Often when we hear about “unconscious bias” in hiring and recruiting it’s focused on gender or cultural discrimination. And while those are significant barriers to many job seekers, there’s one that can be just as insidious: ageism. Companies may not be intentionally discriminating against mid- or late-career employees, but many people inadvertently internalize stereotypes about older people in general: He’s over 60, he’ll probably retire soon anyway, so why make the long-term investment?… She’s probably not very technically savvy…Would he be able to innovate?
To overcome these kinds of stereotypes, many Boomer job seekers feel pressure to appear young and hip, potentially shortchanging the many advantages they bring to any job interview or application: experience and hard-earned skills. So how should you approach the job search in a world of ageist typecasting?
Debunk the myths
Older workers are often perceived as less open to change or resistant to new training or methods. You can challenge those supposed “norms” by creating an application package that shows your flexibility—as well as your willingness to embrace change. One way to accomplish this is by making your resume and cover letter very active. Using powerful action verbs and focusing on ways you’ve shifted and adapted along the way can help show movement.
For example, in your work experience bullet points, instead of saying things like “responsible for,” use words like “innovated,” “implemented,” or “onboard.” If you’ve been on the cutting edge of anything in your career (a new process, a new system, a new technology), flaunt it.
Embrace your experience (and edit it)
Do you know what advantage younger job seekers don’t have? The long tail of experience. If you’re worried about appearing overqualified, you have the luxury of editing your job history. You don’t need to list every job you’ve ever had; and in fact, that can be a deterrent to someone who has just a few seconds to read your resume and determines whether to move you forward.
Highlight only the most important and relevant points of your job experience and really make them shine. You should be aware of creating any “gaps” in your employment history that might seem odd, but by using a header like “Relevant Work History” you can convey to the reader that you’re creating a thoughtful, curated list of work experience. (Though you should still be prepared to provide dates, company names, or other details about any other jobs you’ve had.)
Always be learning
One of the most effective ways to overcome stereotypes as an older applicant is to show that you haven’t checked out and are still actively engaged in your career path. Taking classes (either traditional or online), adding new tech skills, or publishing fresh professional content on social media shows you’re not only keeping on top of things but are also seeking out new knowledge and experiences.
Be confident in who you are and the experience you have
In an ideal state of things, no one would have to take extra steps just to show that they can still hack it in today’s professional world. But in the world we have, putting some extra care and attention into showcasing your talents and experience can help put you in a better position to fight bias. You bring so much value to the table, and remembering that fact can give you an extra confidence boost as you hunt for new opportunities.