Posts tagged ‘age discrimination’

Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists and New Year’s Resolutions

Every year around December, people in the media seem to feel compelled to wrap up each outgoing year with various Top-10 Lists – usually featuring news events, movies, songs, TV shows, books, etc. Each December since I started Recruiter Musings back in 2009 (our visitor count recently surpassed 1 Million hits and we’re still going strong!) I’ve been posting a couple of my own “Top-10 Lists” for Job-Seekers, as well as a list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers. In reviewing those prior lists, I found that they are mostly still very relevant and timely! Oh sure, a lot has changed in the world during the last few years. But in terms of my view of the most annoying and the most helpful things for job-seekers … well, my opinions and suggestions have aged well! I’m still very annoyed by people who don’t return phone calls, and I still think Twitter is a huge waste of time! And I’m still a firm believer in the power of Networking as the number one job-seeking methodology with the best chances for success. Likewise, my suggested New Year’s Resolutions from the last few years are still the same ones I’d advise today’s job-seekers to aspire to for the coming year.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I simply went back and re-edited the past year’s postings to make sure they were still accurate and up-to-date so that I could simply refer back to them. (By referring back to those newly edited original posts instead of re-posting them as new, the readers’ comments at the bottom of each of those articles have also been preserved.) SO … here are the links:

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 Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

 New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers

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December 1, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

Overcoming Job-Search Obstacles and Redefining Your Career After 50

About a month ago, I wrote answers to a newspaper reporter’s request for a written interview for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Excerpts from that interview were just published in the PD this week in two articles titled “Overcoming Job Search Obstacles for Older Workers” and “Redefining Your Career After 50.” The following is the complete and unedited transcript of the original interview.

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1) What are some of the biggest obstacles for finding a job after age 50?

Obviously, the practice of age discrimination in the job market is quite pervasive. The vast majority of “older” workers have experienced it on some level or another. It’s difficult to come up with hard data, since most companies would never truthfully cooperate with any official study … but we all intuitively know that it’s true – age bias is simply a fact of life in our society. That basic truth really hasn’t changed very much over the last century – most modern societies favor youth over age. What has changed is the advancing age of the “Baby Boomer” generation. In today’s candidate-flooded market resulting from the economic downturn that began in 2008, there are a growing number of older workers who are competing for the same jobs as younger candidates who were caught up in the same mass layoffs as everyone else. Add to that the fact that everyone’s investments and retirement funds shrunk drastically during the last couple of years. As a result, Boomers are now finding that they need to keep working well past the age that they originally thought they’d retire. At the very same time, cost-conscious companies are still nervous about adding headcount in today’s slow climb back to economic recovery. When companies do hire new staff now, many try to save money by hiring younger, less experienced people who require lower salaries. It’s really not hard to see how all those factors combine to perpetuate the practice of Age Discrimination.

2) What advice do you have for people over 50 who are considering a career change?

I’ve seen this scenario often in my many years of experience as a recruiter. People who have gone back to school for a new degree, or simply made the decision to begin pursuing a new vocation late in life … one in which they have no prior experience. Someone wants to try sales (but has never done it before) … or people who get technical training or certifications in some IT niche that they’ve never had actual job experience with … or people who want to switch industries, thinking that their “transferable skills” will qualify them for jobs they’ve never done before. In most cases, they face an extreme uphill battle finding a job in today’s employment market. Right now the competition for every job opening is fierce, and the market is overloaded with masses of unemployed or underemployed candidates – many of whom have years of practical and very specific job experience under their belts.

So what’s my advice? It’s not really too different from the advice I’ve given to other job-seekers who already have the experience that career-changers do not. Present yourself – in both your resume and online profiles – in such a way that you feature any and all experiences you’ve actually had in your target career – even if they are not actual jobs. And if you don’t have any experience to speak of … go get it! The most obvious starting points are Internships & Co-ops, and Volunteer Opportunities. Both can often get your “foot in the door” with a company that might potentially hire you in the future. Showing people what you can do, how well you can do it, and demonstrating your exceptional work ethic – even if it’s not in a paid position – can bring you to the attention of professionals who notice such things, and reward them when opportunities open up.

3) What advantages do those over age 50 bring to the workplace?

Experience, maturity, a strong work ethic, expertise, unique skills, reliability, and wisdom. Older workers tend to be smart and reliable professionals who get the job done with minimal ramp up time.

