How To Get A Job If You're Over 50

job search over 50

Q: I am over 50, and just got laid off after working in the same place for 15 years. How should I approach prospective employers and deal with the age issue? I have a lot of experience, but the age thing seems like a big deal.

No one doubts it is difficult to find a job after working in one place for over a decade. The job market is different today than 10 years ago. Employers have higher expectations, they source candidates differently and job seekers apply and have materials screened using new tools. That's a lot of obstacles for mature job seekers to overcome. The solution? Stop worrying about the "age issue" and start addressing the real reasons why you may not be landing opportunities:

Your resume is old fashioned and untargeted.
If you're worried about age discrimination, don't start your resume with, "Over 25 years of experience in ______." Don't purposely hide experience in a "functional" resume that mashes up your skills without detailing when and where you gained them. The solution? Focus on your most recent and relevant 10 years of work history and make a strong case for your candidacy.

A human being is unlikely to review your resume unless the automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS) identifies your materials as a good match to pass along to hiring managers. Fill your resume with keywords relevant to the job and incorporate specifics regarding your skills and accomplishments to win a chance to interview.

You balk at technology.
If an employer invites you to interview via Skype, and you hesitate because you don't know how to use it, expect the organization to move on to the next candidate. When you ask if you can fax your resume instead of applying using your (non-existent) LinkedIn profile, assume you've lost an opportunity.

Some employers will jump to the conclusion that anyone over 50 is not technologically savvy. Do not embrace that stereotype – even if it is true for you. Ask your neighbors or grown children for help, or take a class to be sure you are up on the latest "must have" tools. Learn how to use online networks and applications and dispel the myth that older workers cannot learn new things.

More: 10 Best Jobs For A Second Career

Recruiters are looking on social media, and you're not there.
The 2012 Jobvite study shows employers are using social media to recruit, with 92% of U.S. companies using social networks and media to find talent in 2012, up from 78% five years ago.

In the past, engaging with recruiters may have meant attending a lot of in-person networking events. While the in-person event has its place, the statistics don't lie; social media is key to job search success. You need an optimized LinkedIn profile at the very least, and if you're really concerned your age is a factor, take advantage of other social media tools, such as Google+ and Twitter, to demonstrate you are an expert in your field and relevant for today's workplace.

You're inflexible.
If your industry suffered a lot of layoffs or shrunk in the recession, do not bang your head against the wall trying to find jobs that do not exist. If there are no jobs, it doesn't matter if you're 25 or 55. Identify new fields and organizations where you can market your skills.

You're applying for jobs in organizations where no one is over 30.
Yes, ageism exists; many companies prefer younger, less expensive workers. Look for organizations that value maturity. For example, if you're interested in a non-profit career, investigate resources at, which highlights organizations interested in tapping mature workers' wisdom and experience. Review the AARP's list of "best employers for workers over 50" and apply to organizations known to value your years of experience.

Your mindset is holding you back.
It's understandable if you are angry, or even bitter; you worked hard, and now no one seems to appreciate it. Instead of railing against the system, recognize your best hope to succeed is to embrace change. When you interview with someone young enough to be your child, don't mention your grandchildren or discuss the "good old days." Take a hard look at yourself, your demeanor and how you engage when you're being evaluated. It can't hurt to casually mention the 5K you are training for or to ask if the interviewer has tried the latest Google calendar application.

Adjust your approach; instead of complaining that no one wants to hire someone over 50, use your energy to identify and emphasize your unique value proposition – what makes you more qualified than anyone else for the job. If you can't hone in on why you're the natural choice, that may be the reason you are not getting work, not your age.

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Bob Prosen

Don't Give Up!

As a former Fortune 500 executive I’ve hired hundreds of employees. Including recent college grads and people with 25+ years of experience.

The key to getting hired, whether there’s an opening or not, is to customize your approach. If not, you won’t stand out or get an interview. So stop blasting out countless resumes. Most never make it through the automated screening process and even less make it into the hands of a real person in HR.

Your target is not HR! It's the hiring manager that matters most.

Companies hire people to solve problems (both positive and negative). Your ability to uncover your target employers problems and position yourself as the solution is what will get you hired even when there are no open postings.Bob ProsenCEOThe Prosen Center.for Business Advancement.

October 29 2012 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

dear author,
are you 14 years old or completely ignorant? YOU are making all the ageist assumptions you tell the questioner "is not the case". Outdated resume? NOT tech savvy? Gimme a break. When you are over 50 and the folk interviewing you are under 30, THEY SE YOU AS AN OLD FART. IT does not matter if you are the person who invented skype, moodle, twiiter or the next great thing . . . they see an old person. NO kid wants to hang around the office with "old people". Your response is so off-base and insulting I would love to punch sense into you (if that were possible). Mention the newest Google app? Hmm, why not come dressed as Nikki Minaj (oooohhhh how fascinating! I am over 50 and I know who she is!). BTW (that is an internet abbreviation, if you did not know it -duh). I have received rejection letters and responded to ads wrtiten by people with no spelling, grammar or organizational skills. If the young, punk-ass HR person and the organization reads my correctly written letter, I come across looking old-fashioned and outdated, I suppose. Ms. Saltpeter, I am sending you an enema for your head.

September 15 2012 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al Johnson

Don't forget to take care of yourself physically. They say you are only as old as you feel. If you are out of shape and look like you are going to ruin the health benefit for the whole company, they will feel justified in showing you the door. More bad habbits to break, I am afraid.

September 07 2012 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al Johnson

Don't forget to take care of yourself physically. They say you are only as old as you feel. If you are out of shape and look like you are going to ruin the health benefit for the whole company, they will feel justified in showing you the door. More bad habbits to break, I am afraid.

September 07 2012 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al Johnson

Enjoyed the article, and along with learning Social Media, take the time and the classes offered by the local job service to hone computer skills. Break all those bad habbits from being frustrated at your old job.
Get out, get active, meet people, and promote your talents by showing them what you learned.

September 07 2012 at 9:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As stated, there are too few jobs for the evergrowing US population today; and because of NAFTA and other free trade programs last 20+ years, most of the former living wage paying industrial/manufacturing industries we always had are in China today and Mexico and even India taking ALL those jobs and the former middle class wealth with them....

Problem I have as a 30+ year tradesman and businessman, is the younger adults demand wages from me yet do not have the experience or skills in the trades we need for our business (most refuse to apprentice or learn on the job) so thus are left with no candidates out there- as most older people like myself, are not as limber as we were once, and sadly, many older workers (50+) refuse to work unless they make the incomes they used to make 20 years ago.... Reality is, I now have to charge what I did about 20 years ago to try to exist in business today and thus, wages are depressed (by abuses in construction industry mainly with illegal Mexicans utilized so long) and myself and everyone else is being forced to live on lower standards than what we ever relied upon decades past, yet those who refuse to work a job or take what pay that can be afforded, say there are no jobs out there.

We are ALL going to a lower financial standard of living like it or not.

September 06 2012 at 7:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Hey Dodie !
Not to worry, the Koch Brothers have a solution ! FEMA camps, with FREE showers and everything !

September 06 2012 at 6:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Your only satisfaction is knowing that these unfair people are going to hell regardless of beliefs.

September 06 2012 at 4:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Things will get worse just look around at all the shooting by deranged people it's not just a coincidence.

September 06 2012 at 4:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hope for a draft for both sexes this way even the skanks will lose their pedastals and crowns allowing older people to get hired.

September 06 2012 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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