In my job as a recruiter, I would hear this question at least several times a month. It is a natural reaction for a middle aged or older person who needs to or expects to keep working. They are confronted by news stories about companies downsizing. They have concerns that if they lose their job or want to change jobs for personal or career reasons that they may be rejected on the basis of their age.
My observation from being in business for more than 30 years is that this is a realistic concern. Despite our society’s drive to equal opportunity, bias can be shown in many ways by some people. The only way around this is to be the best candidate even then older candidates who are not successful may well be left wondering why they didn’t get that job.
Recently we were asked to recruit an Administration Manager for a professional services firm. In addition to some candidates we already knew we had a solid response to advertising. After reviewing cover letters, resumes and qualifying candidates on the phone we had three people to interview.
One of these people turned out to be a standout candidate. The person:
- Provided an excellent cover letter and resume. Well written and correctly laid out, no spelling or grammatical errors.
- When qualified on the phone had a good phone manner, was able to build a professional level of rapport and listened well, answered questions succinctly and was able to add detail when asked.
- Demonstrated a stable work history in similar roles.
- Was punctual for interview and immaculate in personal presentation (dress and grooming).
- While slightly nervous, spoke well and had obviously prepared answers, engaged well and built rapport with the interviewers (a panel of three – not easy when you are nervous) .
- Had a strong track record of undertaking training courses to keep up to date with technology and to strengthen skills.
- Appeared energetic and alert, exhibiting a strong values base.
- Gave good examples of work problems and issues that had been overcome.
- Showed how they had added value to their employer.
- While somewhat self effacing demonstrated confidence and professionalism.
- Asked well thought out and searching questions – it was apparent this person was not going to accept just any job.
- Made clear what they wanted to get out of work and how this role would suit their goals.
- Prepared and spoken with referees.
- Finished the interview well, stating interest in the role and would add value to our client. Thanked the interviewers shook hands well and left in a positive manner.
All three members of the interview panel were highly impressed and we recommended the candidate to our client for interview. The employer was also highly impressed and hired the candidate.
We don’t know the candidate’s exact age but we do know she saw 60 some time ago. She is now happily working in her new job where she is highly valued. She said she was quite surprised that she got the role and when asked why she said she thought her age might count against her.
This candidate won through because she was “simply the best”.
This will not be everyone’s experience but it is a lesson in doing everything well – very little was left to chance by the candidate. She applied her professional business skills, standards and positive approach to her job search and got a great result.
Blog Posted by Garry King, Director – November 2013