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How to Combat Age Stereotypes on Your Job Interview

As an older job-seeker, you’ll find that you’re probably worried about negative stereotypes in the workplace. If you’ve landed an interview, you want to be sure that you aren’t giving the hiring manager a reason to believe you fit into these unfortunate and sometimes unfounded categories.

Stereotype: Older workers are not familiar with new technology.

Of course the best way to combat this stereotype is to become familiar with new technology. Today, technology is a part of every career from the lowest to the highest position. You don’t have to be in a tech career to need technological skills – sales jobs, customer service jobs, and administrative jobs all require competence in using specific hardware and software. If you’ve taken or enrolled in courses that will provide you with this knowledge, you’re not only showing employers that you possess the necessary skills for the position, but that you are a motivated and dedicated individual. If you find yourself unfamiliar with the technologies the hiring company is using, you should find a way to highlight a history of adapting and learning quickly in your previous employment experiences. Also, if the job description outlines specific technologies you are unfamiliar with, you should at the very least research how they are used so that you can speak effectively and show knowledge about them in the interview.

Stereotype: Older workers are rigid and unwilling to change

While you definitely want to use your experience as an advantage in an interview, too much focus on the past and what you did in former jobs may cause the interviewer to put you in the category of an “old-timer” who thinks things were done better back in “the old days.” The last thing a younger manager wants to hear is, “We used to do it this way…” This not only implies that things were done better in the past but that you don’t respect his/her decisions and direction. Try to talk about the present and the future, rather than using the majority of the session to talk about your past. It takes some strategy to balance between the two, but employers want to know what you can do NOW and feel confident that you want to continue to grow, learn and contribute to the ongoing success of the company.

Stereotype: Older workers won’t stay in the position long

While this stereotype might actually be unfounded since younger workers tend to job-hop more than older workers, this still may be a problem you have to combat. It may be a Catch-22 since one way to show loyalty is to show a history of staying with an employer for a long time, but if you were in your last job for decades, you might also be falling into the “unwilling to make changes” category. Do your best to express a desire to secure a position that allows for continued learning and growth within the organization. Taking the tone of someone who loves being an active member of the workforce will show energy and keep the interviewer from seeing you as a flight risk or someone too close to retirement.

Stereotype: Older workers have health issues and can’t be relied upon

As we all know, there are people in every age group who have health issues as well as those who just “take sick days” because they are there for the taking. Reliability is an issue regardless of employee age. The best thing you can do to combat this stereotype is, again, be energetic and show you live an active life. Interviews can often steer away from business-talk as employers try to get to know more about who you are. Make sure you’re making appropriate disclosures, but play up your involvement in positive interests and activities.

Putting Age Aside

Above all, try not to focus on your age in the job search. It is important to know how age might come into play and what you can do about it, but remember that you are a viable candidate and concentrate on your strengths and value. Focus on what you have to offer an employer and go in with a positive attitude. Keep your mind off of age and don’t bring it up in the interview. Most employers will be able to see the merits of an individual. Show them what a great individual you are and what a fantastic employee you’ll be!

Lynn Mattoon is a content editor/career writer for Beyond.com and their many niche job search web sites, including TechCareers.com, AdministrativeJobs.com, SalesHeads.com, and CustomerServiceJobs.com. You can follow her on Twitter at BeyondCareers.

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