will make the employer sit up and take notice.

3. Being "led" versus being managed

Another disparity that needs to be addressed, according to Block, is the fact that Boomers want to be "led" and not managed. In his coaching practice, he found that most 30-something managers look for someone they can manage. In coaching sessions with young managers, he observed that their leadership skills typically lag behind their management skills.

If you're a Boomer, take note and realize that you might not get the visionary leader you hoped for in your next hiring manager. Block has discovered that most young managers need help and guidance. They actually appreciate being mentored, coached or advised. They recognize the need, but look at it as a temporary or project-based opportunity.

This is an opportunity to sell yourself as a consultant whose many years of expertise can be useful in the role of a temporary coach or mentor. This may be a great meld between the "management versus leadership" dichotomy. This also increases your opportunities since companies are hiring more consultants in this economic downturn. As the economy improves, that 1099 contract could well turn into a salaried position.

4. Think "tactical" versus "strategic"

According to Block and other employment analysts, many companies today view their short-term survival needs as having paramount importance. They're looking for players who can hit the ground now and help them grunt through the next six to nine months. That will require a change in your marketing approach as phrases like "long-term" and "strategic" won't have the sales impact of a year ago. Rather than emphasize the long haul in your résumé and interview marketing, look instead at selling yourself as an expert who can get in and fix the problems of today quickly and efficiently. Downplay any talk about long-range solutions and instead, focus on clear results-oriented achievements for short-range problems.

Talk money

Money talks and it talks loudly. Money can also trump age, so try to get as close to the money as you can when you describe who you are and what you bring to the table.

Keep in mind that all organizations have only two basic needs: revenue and productivity. This is what keeps any top manager up at night. If your brand can help them, they will seek your advice and counsel. Therefore, come to the interview armed with specific examples of how you can solve their money (or productivity) problem. Your past achievements are examples of how to tackle the similar problems they're faced with today. If you can show yourself to be the problem-solver they need, you'll quickly rise to the "short list" of candidates. Your goal is to become the "go-to" person for their short-term revenue or productivity problems.


The Gen-Xer's need your help. Your working relationship will likely begin as either part- time or a short-term contract but can extend into full-time once you've proven yourself. Focus on ways you can help their short term "survivability" through this recession and get as close as you can to their revenue or productivity concerns. Talk money and how you can help them produce immediate results. A younger manager would have to be very shortsighted not to explore a working relationship with someone more experienced. Capitalize on your wealth of experience to make a positive difference in the lives and careers of the Gen-Xer's.

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A former recruiter, Joe Turner spent 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. The author of Job Search Secrets Unlocked and Paycheck 911, Joe also hosts his weekly Job Search Guy Radio Show on as well as other locations. You'll find Joe's free tips and advice on landing a job in this tough economy at:

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I am 56 years old, with 17 years experience in nursing. I have been out of work for 3 months and counting. I agree with okcs55 there is a rampant amount of age discrimination out there. Us older generation were brought up with Values that the younger generation is sadly lacking nowadays. During my last job I would go the extra mile, work extra hrs without pay to try to get the job done instead of leaving it for someone else to have to correct. The company I worked for hired a 26 year old who clocks in late and leaves before 5:oo pm every day. Go fiqure. Well keep up the good fight, and good luck!

December 30 2009 at 10:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Spooky\'s Mom

After working for the same boss for 21 years (a doctor) they brought in the wife to take my position. She had no background in dentistry, horrible customer service skills and no management experience. BUT, of course when people ask me if it was a financial reason......well yes I guess GREED falls into that category. And, prior to my unexpected departure I had also become the scapegoat for another staff member whom I had gotten her job there for her 20 years ago. She violated their privacy and trust and was told by her husband not to tell the boss she was the one "stalking" them because I was going to lose my job anyways. The coward that my boss was refused to read a letter I had written to him, with the intent on clearing my name (not pointing fingers at anyone else)because it was and still is easier for him to accept what he did to me thinking he was justified by the actions of this other person and "assuming" it was me. Meanwhile I have become aware that he has defamed my character, lied about me and the wife has told people that I "walked out" on my job.

December 29 2009 at 8:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OK folks....I guess you've all gone to bed. This much "older" boomer worked 16 hours today to get the work done by a "younger" co-worker who's calling in sick to use all her sick days before year end.

December 16 2009 at 12:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

See.....I made a typo myself!

December 16 2009 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Folks, let's not dwell on the f"manger" typo. The author is probably not a "boomer" but we boomers also make typos. Let's focus on the real issue. While the above article is correct, since I've been on both sides of the fence and in Human Resources, I can speak with authority. Corporate America, unless they have Department of Labor statistics/requirements/quotas to meet, would prefer to hire younger people who will fit in with their younger employees. The younger people do not want to feel that their parent is working beside them. They have a different lifestyle, talk about their "kegger" parties, getting drunk, hooking up and cannot relate to us boomers who may be celebrating a 20th or longer wedding anniversary, have grandkids, or arthritis. We do NOT fit in and for that reason, the hiring "manger" will dismiss us regardless of how highly qualified, hardworking and personable we are. That's the reality. So, you just have to keep trying and hopefully will try looking for work at a smaller company.

December 16 2009 at 12:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Cuzzo

Quit you kretchen. Business (sales) is like the Mafia - they need earmers. As long as you bring in the business, you'll have a job.

December 15 2009 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am actually experiencing a lot of what this article is point out. I'm a 53 yo, swf, unemployed admin assistant. I'm out of work for well over a year. In addition, I am finding that sr. level positions are diminished. Support staff is a dying field. I feel that there are issues with the "style" of management and lack of leadership, the age group, and the fact that everybody is working in fear. In my case, I cannot even get a phone call or acknowledgment of application. I am sure that they are hiring much younger people and a minimal salary for what I know how to do. It is very depressing.

December 12 2009 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rune Hammer

The simple fact is, age discrimination is ILLEGAL ! Google: ADEA. Problem is the EEOC and the OFCCP don't care about older job seekers. Hello? I said, "They don't care!" Why? Because they don't have to. Read on.

As a 30-plus-year career senior HR manager, laid off a year ago, I am appalled by the high number of recruiters who come right out and ask your age, or the ones who try to be sneaky by asking what year you graduated from college - and the hiring managers who ask whether you will "have the energy to be successful."

If you guys want to do something to help, contact your US Senator and your US Representative ... raise hell ... ask them to introduce legislation to ensure affirmative action for senior job seekers.

Obama could do it by Executive Order (EO) if he was pressured to do so. EO 11246, signed by LBJ back in 1965 requires Equal Employment Opportunity and prohibits federal contractors (that's most of the big companies out there and a LOT of the small ones, too) who do over $10,000 a year in government business from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. NOTICE: AGE IS NOT INCLUDED!

Contractors are also required to "take affirmative action" to hire applicants and treat employees without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. NOTICE AGAIN: AGE IS NOT INCLUDED !

So, my senior brothers and sisters, get mad! Then contact your US Senator and your US Representative ... raise hell ... demand that they introduce legislation to ensure affirmative action for senior job seekers ... and dismantle the last great bastion of illegal job discrimination!

December 06 2009 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

MANGER. Really? can none of you spell or read?

November 24 2009 at 6:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's no wonder your not working, go back and read your comment!
Does it still make sense to you?

November 24 2009 at 6:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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