Are You Really Overqualified or is it Age Discrimination?

You’re 43. You’ve been laid off or you’ve decided to look for another position. You start networking and even applying for opportunities you find interesting. You get a few interviews (but it feels as if they are fewer in number than they were when you last looked for work at age 37). But offers? They aren’t coming. And you get a feeling, one that you can’t quite put your finger on, but it sorta, kinda feels as if interviewers and hiring managers think you’re too old.

Job hunt over 50

At 43.

Of course, they don’t say you’re too old, because age discrimination is illegal. Instead they something such as “with your considerable experience, we wonder if you’d be bored in this position,” hinting – but not outright saying – that you may be “overqualified.” Which often does mean “too old.”

So while age discrimination supposedly is a no-no, why are you still hearing that you have too much experience? More importantly,  what can you do about it? For some answers, take a look below.

There’s always the chance that you are, indeed, overqualified. If you keep hearing this over and over again, take a look at the job descriptions for the openings to which you’re applying. If the tasks you’ll be performing and the skills you need to do those jobs really are something you can do with your eyes closed and while walking backwards, perhaps you should aim higher.

But what if the skills/tasks would be something of a do-able reach for you? What if they exactly match your skill set and background? Chances are it’s not because you’re overqualified: it could well be because they consider you “too old.”

We won’t go into the trouble people over the age of 40 and 50 have when it comes to finding work. And we won’t even touch the difficulty people over 60 have (these links speak plenty on their own). Instead, we’ll offer some tips to help you combat ageism in your job search.

  1. Don’t list ALL of your jobs on your resume.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter what anyone did 15 or 20 years ago; it matters what you’ve done lately, so list only those positions from the past 10 or 15 years (maybe 20 if you’ve been at one employer that long, but highlight what you did for that employer for the last 10 years or so).

We know you don’t want to lie, so under “additional experience” mention different “special projects” you worked on.

  1. Reach directly out to hiring managers.

We’ve touched on this before, and the link above also recommends this tactic. Find the contact information of the position’s hiring manager and reach out. Many hiring managers will at least look over the resumes of those people who reach out to them.

  1. Show energy and enthusiasm in the job interview.

Many younger hiring managers believe older candidates have less energy and are waiting to just coast along in their next (“final?”) job so you want to exude vibrancy and energy.  You could try to hide your age, but that can be difficult and there’s always the chance you could try too hard), but you can show enthusiasm and dynamism. If you work out several days a week or hike frequently, etc., don’t be afraid to mention this when an opening appears in the job interview (such as if the interviewer asks you about your hobbies).

  1. You don’t need to highlight your Microsoft Office skills.

Knowing them is considered a given today and highlighting them could add a bit of the fuddy-duddy to you. Instead, if the position requires certain higher level technological skills, highlight them, especially if they are specific tech skills.

  1. Consider looking for work at smaller companies.

Larger companies tend to hire and promote from within. In addition, smaller companies tend to have fewer applicants. Always a good thing, no matter what your age.

  1. Think about working some temporary positions.

The longer you’ve worked, the higher the salary you’re seeking (typically) and higher salaried positions do tend to be longer to come by, no matter what your age. If you’re finding that your job search is taking longer than you anticipated, think about contacting one of our Helpmates offices and registering for temporary assignments with us. Remember, many temporary assignments do turn into regular, full-time positions.

Photo courtesy Thomas Hafeneth/Unsplash.com.

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