4) Share any statistics on people changing careers after retirement.

In 2011, the oldest of the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) will be turning 65. We are now seeing the beginning of a mass retirement movement unprecedented in American history – a radical demographic shift in the makeup of our work force. By 2015, one in five workers will be age 55 or over. All told, there are about 76 million people in that Boomer generation who will, over the next couple of decades, drop out of the work force. Sure, the current economic downturn is causing many Boomers to delay their retirement … but sooner or later they’ll all reach a point where full-time work is no longer an option. By contrast, there are only about 51 million “Generation X’ers” (people born between 1965 and 1976) who could potentially step into all those jobs that the Boomers are retiring from. That leaves a huge talent deficit: at least 25 million fewer potential workers!!! The next group in line – the so-called “Millennials” or “Generation Y’ers” (people born between 1977 and 1998) – number around 75 million … but they are simply too young and inexperienced to step into the senior leadership roles that the Boomers are vacating.

5) What type of careers are displaced mature workers choosing if they can’t find traditional employment?

These days, more and more mature job-seekers are turning to starting their own businesses. There’s even a media-coined term for this phenomenon: “Entrepreneur by Necessity.” I advise people to list such ventures on their resumes as their current occupation. Whether or not someone has actually earned any income from their company or had any actual success in their venture, listing a self-owned company on a resume is much better than having a large gap of current unemployment without any explanation. And, of course, it’s the perfect answer to that question: “So, what have you been doing since you left your last job?”

6) Anything else you’d like to add on the topic?

I recently assumed the role of Director of Talent Solutions at a relatively new company called Patina Solutions (www.patinasolutions.com). Patina is a Professional Services firm that is poised to take advantage of the growing talent deficit with a rather unique approach. Patina deploys a Portfolio of Talent made up of professionals generally over the age of 50 and with 25 or more years of work experience who have transitioned out of their traditional careers but still desire to make a difference and positively impact their respective industries. They are placed in consulting-contract assignments at client companies in a variety of industries. It’s an idea whose time has come … sending Baby Boomers into companies who need senior level talent for things like interim C-Level executive positions, critical management assessments, knowledge transfer, staff training, and high-level project-based work loads. They are the kinds of positions that younger, less experienced people simply cannot do! Founded at the end of 2008, Patina has four offices – Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland and Boston. The company’s aggressive business plan calls for as many as 25 Patina offices to open in different markets by 2013.

It seems clear that those companies who have resisted hiring older workers will be in huge trouble and have critical talent shortages when their own upper managers and executives retire over the next few years. And a company like Patina, which is ahead of the curve in recognizing the tremendous value of the shrinking but still highly employable Boomer workers, will be in the driver’s seat for the decades still ahead of us. It’ll be Baby Boomers to the Rescue!

February 18, 2011 at 12:01 am 6 comments

Baby Boomers to the Rescue! An Idea Whose Time Has Come …

In these tough economic times, with headlines screaming about scary unemployment numbers, job losses and company belt-tightening, it’s easy to overlook some interesting trends that actually bode well for more senior job-seekers. Oh, of course it is true that there are still record numbers of unemployed workers on the market, and certainly if you, yourself, are out of work … well, it’s hard to not view things through a negative prism. However, one of the best kept secrets in today’s employment market is this simple fact: in general, there are more and more jobs going unfilled due to a growing shortage of qualified candidates!

One piece of evidence I have that illustrates the validity of this fact is that I receive a daily email from Indeed.com generated by a job agent I have set up there. It sends me any new postings for Recruiter positions in my area. The number of new recruiter jobs being listed every day is higher now than at any time in recent memory – and more and more keep appearing! To me, that means only one thing: there are a large number of open jobs out there, and businesses and staffing agencies alike are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill those jobs! Why else would there be a need to hire recruiters? It’s not just that hiring managers are being overly picky (which they are) or that decision-makers are moving the hiring process along slower than ever (which they are.) It’s a talent shortage, plain and simple. One of the reasons behind that fact is a trend involving the aging of the Baby Boomer generation.

