The other day, I attended a webinar presented by respected recruiting leader Bob Larson of Berman, Larson, Kane.
In the session, called "Baby Boomer Interview Success Strategies," he spoke to midlife and older jobseekers about understanding the psychology of interviews so they don't inadvertently sabotage themselves into appearing older and having their age become a potential issue.
He said there are language patterns that inadvertently reinforce a perception that someone is old and not completely tapped in, which will stand in the way of getting the job. It's much better to minimize these patterns so you can be evaluated on what you can do and avoid having age enter the equation at all.
He itemized a few phrases that call attention to your age.
Some of these bring back very specific conversations I have had with executive clients and candidates, and until now, I couldn't quite put my finger on why it felt like they were a little out of touch.
Now I see the power of these words which can make you (and me) sound older.
"Been there, done that."
Talk about a conversation killer. This one is probably worth purging from your vocabulary entirely, because it's just about impossible to say it without at least a dash of cynicism, boredom or one-upsmanship, and all of these are a turnoff.
Instead Larson suggests you say "I have done things that seem similar, so let me tell you about them and you decide if it's what you need."
"A long time ago…"
You might as well continue that with "in a land far, far away" since you've already killed any chance of the interviewer relating to you. Don't make them visualize you decades ago.
A job search is about getting hired for what you can do right now, so even though you might draw on experiences from jobs you had many years ago, talk about what you did without drawing attention to when you did it.
It's about what you can do now, not what you used to do.
"I think that was in…"
Say this one as your eyes drift upwards showing hard you're trying to remember a detail and bring that distant past into focus. You'll look confused and the listener will be witnessing your trip down memory lane. Not good.
Appear sharper and younger by knowing the details of your background and exactly what your resume says. Don't let anyone think your memory is hazy.
I recommend that you don't even bring up jobs before the 10 to 15 years that are on your resume unless you absolutely have to. They're just not going to seem pertinent right now.
"The way we did it was better in the past."
No it wasn't and holding on to that belief just makes you miserable. It wasn't better, it was just different. I know, I was there, too.
What you think of how things used to be is not important. That time is gone.
This is now, and just about everything about how we do things has been revolutionized, so thinking it was better just makes you look like the world passed you by. That impression will definitely not make you more hirable.
"I've seen it all" and "I know it all."
There are different versions of claiming to know everything, and every one of them will make you look uninterested in learning new ideas or new ways of doing things.
It's also a lie. Every situation is different, and your role in each of those situations is different. You need to show your flexibility and energy about learning something new and being part of a new team. Jaded will not cut it, but open-minded team player might get you the job.
Other suggestions he shared were:
- project yourself as a great listener open to new ideas
- accept being a team member and not the leader; your most welcome role will likely be as a utility player who gets things done
- show that you are a low-risk hire and not planning to push anyone out of the team
- listen for the ways you can assist the team; be a good utility player who gets things done
- look your best and how you feel most confident, whatever that means for you; if you feel good about how you look, you'll interview better
- be tech savvy and modern
- offer to start as a temp, contractor or consultant
To all of that, I say… good stuff. What he said.
More tips for older jobseekers:
- Head to Toe, How to Look Years Younger at Work
- The Real Reason You Didn't Get the Interview
- What Does Overqualified Really Mean?
- Over 50? Employers Are Looking for You