By Linda Tuerk
There is no argument that ageism is rampant in the US, and many are finding themselves in the most difficult searches of their lives. Why is this happening?
The short version is this: the Internet means 700 people apply, and it used to be 37.
Also the pace of business has never been faster.
Everyone is overworked, always on, and exhausted. Hiring plans change every few weeks in many public companies.
Add to that, the amount of information everybody is expected to handle has grown exponentially and no one has the time for thoughtful and contextual analysis of your email, cover letter, resume or LinkedIn profile. Don’t make them think! They don’t have time, and it’s not their fault.
When they do see your profile or resume, and notice you are older, these are the things they are most worried about:
Yes, these concerns are real. These are the reasons they tell me when we discuss an older candidate's qualifications. Often, I can counter successfully, the interview is set up, and the person is often hired.
Though I hate the fact that you need to play it, there is a job search game involving applicant tracking systems, algorithms, and hasty human perceptions.
I do not want to insult your hard-earned experience, but...
Editing for relevance to the exact job, and tweaking some of your presentation to highlight relevant accomplishments, can get you in the door.
I have seen older people bounce, and get hired in the most aggressive business culture we have ever had.
These are the strategies used successfully to be identified as a current contributor:
It reinforces your age, and it can scare people off who think you might be too expensive. Focus on specific and current skills.
It will help you in the algorithm, and it’s true.
Use “Leader,” “Head of,” or “Expert.”
For example, use ” MarkJonesMarketing," not “MarkJonesVPMarketingCMO” unless you will not consider any other title. Name it to make it easy for the employer, not to make it easy for your system.
If common technologies like MS Office are required by many, consider taking a low cost community college course in it.
Starting anytime around around 1990-2005. If your early career was in highly desirable companies, keep it. Otherwise trim it. LinkedIn and your resumes should start and stop on the same dates.
Mention it if you run marathons, play basketball, climb mountains, or some other activity requiring (and demonstrating) physical fitness. Find a way to mention these activities that require high energy at the bottom of page 1 on your resume. Increase your cool factor, and emphasize your energy.
Tell them when you are high energy, with a strong competitive spirit or if you thrive in fast-paced business/sales/tech/office environments. If you are accustomed to long hours and global travel, tell them above the fold page 1 in one of your descriptive bullets.
It makes you look more current. Do NOT use Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc. [See To Be Hired, Be Reachable for details.]
Get a cheap go-phone if you have to or consider using Google Voice. I worked with a Senior Executive who started getting interviews within 3 days of doing this. Make sure your LinkedIn locale is the largest metro area near you, not just one city. [Again, see To Be Hired, Be Reachable for details on Google Voice.]
I can hear the career counselors out there cringing because the standard advice is "job seeking is a full time job," but I recommend 2-5 hours per day max, 5-6 days a week. I've seen too many people burn out. I believe you will actually get more done in 3 hours and be less stressed when you do have an interview.
Not kidding. PDF is best. Keep keywords and phrases on the left margin when you can. Keep formatting very simple. No headers, footers, tables, or font changes.
Not more than this, or the reader's eyes will glaze over and not absorb a thing. Always leave them wanting to know more.
Cover letter: “I am excited about this opportunity because I have 5+ years in Global Projects, and the car industry knowledge you require.” needs to translate to...
Resume, page 1 bullet:: "5+ years in Global Projects. Auto industry expertise and depth.”
Then, all the readers will be reminded of your strength as a candidate every time they refresh their memories. Make sure that any important conclusions or insights in a cover letter get expressed correctly on your LinkedIn profile, too.
Don’t take a call from a colleague, a recruiter or an employer unless you are ready to accept it! If you come across as disorganized, scattered, or even hard to hear, you just shot yourself down. Have a professional SHORT voicemail, and be organized and distraction-free when you do take the call, from a quiet place with a clear connection.
Don’t take it personally; it is not personal rejection. Your resume was not seen in many cases. That's not fair, but that's the world today. You are in a pool of 700 possibly, and it used to be 35. And they might have put the job on hold (nothing to do with you). Check back in twice. If no response, move on.
Join groups if they give you a sense of camaraderie, but leave groups if they depress you. But know that you are not alone. It's a difficult time. It's not just you.
While I’ve learned these lessons in Silicon Valley’s very tough job market, they apply to most employers today. If you are an experienced job seeker, over 45, managing these assumptions can make all the difference in the open job market. Changing just a few things can have a big -- and positive -- impact.
Linda Tuerk is a veteran headhunter who has significant experience getting interviews for older candidates in Silicon Valley, ground zero for blatant age discrimination. After seeing thousands of resumes and profiles that actually hurt candidates' chances, she shares her 30+ years headhunting experience to help get candidates through doors in a system that is unforgiving. “From Stanford to San Quentin,” she has helped thousands of people navigate their job searches in Technology and other sectors nationwide. Linda specializes in finding the most attractive way to tell the truth. She can be contacted via LinkedIn or at 650-210-9980.