For many years in the staffing industry, I’ve been hearing a very interesting and often-repeated statistical analysis of the ever widening gap between the growing talent needs of modern businesses, and the shrinking pool of qualified candidates who could fill those jobs. In 2011, the oldest of the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964)¹ started turning 65. We are now seeing the beginning of a mass retirement movement unprecedented in American history – a radical demographic shift in the makeup of our work force. By 2015, one in five workers will be age 55 or over. All told, there are about 76 million people in that Boomer generation who will, over the next couple of decades, drop out of the work force. Sure, the current economic downturn is causing many Boomers to delay their retirement … but sooner or later they’ll all reach a point where full-time work is no longer an option. By contrast, there are only about 51 million “Generation X’ers” (people born between 1965 and 1976)¹ who could potentially step into all those jobs that the Boomers are retiring from. That leaves a huge talent deficit: at least 25 million fewer potential workers!!! The next group in line – the so-called “Millennials” or “Generation Y’ers” (people born between 1977 and 1998)¹ – number around 75 million … but they are simply too young and inexperienced to step into the senior leadership roles that the Boomers are vacating.

I recently assumed the role of Director of Talent Solutions at a relatively new company called Patina Solutions. Patina is a Professional Services Firm that is poised to take advantage of this talent deficit with a rather unique approach. Patina deploys a portfolio of talent made up of professionals generally over the age of 50 and with 25 or more years of work experience who have retired from their traditional careers but still desire to make a difference and positively impact their respective industries. They are placed in consulting-contract assignments at client companies in a variety of industries. It’s an idea whose time has come … sending Baby Boomers into companies who need senior level talent for things like interim C-Level executive positions, critical management assessments, knowledge transfer, staff training, and high-level project-based work loads. They are the kinds of positions that younger, less experienced people simply cannot do! Patina is a 3-year-old start-up with four offices – Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland and Boston. Their aggressive business plan calls for as many as 25 Patina offices to open in different markets by 2013.

In a way, it’s quite ironic. I’ve already written several articles about how rampant the practice of Age Discrimination is in today’s employment market. [See “Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed!” or “Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths” or “Are You ‘Overqualified?’ Handling the Age Issue …” for more of my musings on that topic.] However, in light of these new statistical trends and shifting workforce demographics, it’s clear that those same companies who have resisted hiring older workers will be in huge trouble and have critical talent shortages when their own upper managers and executives retire over the next few years. And a company like Patina, which is ahead of the curve in recognizing the tremendous value of the shrinking but still highly employable Boomer workers, will be in the driver’s seat for the decades still ahead of us. It’ll be Baby Boomers to the Rescue!

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¹Addendum:
Many readers have commented to me about the numbers of people in each of the generations quoted in this blog posting. Different sources I’ve seen quote different numbers. Part of the problem is pinning down exactly what years define each group, and there seem to be differing definitions out there for which years constitute Generation X’ers and Y’ers. Using the birth years now shown, I believe the population numbers in this posting are as accurate as possible.

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If you are a professional over the age of 50, with 25 or more years of work experience, and you’d like to be considered for Patina Solution’s Portfolio of Talent, click on the Patina Logo below to register:

                                          
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December 2, 2010 at 12:01 am 15 comments

Advice for Recent Grads and Career-Changers

In the world of job-searching and recruiting, when you hear the words “Age Discrimination” or “Ageism,” most people think of the all-too-common practice of discriminating against older people in the job market. However, there’s another side to that practice. “Overqualified” is only one end of the spectrum, while “Underqualified” is at the other end. Recent college graduates are now facing a job market that has radically changed over the last few years of economic downturn. Finding a decent job if you’ve had little or no actual real-world experience – other than academic – is harder now than it ever was before.

Two of my kids (twins, actually) are both seniors in college right now. Both are making plans for continuing post-graduate education. Expensive as that will be, I shudder to think what their chances of finding an actual job would be if they stopped where they are and entered the market in June – one with a degree in Biology, and the other with a degree in English. Both will graduate at the top of their class, have done several practical summer internships specific to their fields, and have glowing letters of recommendation. So what types of jobs would you think they’d be qualified for? (Can you say: “Would you like fries with that?”) How much earning power would you expect those expensive Bachelor’s Degrees to give them? What advice would I give to others who are in a similar position … young people with college degrees, but almost no practical job experience?

