How to talk about your age
There is a positive way to look at being older:
The good news is that you have had more time to obtain skills and develop profitable work attitudes. As you talk to employers, emphasize these. Focus on how you can do the job well, rather than on how old you are while you are doing it. Present your skills, attitudes, and results you’ve produced with pride, energy, and enthusiasm.
You can influence how a decision maker perceives your age:
- Make sure that your job goal is a good fit with your age. Truck drivers, for instance, come in all ages. Construction workers come mainly in one age – young.
- Make sure that your job goal matches your physical abilities. Employers only want to know that an older worker can physically do the job. Becoming a security guard is possible for an older person who is physically limited. However, if the job involves wrestling with troublemakers, then it is no longer suitable. Make sure you can physically do all parts of the job and then tell the employer this.
If you are still worried about your age:
- Check out the company before you interview. This may require dressing the part of a customer if you are applying at a store. Or waiting near the parking lot of a factory at quitting time. If everyone is under 30 and you are 55, you have a bigger challenge. Remember the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower: “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
- Check your appearance. Do you look older than you are? An interviewer does more than just listen to you. He or she will also notice how you look and act. Wear clothing that is stylish, but not too trendy. Get a more modern hairstyle. Learn to move and gesture with more energy. Ask your professional helper for feedback on whether your appearance matches your age.
Talking about abilities and limitations
In the interview, you can control how you present your physical abilities to an employer.
- Talk about what you can do–not what you can’t.
- Make sure you can do all parts of the job you are seeking. Be able to explain this to an interviewer with examples.
- If you have a release from you doctor, bring it with you. This is a benefit to the employer. It’s as if you have had a pre-employment physical.
- Help the employer be specific about the parts of the job he or she thinks you may not be able to do. You can only correct a misunderstanding, if you know about it.
- Be able to talk about any financial incentives an employer may access by hiring you.
- Be prepared to talk about possible job site modifications. You might not be able to change your physical abilities but you can change the job site to match them.
Remember, it’s not just your physical abilities an employer needs. Your attitude, skills, and results you can produce are also important. Let the employer know about these.
Talking about gaps in your employment history
It’s too late to change your work history, but you can present it in the best way possible:
- Be able to explain all the gaps. Most people have good reasons for them; practice saying yours.
- If jobs ended for reasons you couldn’t control (layoffs, closures, etc.), be able to explain these.
- If you made the choice to leave a job, be able to explain why without “bad mouthing” the employer.
- If you gained skills or attitudes during your breaks in employment, present these. We often learn valuable lessons outside the workplace that are useful in the workplace.
- To an employer, gaps mean that you might not stay long with the company or you may be undependable. Think about how long you would stay at a job before you go to the interview. What kind of commitment are you willing to make?