I guess that I’m part of the older or mature worker demographic. I am currently working, but need to make more money. I have been applying for better paying jobs in my field, and have been invited in to several in-person interviews which have not led to any job offers.
Do you have any recommendations as to how to respond to these complicated questions as an over-55 job applicant?
Signed: Too Old To Apply
Dear Too Old,
You are NEVER too old to look and apply for work. Get past the negative labels facing the older worker, mature worker, senior or elder, remarks Barbara J. Bowes, president of Legacy Bowes Group and member of the “over 55 group.”
Statistics Canada reported that one out of four individuals in the workforce are age 55 or over; Bowes adds that “this age range cohort is expected to continue at this size as baby boomers age and individuals continue to stay at their current workplace or re-enter in another role with another organization.” Bowes describes most employee candidates in the age range of 55-plus today as healthy, motivated and highly skilled. She presents a list of tricky questions that potential employers tend to ask the over 50 job applicant. Her responses could help you better prepare for your next interview.
Question 1. Describe your long-term plans
Two of the common interview questions, “What are your long-term career plans?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” often create awkward moments for older workers. The response strategy is to provide an answer that isn’t too specific, but sufficient to prevent further probing.
Some sample responses include the following:
- “If you’re asking how long I would stay with your organization, the answer is that I would stay as long as I am challenged and experiencing job satisfaction”
- “I’m the kind of person who thrives on challenge and as long as you can offer a challenge, I’ll be here.”
Question 2. How do you feel about reporting to a younger leader?
This question relates to the myth that older workers will not take direction from a younger leader. Although reference to age is a prohibited human rights offence, you might still experience this blunt question, or a less direct version of it.
The best way to answer this question is to once again provide a response that is somewhat indirect, such as the following:
- “I have always had strong respect for good leaders no matter what age or gender.”
- “There are a lot of young people in the workforce that have made significant contributions early in their career and I respect that.”
Question 3. You seem to be over-qualified. What specifically interests you in the job?
Another question the older workers will often be asked is related to the issue of being over-qualified. No matter how offensive this question is to older workers, formulate a neutral response and do not let your emotions get in the way.
This could be as follows:
- “I agree, I would bring a good deal of experience to your company.”
- “I don’t believe in the concept of over-qualified. I find there is always something to learn in every new job.”
Question 4. You have been with your company for a while. What makes you think you can make the adjustments to a new company?
Bowes coins this question as whether the “mature dog is ready for new tricks”. Another key challenge encountered by older workers, especially those who remained with one employer for a good length of time, is the perception that change will be difficult for them. The implication is that learning a new organization and perhaps a new way of doing things will not come easily and will prevent the worker from adapting quickly to the new work environment.
Highlighting your continued community or volunteer work, activity in social media, and engagement in lifelong learning by discussing your current and future educational professional development activities, and new designations and how you love to learn and grow professionally and personally. Bowes suggests that you need to focus on your transferable skills and the many changes you have already successfully encountered in your earlier work-life.
Provide a response to the issue as follows:
- “I have been a dedicated employee for XX years and during that time, I was promoted three times and undertook several new changes just for the sake of learning. I am confident I will fit into your company in a short time.”
Question 5. How are your information technology skills?
Employers also frequently make the assumption that older workers lack information technology skills.
You can provide two responses such as the following:
- “Actually, I have been working with proprietary CSM software for a number of years and I am very proficient in using the Microsoft Office Suite.“
- “I have always been a quick learner and while I am familiar with the common software, I am confident I can quickly learn your customized software.”
Question 6. What are your salary expectations?
It is important that you do your labour market research in advance of the interview to find out what is the average rate of pay for your position with the competitors. You can respond to this question by describing your research findings regarding the fair market compensation package.
Never quit your job before you have a new one, but you will need to be open to taking some steps back in salary and responsibility. It is important because you have to start somewhere and you might have start at the beginning.
Best of luck with your job search,