It’s a tough question – and one that I’ve been asked many times over my years as a recruiter. It is similar to the situation faced by job-seekers who might actually be older, but for one reason or another have decided to change careers in mid-stream and start down a new path. They might have gone back to school for a new degree, or simply made the decision to begin pursuing a new vocation … one in which they have no prior experience. I see that all the time. People who want to try sales (but have never done it before) … or people who get technical training or certifications in some IT niche that they’ve never had actual job experience with … or people who want to switch industries, thinking that their “transferable skills” will qualify them for jobs they’ve never done before. In all those cases, they face an extreme uphill battle finding a job in today’s employment market. Right now the competition for every job opening is fierce, and the market is overloaded with masses of unemployed or underemployed candidates – many of whom have years of practical and very specific job experience under their belts.

So what’s my advice? It’s not really too different from the advice I’ve given to other job-seekers who already have the experience that those younger or career-changing people do not. Present yourself – in both your résumé and online profiles – in such a way that you feature any and all experiences you have actually had in your target career – even if they are not actual jobs. And if you don’t have any experience to speak of … go get it! The most obvious starting points are Internships & Co-ops, and Volunteer Opportunities. Both can often get your “foot in the door” with a company that might potentially hire you in the future. Showing people what you can do, how well you can do it, and demonstrating your exceptional work ethic – even if it’s not in a paid position – can bring you to the attention of professionals who notice such things, and reward them when opportunities open up.

Internships & Co-ops
Internships & Co-ops in a new field are a great way to gain practical experience in a new career. When describing an internship or co-op on a résumé or online profile, don’t just list the place and your title. Expand on your responsibilities. Feature the relevant industry-specific skills you used. Describe specific projects you worked on. List any and all accomplishments you achieved while there. Use industry buzzwords and keywords in your descriptions so that you’ll be picked up on searches done by recruiters and HR people looking for candidates … and so that you’ll match job descriptions in your target industry.

Volunteer Opportunities
Many job-seekers use volunteer work as a way of gaining experience in a new industry or job path. If you have volunteered somewhere, then list that volunteer position on your résumé. However, do NOT use the term “volunteer!” Simply list the organization and your title or role, describe your function, relevant skills used, and any accomplishments there just as you would with any of your other jobs. Let the fact that you are not being paid wait for an actual interview, where you should then disclose it. And as I said with internships & co-ops, use industry buzzwords and keywords in your descriptions of your volunteer work so that you’ll be picked up on searches done by recruiters and HR people looking for candidates … and so that you’ll match job descriptions in your target industry.

Finally – concentrate on Networking activities as your main method of job-seeking. [Read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching” for details on how to network your way to a job.] Sending out a ton of résumés, answering online job postings or contacting recruiters would mostly be a waste of time for inexperienced job-seekers. The fact is that recruiters and HR people who screen the responses to online job postings will almost never consider an applicant with little or no experience. The only exception to that might be for a true “Entry-Level” job that clearly says “No Experience Necessary.” However, I would question the quality of that type of job situation. Yes, there are opportunities like that out there – but be careful, and do your homework on those companies and positions. As the saying goes … “buyer beware!”

November 3, 2010 at 12:01 am 3 comments

Are You “Overqualified?” Handling The Age Issue …

If you are a job-seeker who is over a certain age – sooner or later it’s not uncommon to hear that you’ve been passed over for an opportunity that you applied and/or interviewed for because you were judged to be “overqualified.” That’s such an interesting word: “overqualified.” Think about it … it means, literally, that you possess experience and qualifications that exceed the stated job requirements. So, you might ask, why should that be a bad thing? Wouldn’t any company want someone who exceeds their requirements instead of someone who does not? Well, we all know what’s really going on when someone says you are “overqualified.” It’s a euphemism for “too old” or “too expensive” or both, right?

Not long ago, I represented a very savvy 50-something year-old candidate who was invited in for a final face-to-face interview for a key position with a Fortune 500 client company I was working with. His job history and specific qualifications were an exact match for what they were looking for. He fit the requirements listed for the job to a tee. In addition, he knew the salary range they had defined for this position, and was fine with it. He had already filled out an extensive job application, taken a 2-hour online personality and skills assessment test, had a lengthy phone interview, and met in-person with two different HR people. Based on all of that, his chances seemed excellent. When he walked into the interview room, he met the actual decision-maker – the person who would be his immediate supervisor for this position. She was a very attractive, 20-something year-old woman – very sharp, with an MBA from a prominent business school, 5 years of increasing responsibilities at this company and a rising star in their corporate culture. (Now I’m imagining this next part … so please forgive me for this narrative license!) They looked at each other, and he thought: “She’s young enough to be my daughter!” And she thought: “He’s old enough to be my father!” It was reminiscent of a scene from the movie “In Good Company.” The interview continued in a very professional manner – but needless to say, he didn’t get the job and was never given any direct explanation why. When I later questioned my HR contact at the company, I heard the “O” word mentioned in passing … but not much else.

