Job Interview Tips Job Search Tips

Defeating Age-ism In The Interview

Written by Miranda Pennington

Modern job search can be daunting for a more mature job-seeker. Maybe the online side of networking is baffling, maybe the pace of new technology is frustrating, and these are things to work on–but here are some suggestions for preparing yourself for success while job-hunting later in life.

First, have an immaculate resume and cover letter, and dynamic and current recommendations ready to back you. Consider consulting a professional career coach who can look over your materials and give you pointers. The next step is to prepare for the interview the way you used to prepare for exams in school. Here are some great tips for recognizing and diplomatically deflecting potentially biased questions at the interview stage. Watch out for the following questions once you’re sitting across from a decision-maker:

1. Aren’t you overqualified?

This question could signal that the employer thinks you’re

a) too old for the job,

b) asking for more money than a lower level candidate, or

c) only biding your time until a bigger, better job like your previous positions comes along or you get bored.

Consider asking a question in response that may help you figure out which of these possible motivations is at work, then sorting through your past experience to prove that your age makes you qualified or that the demands of this job are exactly what you’re looking for, regardless of what you’ve earned or what your title was in the past.

2. What are your strongest skills?

This is often a dog-whistle to see how up-to-date your tech skills are; be sure and emphasize your current skill level and how familiar you were with common office technology in the past. (And, by the way, if you’re not up to date, see what your local library or community college has to offer in the way of computer classes).

3. What are your interests outside your career?

This tricky question may be intended to make you sound more sedate or retiring than you are; consider the benefits of emphasizing active, physically demanding pursuits to reassure potential employers that you will not only keep up but thrive in their office.

The most important skill in interviewing is the ability to be yourself, but the best, most promising version of yourself. Put your winningest foot forward, and let the less experienced applicants just try to keep up.

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.