What Can Older Workers Do To Get Hired
Though age discrimination is illegal, many older job seekers have trouble landing a job. Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate job seekers over 40 start having trouble getting hired and this difficulty increases into their 50s and 60s. This affects many of our transitioning military who have made the military their first career and are now getting out and seeking a new career.
Why is this? Do HR managers and recruiters hate older people? Do they not want to hire Veterans? Definitely not. HR managers and recruiters are eager to hire qualified Veteran job seekers and are often held responsible for failing to fill open positions. HR professionals are responsible for complying with the many laws related to hiring and employment. One of these, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids discrimination against anyone 40 or older. If you find you cannot seem to land a job, and you think your age is playing a role, here are strategies to address that.
Three factors stand in the way of older Veteran workers getting hired: money, skills, and seniority.
Money can be a factor because older workers have often spent many years or even decades working for the same company. Cost of Living increases and promotions over the many years can result in retiring Veterans expecting a salary well above the market average. This works against the job seeker. When prospective employers learn that the job seeker expects or formerly earned much more than the position offers, the employer assumes the job seeker will not be satisfied in the new job and will not stay long, and thus does not hire them.
What can you do? First, research current salary averages for the position you are seeking. Adjust your expectations to fit within what you can realistically expect given your skills and experience. Don’t assume this is the same amount you earned in the military. Second, avoid revealing what you used to make if it is significantly different from the amount being offered for the job you are seeking. Telling the new employer you used to make 25% more than they are offering is a quick way to end the hiring process. Third, emphasize that your interest in the company and job takes priority over the amount the job pays.
Skills can be a factor because hiring has become more keyword driven and recruiters may fail to recognize how your skills map to the newest keywords. And, if you are honest with yourself, you may have to admit your skills have become a bit out of date. If your skills were in high demand, would you be having this much trouble finding a job?
What can you do? First, identify the gap between your skill set and the skills in demand for the jobs you want. Second, develop a plan of bridging this gap. This may involve self directed learning, on-line courses, or courses at a local college or university. Third, communicate in your resume, cover letter and in interviews how your experience in your old skills enhances your recently developed new skills. Check out “Why should I Hire You?” for more resume writing tips. Finally, figure out how to gain hands on experience in your new skills. This may involve volunteering to apply your skills for a local charity.
Seniority can also stand in the way of your job search as a Veteran if you refuse to consider jobs unless they have the same level of seniority and responsibility as your previous job. In this case, it is your choice to eliminate yourself from many jobs you might otherwise land.
What can you do? Consider jobs one step down the ladder from what you most recently held. You might not be hired in as a vice president or chief officer. Remember you were successful climbing the career ladder in the military, you will likely be successful again. Landing the job is the first step, then you can start creating value and solving problems. You should find your contributions earn you recognition and, eventually, the promotion you want.
In conclusion, recalibrating your monetary expectations, updating your skills, and broadening your job search in terms of seniority are three techniques that may help a retiring Veteran overcome a job search that has stalled due to age.