Age discrimination is a fact of life in the business world. While the definition of someone’s “prime” working ages varies from industry to industry, from company to company, and from position to position … if I had to guess based on my own experience as a recruiter, I’d say that candidates who range in age from their early 30’s to mid 40’s are probably the group who have the least trouble with age discrimination. Much younger than that, and most job-seekers would be looking mostly at low paying, “entry-level” positions (the woman in the previous example notwithstanding.) And, of course, job-seekers in their 50’s and beyond encounter the “overqualified” objection much more often.

So, what is an “older” job-seeker supposed to do? What advice or strategies can I offer to help those candidates in that more senior category? Well, first of all I suggest you read “Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths.” At the bottom of that article, I’ve already detailed several concrete ideas designed to help older job-seekers overcome the age discrimination issue. Those ideas included:
●   Targeting “age friendly” companies.
●   Only pursuing positions that really match your level of experience.
●   Keeping up to date on technology.
●   Maintaining your health and appearance.
●   Embracing a positive attitude.

Beyond those general ideas, I want to offer some other more specific suggestions, ideas and tips that might help older job-seekers in their pursuit of their goals. These are mostly interview strategies to consider when the “overqualified” objection seems to be coming up, either overtly or by implication:

  • During interviews, emphasize your capabilities, not your experience.
  • When interviewing with a hiring manager, try to find out what their problems, needs, and concerns are. Then, explain how you can help. Offer ideas for solutions to problems. This is known as the “consultative sales” approach. A younger person with little to no experience will be much less likely to know how to do this. [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for more on this concept.]
  • If you are getting asked questions during an interview that indicate the interviewer wants to know your age, respond by saying: “I think what you’re asking me is ‘How long will I be in this position?’” Then, pause and say firmly: “I’m committed to staying at your company at least five years. How many young candidates will promise you that?”
  • Don’t use phrases like: “At my age…,” “Years ago…,” “Back then…,” When I was younger…,” “It used to be that …,” We used to…,” “…up in years,” “Nowadays…,” etc. Avoid statements in résumés and cover letters like: “I have 25 years experience in …” And don’t make references to your grandchildren!
  • If someone comes right out and asks how old you are, say: “I’m only xx”. The word only is very important. Without coming out and saying it, the word implies to the other person that you think you’ve got many productive years ahead of you.
  • If a prospective employer comes right out and says: “you’re overqualified,” consider responding with a statement like: “Well, you wouldn’t feel that way about your surgeon, would you? Don’t you want a person that you’re confident can do this job without requiring a lot of training and a lot of your time?”
  • Or consider saying: “Wouldn’t you rather hire someone who exceeds your requirements instead of someone who doesn’t?”
  • You probably won’t be able to overcome the “overqualified” objection unless you understand what the employer believes is the underlying problem. You might say: “What problems do you foresee if I were overqualified?”
  • Consider saying: “When you say that I’m overqualified, does that mean you are concerned about what you might have to pay me? I would be happy to discuss compensation with you. What did you think is reasonable?” [Read “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question” for more strategies on handling this issue.]
  • Finally, as an interview closer, consider saying something like: “I understand your concerns as far as you thinking I’m ‘overqualified.’ However, I am confident that you will find me a valuable asset in this position. In addition, should you want to promote internal talent in the future, I’ll have proven myself and have the years of experience to assume more responsibilities successfully. My sole objective is to prove myself over time.”

September 20, 2010 at 12:01 am 11 comments

Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths

Several months ago I posted a blog called “Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed!” That posting became the most read article on Recruiter Musings with over 2,000 views on the first day alone, and several thousand more over the following weeks. Readers logged in over 130 comments. Those comments (posted at the bottom of the article) comprise a very interesting dialogue in and of themselves, and are definitely worth reading. They make it very clear that I had hit a sensitive spot among job-seekers everywhere. Even now, people continue to log onto that blog article, and I’m told that it inspired the formation of a special-interest group on LinkedIn.

