The harsh reality of age discrimination is that it isn’t just for those in their 40s, 50s, and 60s anymore. Age discrimination is starting at younger and younger levels. PBS recently reported that jobseekers are feeling the pushback starting at age 35.
You can consider yourself fortunate if you hear, “You’re overqualified.” That’s because if someone says these words directly to you, they’re giving you the opportunity to counter that perception. This is a better scenario than being perceived as overqualified, but only hearing radio silence in response to your resume.
Being “overqualified” is often code for, “We don’t really want to pay you what we anticipate you’ll be asking for, based on all the experience you’re bringing to the table.” The interviewer may express overqualification in any number of ways, for example, framing it under the guise of the organization has so much new technology (that mature workers aren’t expected t know how to use. The interviewer may ask say, “We have state-of-the-art systems here. Would you be able to jump right in?” Or the interviewer may attempt make you think he’s giving you a compliment, by saying, “Well, we think you’d be a big fish in a small pond with us.” That still means you bring a lot of experience to the table and they don’t really want to pay you. Let’s talk about what to say in these scenarios:
Express your enthusiasm for the job and pride in your qualifications. There may be a tendency to want to downplay your experience in order to fit into what that particular organization needs – avoid that. What comes off as more authentic is when you explain what makes you interested in this position at this point in your career. What’s important here is articulating a true reason why – why that company, why right now, and why you.
The interviewer wants to hear what’s in it for the organization first. Therefore, start with why you’re interested in that particular company at this moment in time. Use Google News to learn the latest things they’re working on, and talk about why that’s of interest to you. Then explain how 1 or 2 elements of your expertise strongly apply to the organization at this moment.
Overcome the myth of a digital divide. It’s important to fight the perception that your skills and knowledge might not be on the cutting edge. There’s no excuse today to not having technology skills. If you have recent successes, Give examples of projects you’ve done which required computer skills and familiarity with electronic media.
Additionally, update your skills by spending productive time on the Internet. Stay up to date with technological trends. Learn what you need to know for your next role by tapping into Youtube, Udemy, or Coursera, where you will learn, almost literally, anything and everything under the sun. Then emphasize this training you’ve taken to keep your skills up to date. This way, your answer to the technology question will be a resounding, “yes” you are adaptable and tech-savvy.
Be a team player. You’ll almost never hear me recommend that you emphasize your team skills. That’s because 99% of the time, saying you’re a team player is nothing but filler and it rarely communicates anything valuable. However, for a mature worker who faces dealing with teams of professional peers who are younger, it’s important to discuss recent work experiences in which age diversity has been an asset.
Explain that you believe your age and experience would be beneficial, you are eager to learn, and it doesn’t matter who helps you. Make sure the interviewer walks away with the feeling that you are at ease working with people of all ages.
Age discrimination is rampant, but it need not be the final nail in the coffin. Make sure to exude confidence in what you bring to the table, and make sure to balance that out so it doesn’t seem arrogant. There are employers who value age and experience – and will pay you accordingly – and when you present yourself using these strategies, it’s a win-win for everyone!