I've been asked a lot lately about whether age is the reason that a person isn't getting the jobs they apply for. I know I should know the answer, but frankly I don't think anyone does.
Jumping on the age discrimination bandwagon
Anecdotally it is easy to jump on the ageism bandwagon. If an older person applies for a job, but they don't even get to interview it is easy for them to presume that they were discarded because of age. If they are interviewed but are unsuccessful in obtaining the position it is again very easy to make the same presumption.
Is that definitely age discrimination? It feels good to blame that demon…The media often jumps to that conclusion so it must be right! Age discrimination in the workforce is something that we all hear about often, and so most people will be sympathetic if you claim that is the reason you didn't get a job you wanted.
What if the real reason was nothing at all to do with your age? Would that tell you a different story? Might you stop blaming your age and start looking at your job search strategies?
If age isn't the problem, what is?
The reasons why people don't get jobs that they have applied for are complex at any age. These five reasons are often far more damaging of job search success than any age discrimination, real or imagined.
1. Being one of the crowd
Let's start with numbers. If you apply for an advertised position chances are that you will be up against over 200 other candidates. If there is only one job, only one person is going to be successful.
2. Your personal marketing
Your resume has to show, concisely and effectively, that you already have relevant achievements, outstanding skills and enough experience to be extremely successful in this role. They are looking for someone for this exact job. Does your personal marketing, resume and LinkedIn profile in particular, match what they are looking for?
3. Your personality
We all have our own distinct ways of doing things. I know it is a challenging thought, but you may not be the sort of person they wanted in that job. It wouldn't matter what you had done, if you aren't the sort of person they want then they won't want you.
4. Too much, too little or just right?
Recruiters are human. So are interviewers. So are employers. Each have their own distinctive ideas about what constitutes a great candidate for a job. The resume that one person loves may not appeal to another recruiter. Your style in an interview may be exactly what one interviewer wants, but another favours a different candidate. You can only do what is true to you.
Attitude shows on your face and in your body language. If you believe that you deserve a job simply because you have been around for a long time then that attitude will show itself in some way. I think of that as reverse ageism…People who believe they should be prefered because of their years of experience rather than their achievements. Life just doesn't work that way, and neither does recruitment.
6. Showing your age
We aren't discussing face creams and botox here, nor borrowing clothes from your 'twenty-something" kids. Age shows by not being contemporary in your skills and attitudes. "I'm not very good with technology" is a statement that almost guarantees that you will not be taken seriously in the workplace in 2013. Submitting a dated style of resume or dressing in an old-fashioned way immediately suggests that you will not have contemporary practices at work.
If you make the presumption that you will face age discrimination during your job search you are probably right. If you put that aside and aim to be the best candidate for the job, regardless of age, you may be amazed at what you will achieve.
By Jenni Proctor