Since that posting, I’ve discovered some very interesting facts and truths about Age Discrimination in today’s job market. Much of this is not necessarily good news for job-seekers over a certain age. Nevertheless, as inconvenient as these truths may be, I feel it’s best to be armed with the most accurate and up-to-date information. Ultimately, how one handles this issue is a very personal decision. What follows is simply the way it is:

Face It – Age Discrimination Exists!
The vast majority of “older” workers have experienced it on some level or another. It’s difficult to come up with hard data, since most companies would never truthfully cooperate with any official study … but we all intuitively know that it’s true – age bias is simply a fact of life in our society. That basic truth really hasn’t changed very much over the last century – most modern societies favor youth over age. What has changed is the advancing age of the “Baby Boomer” generation – a group that has grown proportionally compared with the rest of the population, and has skewed the age curve of available workers. In today’s candidate-flooded market resulting from the economic downturn that began in 2008, those growing numbers of older workers are increasingly competing for the same jobs as younger candidates caught up in the same mass layoffs as everyone else. Add to that the fact that everyone’s investments and retirement funds shrunk drastically during the last couple of years. As a result, Boomers are now finding that they need to keep working well past the age that they originally thought they’d retire. At the very same time, cost-conscious companies are still nervous about adding back headcount in today’s slow climb back to economic recovery. When companies do hire new staff now, many try to save money by hiring younger, less experienced people who require lower salaries. It’s really not hard to see how all those factors combine to perpetuate the practice of Age Discrimination.

Asking Your Age Is NOT Illegal
Many job-seekers erroneously think that it is illegal for an employer to ask for a candidate’s date of birth (or year of graduation, social security number, marital status, or any number of other supposedly off limits questions.) That’s simply not true! Although they’re often called “illegal interview questions” on the web, such questions are not actually illegal at all. There is no law that says that an interviewer cannot ask a job-seeker point blank: “How old are you?” However, if an interviewer asks a question that has discriminatory implications and then intentionally denies you employment based on your answer to the question, he or she may have broken the law. So to avoid any risk of exposure to future litigation, most HR professionals (especially at larger companies) are told to avoid asking such questions. But again, it’s not illegal to ask, and it still happens frequently. It happens during interviews, and it happens quite often on those pre-interview applications where leaving a question blank will get you screened out. The problem is that it’s almost impossible for a job-seeker who has been denied employment to prove age discrimination. No interviewer in their right mind would actually admit to eliminating a candidate based on their age – even if that’s exactly what they did. You’ll simply be passed over, and never really know why. That’s one of many reasons why interviewers do not return calls and emails from, or give specific feedback to job applicants who did not get hired. It’s much safer to say nothing!

Don’t Waste Your Precious Time Trying To Fight The System
I’ve heard from a lot of people who get very worked up about Age Discrimination, and feel they need to “do something about it!” They write letters, consult lawyers, lobby government representatives, circulate petitions, and threaten (and sometimes initiate) law suits. They rant and rail about it, join discussion groups that focus on it, and generally obsess on it as the main reason for their own failure to find a job. Well … sorry if I offend anyone by saying this – but I have no patience for that type of behavior. In my opinion, that sort of thing is extremely counter-productive. You certainly won’t endear yourself to any potential employers by focusing on such activities. (And make no mistake – employers are very aware of who writes what on blogs, discussion groups, LinkedIn forums, etc.) None of it will ever change the way employers behave, or the way interviewers and decision-makers screen candidates. They just won’t hire you! You cannot change the criteria that individual companies use to evaluate potential workers, nor can you change their actual job requirements – even if they include things that imply a bias towards younger applicants! If you are a serious job-seeker, then don’t waste your time and energy fighting against those things that you cannot change.

