15 May 2013
Seniors Search the Job Market: You’re Not Old, You’re Experienced!

Finding a job in a sluggish economy can be difficult, but if you’re graying around the temples, it can be even tougher. Older workers, (over 50 years of age) may have a harder time convincing the 30-year-old human resources interviewer that, “Yes, I know how to use a computer.”

Older workers are often viewed as outdated, lacking technology skills, set in their ways and, therefore, difficult to train, and, in some cases, older workers just don’t fit the hip business culture of today’s fast-paced business world.

So how do you get your résumé pulled out of the stack on the Human Resources desk? How do you stand out? What makes you, the “old guy,” the right person for the job?

Here are some job search tips for the over-50 job seeker.

1. Use a functional résumé.

Résumés come in a variety of formats. The most familiar, and commonly-used, is the chronological résumé featuring a series of ever-expanding jobs, job descriptions, achievements – listed in chronological order, from your last job to your first job right out of college.

Another form of résumé is the functional résumé, which doesn’t focus attention on job history but, instead, on acquired skills. This may be a better fit for an older job applicant. With a functional résumé, real-world business experience gets the spotlight – and that’s something a recent grad can’t bring to the table.

According to AARP1, here’s what to leave out of your résumé:

  • Dates of education
  • Early job history
  • Dates of jobs more than 20 years old. Say “five years” instead of “1980-85.”
  • Personal information, such as age, race, religion or health status.

The job search experts at Bradley University2 recommend using a form of functional résumé with all of the following:

  • All contact information, including email address, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) user name or telephone number, website and other contact information. (It shows you’re hip if you have a VoIP number or Skype, plus your own website).
  • A short list of jobs held over the past 10 to 15 years.
  • A detailed description of skills acquired, contacts developed, experience gained – all of these make you an asset, not a liability. Not only does the company get a team player, it gets the playbook, as well, when it hires experience.
  • Educational credentials, certifications, licenses, permits, etc.

That’s it. Try to keep the résumé content to a single page. Think of the functional résumé as the infrastructure, while a well-crafted cover letter expands on your value as a long-experienced authority in your particular field.

The Cover Letter  

This is your opportunity to shine – to stand out from the newbies seeking the same job.

Your cover letter should be expertly crafted to highlight the benefits you bring to the hiring organization.

Visit the company website. Learn all you can about its products or services, its corporate culture, and its demographic. Then craft a cover letter that describes how your years of experience can benefit the company. Use specifics based on your industry experience and the business activity of the firm looking to fill a key position.

Focus on the needs of the company and the benefits of bringing in a few decades of much-needed experience. Position yourself as an asset who can improve company performance.

Develop several different cover letters and adapt them to the specifics of each job posting. Focus on the needs of the company and how you can meet those needs from Day One.

The Interview

A solid résumé and letter-perfect cover letter may not land you a job, but they may land you an interview. Look the part when you meet face-to-face with company management. Wear the latest styles, and look like the professional you are. A contemporary business suit also reflects positively on the company.

Exude confidence. Use the jargon of the industry to demonstrate that hiring you shortens the learning curve. Because you’ve been doing “this” for 25 years, you know how the industry works, and how industry insiders speak to each other.

Ask questions you’ve prepared in advance, but never ask about salary or benefits. Save that discussion for when you’re offered a position.

Settle for Less

Potential employers may recognize the value of your experience, but they also recognize that they’ll have to replace you when you retire, so the closer you are to retirement, the less value you may seem to deliver to the company.

Hiring, recruiting, interviewing, scanning résumés, and other HR activities are time-consuming and expensive, and, if the company recognizes that you’re eligible for Social Security in a few years, it may have to conduct another costly job search.

So you may have to settle for less – at least at the start of your tenure with your latest employer: lower salary, more expensive health insurance co-pays, fewer sick days and, in general, fewer benefits.

Okay, when you first start on the job, you’re earning less, but it shouldn’t take long to prove your value to the company. Just because you start at a lower salary doesn’t mean you’ll stay there. Take the cut, prove your value, and enjoy the benefits of being a key player on the management team.

Play up your age when looking for a new job. Don’t try to hide it. It’s an asset. Career counselor Vernon Bailey adds, “Younger people might not have that experience, and you’re demonstrating you can do it, because you’ve already done it.”3

Older employees bring experience and contacts to the new position. These long-timers show up at work – lower absenteeism rates4. They’ve made mistakes and learned from them, enabling business managers to avoid similar missteps.

You may be over 50, but finding the right job is simply a matter of positioning yourself as a company-focused, team player who knows how to get the job done.

After all, you’ve been doing it since disco was hot. You know what you’re doing.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

  1. www.aarp.org/work/job-hunting/info-08-2010/which-type-of-resume-is-best.html
  2. www.bradley.edu/offices/student/scc/files/current_infoguides/IG_Job+Search+Tips+for+Seniors.pdf
  3. http://vernonbailey.weebly.com/index.html
  4. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2644


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