Let's Talk Work

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Overeducated and Underemployed? Part 3 of 3

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And our final question in that recent survey:


“Age discrimination is a term regularly declared as the main obstacle in getting a job. Is the too old issue as real as so many claim; or is it more about salary expectations?”

Sad but true. Hiring managers that may be savvy enough to know this is an illegal practice yet it still occurs. This can be a realistic issue however, when you think about such variables as company travel requirements, work hours and even reporting structure.

The concern from the hiring side isn’t as much about salary as it is about mature/seasoned professionals being truly open to a significant cuts in pay as well the perceived downward spiral of their career path. Some mature workers have experienced disrespect in their workplace by their much younger counterparts or supervisors. So, will that person stick around if things get rough?

Another thing employers are enduring is applicant-based deception. That is folks trying to hide their age and/or experience by leaving off years of work history, graduation dates, and even other experiences thought not to be relevant. (In my opinion – it’s all relevant). Almost worse, when someone lies about a degree they have and/or the institution they earned it from, and think the company won’t check. I’ve experienced this deception too many times over my years of recruiting – and I got quite good at catching the culprits. Plus – why would I want to recommend to hire anyone who falsifies their own personal information? What might they be willing to do to cover up mistakes in their own work. And when you think about accounting or auditing roles, or other financial focused jobs – this could be a serious issue. So yes, there are a few bad apples out there and they have deposited the seeds of doubt in many hiring authorities. It always catches up with them – but no company wants to employ and trust someone who is willing to falsify reality.

While unfortunately a hiring manager can do basic math and estimate how old a candidate really is, and may prefer to hire a person who doesn’t appear to be approaching a perceived retirement age in the near future. There is significant cost in hiring and training anyone, so early turnover is not a desirable outcome when making hiring decisions. Hiring is made with a more long-term relationship in mind. An analogy used was this: You are going to adopt a dog or a cat and all the animals were lined up in the cages before you. Would you automatically go to the oldest dog and work your way back, or do you look at the puppies first and work your way up?

A few notes from this group on other ways people may sabotage their own candidacy and it would not have anything to do with age:

  • Opposition to new ways of doing things
  • Arguing the fact that they may know best due to experience
  • Acting with a sense of entitlement
  • Not staying abreast in their field or even one of interest
  • Not doing solid homework on the organization before applying and especially before interviewing
  • Not taking advantage of college alumni resources, when many employers often go that route before other recruiting options
  • One cannot clearly answer the question “tell me about yourself” in a few sentences then just stop
  • Cannot complete the sentence… I’m looking for a role where I could….
  • Do not have at least a couple of success stories to share when asked about accomplishments (i.e. SAR: situation – action – result)
  • Candidates spend far too much time sending out resumes and not enough time out and about networking
  •  A more sensitive note and difficult to address – are interview or job barriers (communication skills/style, grooming, hygiene, oral health, professional presence, inappropriate conversation…)

But there is plus side for us older folks with strong work ethics some advantages to hiring us include:

  • We can stay off of our cell phones for ten minutes
  • We don’t wander around as much
  • We can focus on the job at hand and worry less about company politics
  • We have known other ways of doing things
  • We may be on board for the long-term – not worrying about where the grass may be greener or climbing that management ladder any longer
  •  We may have lessened our cost of living with paid off mortgages and children off to college and don’t require the salary level once achieved

So dear folks of my generation – we need to position ourselves to show the full value of a tenured work history to a hiring manager while belaying any fears that we are just looking to ride out their twilight years and ease into retirement. We need to prepare ourselves in many ways — to deal with the reality out there, be as professional (and real at the same time) as possible, do your homework, maintain or gain a level of energy where your age is never in question. Just your ability and suitability to perform the job.

Stay tuned – next post will be some thoughts on Professional Development…

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