Focus Instead On Positives
You certainly can’t change your own age. That’s an obvious given. Sure, you can limit what’s on your résumé to the past 10 years, and pretend that you didn’t exist before that – at least that will avoid the sting of being eliminated before you even get to first base, and most likely score you some interviews that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. But sooner or later in every job application process, you’ll meet face-to-face with a decision-maker and they’ll size you up. Your age will be a factor – for better or worse. So what can older job-seekers do to help themselves? Here are some ideas:

  • Target companies who are known to be “age friendly” and concentrate less on the ones known to favor younger workers and who emphasize their youthful cultures. You probably wouldn’t feel comfortable working in such a place anyway. Seek out employers who value workers for their capabilities and contributions, regardless of age. There are certainly industries, companies and organizations out there who are less likely to practice age discrimination than others. Naturally, the challenge for job-seekers is to identify those places and go after them. A good starting point is to simply do a Google search on the phrase “Age Friendly Companies.” You’ll find a multitude of great resources there that will lead you in the right direction.
  • Pay attention to the job requirements, and only pursue positions that you truly match. Don’t waste time applying to jobs that are clearly not a match for your skills, or level of experience. If the description says they want someone with 1-3 years of experience and you have 10-15 … it’s obviously not going to be a good match. Do you really want to fight that battle? Do you really need to hear that you’re “overqualified” or that they are really looking for more of an “entry level” person?
  • Keep yourself up to date on technology, and current on the details of your industry. Be a continuous learner. Be as computer and internet savvy as your younger competitors. Embrace the new information age. Read articles, blogs and professional journals that pertain to your field. Be ready to demonstrate your up-to-date knowledge in any conversation you may have with people in your specific niche.
  • These next ones are cliches … but I’ll throw them in anyway: Take care of yourself physically! Exercise frequently to maintain your fitness, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. Pay attention to your appearance – keep yourself well groomed. Dress for success with an up-to-date wardrobe. You can’t change your age, but you can change the way you present yourself. Having a youthful energy and demeanor are not things that happen by accident, nor are they strictly hereditary. They are things that to some degree you can alter, and they need to be constantly worked on.
  • Finally, embrace “The Power of a Positive Attitude.” Concentrate on projecting positive energy and enthusiasm in every casual conversation, every networking meeting, and every interview. I’ve coached thousands of candidates for interviews during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the interview process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé – and it’s NOT AGE. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. A positive, energetic and youthful attitude can easily transcend age as a factor and it’s nearly impossible to fake. It’s an incredibly important issue for every job-seeker to think about and to try adjusting within themselves.

    May 17, 2010 at 12:01 am 48 comments

Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

[Updated, December 2015 …]

It’s that time of the year when everywhere you look there are “Top 10” lists. Top news events of the year, top songs, top movies, top TV shows, top most interesting celebrities, etc. So, I thought it would be an appropriate time to roll out my own Top 10 list – The Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers!

Now if you’ve been following my blog and reading my many postings with advice for job-seekers, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m generally a positive, optimistic person. I try to give encouragement and helpful advice to everyone, and I’ve certainly preached about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. [See “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] However, we all need to vent from time to time. So for now, I’d like to take a moment and reflect on all those annoying things that almost all job-seekers have experienced in today’s challenging market that simply tick us off! So, here it is – in no particular order …

TOP 10 MOST ANNOYING THINGS FOR JOB-SEEKERS:

10. People who don’t return voicemail messages.
I can understand not returning emails … some people are overwhelmed with hundreds of emails each day, and simply cannot answer every one. But voicemail messages? I’m sorry, but I have NO patience for people who don’t return calls. As a recruiter, I always made it my rule to return every phone message I got within 24 hours. In my experience, I’d only get one phone message for every 100+ emails – an unfortunate sign of the times. It’s so easy to hit “send” and so hard to pick up the phone and actually try talking to someone! Anyone who makes the effort to call me deserves a response. To do otherwise is just rude. I expect the same professional courtesy from the people that I call and leave messages for, as well.

9. Job postings that don’t identify the company.
I would never apply to a job if I didn’t even know the company’s name. What if it’s a place I’ve already applied and/or interviewed? What if it’s a place that I’ve heard bad things about and would not want to work for? What if I’ve actually already worked there?! Many 3rd-party recruiters call potential candidates and refuse to reveal their clients’ identities. If it’s actually a rare “confidential” search dictated by the client, OK … but usually recruiters are just afraid the candidate will do an end-run around them and apply directly to the company (which, by the way, is a very stupid move for any candidate!) In my many years in the staffing industry working as a contingency recruiter, I always told potential candidates what company I was searching for – preferring an up-front and honest approach with full disclosure of the pros and cons of each opportunity. I found most people to be professional and trustworthy with regard to this issue, and I almost never got burned doing business that way.

