Starting a Job Search Over 50…or 60

In 2016, Millennials (18-35) officially outnumbered Baby Boomers (52-70). Baby Boomers are increasingly leaving the workforce, but not necessarily by choice. If you are searching for a new job over 50, you’re likely to run into people who will discourage you. How old is too old to be hired?

Over the last month, I’ve had conversations with 5 different Baby Boomers who are looking for work. All were “laid off” yet a younger person is now holding the same position with the same title. All worked for major corporations or firms and had consistently received stellar performance reviews, with documented superior financial results. With one exception, all mentioned age discrimination as a way of negotiating a better separation package (and got them). In their current job search, ALL have been told by at least one contact or recruiter (on the record or as an aside) that they were “too old”. Apparently 60 is not the new 40 in the job market.

Greater focus on diet and exercise and advances in healthcare make 60 younger than ever. Although some are financially able to retire early, there are many who had children later in life (usually because they were establishing themselves in their careers…), and are still sending kids through college. And, because they are healthier, many people in their 50’s and 60’s are simply not ready to retire. They enjoy their work and want the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to their organizations.

65% of recruiters say there is no talent and that’s the largest obstacle to hiring talent. (Jobvite Recruiter Nation Report 2016)

If that’s the case, why wouldn’t employers look to the pool of experienced people to fill those positions? Is it because companies can’t afford workers with more tenure and are at higher salary levels? According to MRI Network, only 26% of candidates reject job offers because the salary was lower than expected. In fact, many older workers are able to accept lower salaries, especially if benefits are available. (According to the Jobvite Recuiter Nation Report 2016, 78% of recruiters said that basic medical and dental benefits are the most effective benefits for attracting candidates; 65% of employers say they offer 401k programs to attract employees).

One local CEO says she prefers to hire people over 50: they’re more straightforward, there is no political agenda, they’re done climbing the corporate ladder and just want to do a great job in their current position. An older employee in a position can be a big asset in building succession plans. They can help management assess skills and what training is necessary for the employees that may replace them eventually, without feeling threatened. If they are willing to stay current in their industries, more experienced employees bring a unique ability to combine history with the future: they can make sure past mistakes aren’t repeated while helping to adapt new technologies to improve processes.

If you are over 50 and looking for work, what can you do? Here’s an article that offers some advice:

7 Tips for Getting Hired After 50

  1. Start your search right away. (Careerbuilder says the average time to find a new job is 2 months – it may take longer over 50; Keep in mind that Millennials are 50% of the workforce now…)
  2. Work your network. (Jobvite reports that referrals are hired 55% faster than those contacted through a job search site)
  3. Reassure a younger manager. (If it seems that they are concerned about managing an older employee, reassure them that you are comfortable working with a younger manager and are not “after their job”).
  4. Don’t mention your age or the interviewer’s age. (The above post notwithstanding, do not specifically offer your age or make a reference to the interviewer’s age. Interviewers will be looking for clues in your resume; make them work for it!)
  5. Shorten your resume. (There is no need to give your entire work history going back 25 years. Note your most recent and relevant accomplishments and how they relate to the position you’re seeking.)
  6. Explain why you’re not overqualified. (And why it’s okay that you’re experienced: explain how your experience is an asset to the company and the position for which you’re applying…not a liability.)
  7. Demonstrate your fluency with technology. (Be able to demonstrate that you’re comfortable with current technology in your particular industry, and also with social media during the interview process. Include your Linkedin url on your resume; show how you are sharing content on Linkedin, Google+, Twitter or other platforms, etc.)

If you’re financially able and it’s appropriate to your industry, consider freelancing or becoming a contract employee. Smaller companies might never be able to afford an employee with your skills and experience…but they could afford a freelancer or contract employee on a temporary or per-project basis.

One of the advantages of being over 50 is no longer fighting the impulse to say what we’re thinking out loud. For an interviewer who has spent all day vetting Millennials who only want to do the fun parts of the job, require an open floor plan and a free lunch, some honest conversation with someone who has the required skills might be very refreshing. Don’t give up; find that HR Manager or CEO who appreciates all that you have to offer their organization.