As a career coach I often hear clients complain about and anticipate age discrimination. No doubt age discrimination is real, as borne out by research. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although older workers have a lower unemployment rate than the population at large it takes longer for them to find work once they have been laid off.
But before you throw up your hands in despair, realize that sometimes mature job seekers themselves unwittingly give employers a reason to move on to the next qualified candidate. How you handle yourself in the interview will make or break your chances of landing the position. The questions that you ask and the statements that you make give clues to the interviewer about whether or not they should continue to consider your candidacy.
Here are a few statements and questions that older job seekers should avoid:
1) I really need good health benefits. This signals to the interviewer that you are more interested in the benefits of the job than the job itself. It also implies that you are not in the best of health. Any discussion of benefits should be delayed until you are made an offer. That is when it is appropriate.
2) I just turned 50. It is illegal for an employer to ask you your age. This is not something that you should volunteer. What is important is that you can do the job. Certainly your age is nothing to be ashamed of, but in a world where age discrimination still exists, it’s not to your benefit to mention it.
3) Will I have to report to someone younger than I am? This question implies that you feel you would have trouble reporting to someone younger. It’s a red flag to employers. If your interviewer is younger than you are or if you notice that your would-be colleagues are younger than you are, show that you are up for the challenge. There’s no need to pretend to be their age, but you can show that you are willing to work with whomever is in the office, whether it is a boss or a co-worker.
4) Do you have a pension plan? This sounds like you are planning for retirement. As was mentioned previously, any discussion of benefits should be deferred until you are made an offer. It is certainly understandable that you would be interested in the benefits, and that may be a deciding factor for you as to whether or not you take the position, but you don’t need to show your hand at this point.
5) Will I have to learn new software? This question is definitely a no-no. Whether you intend to do so or not, you are sending the message to the interviewer that you don’t want to learn new software. There is already a stereotype of mature workers that they don’t like new technology. Asking a question like this only plays into the stereotype and gives the interviewer a reason to take you out of the running for the position that you are seeking.
As you can see, being a savvy interviewee means thinking about your answers from the perspective of the interviewer. Interviewers need to whittle down the number of candidates to get to the one that they will hire. Anything that you say that gives them pause is likely to cause them to eliminate you from their candidate pool.
So if you want to increase your chances of being hired, take heed and don’t make comments or ask questions that can hurt you.
*If you would like to sharpen your interview skills and make sure that you put your best foot forward, talk to an executive career coach at 877-743-9521 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.