8. Lengthy online applications that must be filled out before you can submit your résumé to a job posting.
I often get the feeling that those online applications are designed to be an easy way for some HR person to screen people out. And they take SO long to fill out!!! I expect to be asked to fill out a complete application after I’ve been identified by the company as potential fit. But do I really need to spend an hour filling out their form just so I can get in line with hundreds of other anonymous online applicants?

7. Twitter.
I’m sorry … I know there are probably Twitter fans out there. (I actually have two different Twitter accounts myself, which I occasionally use to broadcast job postings or advertise my blog articles.) I’m really a very tech-savvy person who loves all the latest toys, gizmos, gadgets and technology in general. I’ve configured and repaired computers and networks, designed websites and complex databases, I blog, and I make extensive use of LinkedIn, Facebook and other Social Media to great advantage for both personal and professional purposes. I just don’t see Twitter being a useful tool for job-seeking. In fact, it seems like a supreme waste of time to me! I have yet to find a hidden job opportunity using Twitter that I couldn’t have found just as easily using Google, Indeed.com, or any number of other standard search engines or job boards. And broadcasting quick short bursts of text updating the world on what you are doing minute by minute everywhere you go? Is that really necessary? I’m sure that Twitter deserves a place somewhere in the short attention span of our thumb-typing, text-message-obsessed world. However, I happen to believe that those 140-character messages filled with lazily abbreviated catch-phrases and fractured contractions have contributed to the rapid decline in the writing skills of an entire generation of its users (IMHO LOL!) The English language has never looked worse.

6. Mass “Networking Events.”
Those big events (usually held at hotels or bars) are attended mostly by other job-seekers. Networking with other job-seekers, while sometimes fun, is often a huge waste of time. It’s much more productive to spend your time networking with people specific to your industry niche who can connect you with actual decision-makers in your target companies. [See “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places.”]

5. Takers who don’t give back.
I’m talking about job-seekers who set up so-called networking meetings with you, and then ask for your help without any attempt at giving something back. Too many people don’t understand that networking needs to be a 2-way street to be effective. [See “The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking.”]

4. Companies who post jobs, and then don’t even acknowledge receiving your résumé after you apply.
In the Recruiting world, we often refer to this as sending your résumé into the “Black Hole of HR.” Now if a company sends an automated “canned email” response saying they’ve received a person’s résumé, I realize that it generally means nothing … but at least the applicant knows they received it! Most online submissions go totally unanswered. That’s why savvy job searchers do not rely on simply applying to online job postings, but rather spend most of their time networking, finding ways to go around HR, and talking with actual decision-makers at their target companies.

3. No follow-up from a company after you’ve been interviewed.
It’s one thing to be ignored by a company after you’ve sent in your résumé. But if they actually called you and interviewed you by phone or in person – they should pay you the simple courtesy of a follow-up. I’ve heard so many terrible stories from candidates who had multiple interviews with high-level decision-makers at companies who indicated that they were the top candidate, and they were close to making an offer … and then …. NOTHING! No follow-ups, no emails, no calls, no returned messages – just silence. That’s simply an insult! If they decided to hire someone else – or no one at all – then say so! Saying nothing is beyond unprofessional. It’s just plain rude and obnoxious.

2. Companies who ask for your complete salary history and salary requirements before interviewing you.
Sooner or later this issue comes up in every interview process. I have my own opinions on how to deal with those salary questions, and I’ve written extensively on this topic. [See “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question.”] But does it have to come up BEFORE they interview you? Do they have to know your salary history and requirements BEFORE they even look at your résumé?

1. Companies who practice age discrimination.
What a world we live in, where younger less experienced people are preferred by so many companies over people who have the proven success and the seasoned experience, knowledge and accumulated wisdom that only comes with years of hard work. My first posting on this topic seemed to have hit a raw nerve – that blog logged several thousand hits and well over 100 comments in just the first few days, provoking quite a lively discussion. [See “Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed.”]

So there you have it. Having vented, I know I feel better now! I’m sure I’ve left out other common annoyances that could easily have made this list. (The countless emails I’ve received over the years with “work-at-home” opportunities or invitations to sell insurance come to mind!) I welcome any suggestions for additions to this list in the comments section below. And if you are looking for a more uplifting and positive sounding list, then I suggest you read “Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers.”

December 4, 2009 at 1:13 am 92 comments

Older Posts


Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for nearly 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn
         Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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