Ask The Headhunter Home Page
Ask The Headhunter Home Page
More about Nick's book...

frequently asked questions about

The Age Issue
The Age Issue
Topics including:
Over 50 and nobody wants me
Oh, yeah? I'm still too old!
Back to FAQ Categories

Q "Over fifty"
My father is over fifty. It seems that as soon as his age is known he is somehow no longer qualified. Are there any businesses who hire someone with 25 yrs experience anymore? His was a vice president at a large life insurance company in the group systems planning division. People are still young and bring
a lot to a job at his age.

A  I agree with you: people your dad's age (50+) bring a lot to a job. They're not too old to contribute significantly to a company. You clearly believe it. The question is: does your dad? (the answer may not be so obvious as you think)

I recently worked with a manager at AT&T who found out he was being downsized (AT&T has retained me to help some of these folks). He had about 8 months to find a new job. Now, most people I've known take that kind of time and use it to engage in wishful thinking. You know: Oh, something will come up for me. I've been here 20 years. They won't let me go.

This guy (I'll call him Mike), took it dead seriously and he started looking immediately. By the time I met with him, he was almost completely disheartened. All he wanted to know was, "How do I get these interviewers past the problem of my age?" What Mike was saying was, "I'm too old, and I know it."

Mike's 58. Sure, some employers prefer younger guys. Some employers are also bigotted about all sorts of things, from race to religion to sex to where you play golf. My advice in those situations: decide whether you want to file a discrimination suit, or decide you don't want to work with people like that and get on to the next employer you do want to work with. Pick one of these two choices and do it.

Call me an optimist, but I really believe most managers are more concerned about a person's ability to do the work than about anything else - and they're basically good people who will give you a fair shake.

But something funny happens, as it did with Mike. When he acted defensively about his age, interviewers shut him down. The last thing an employer wants is a worker who is focused on his age or on any other perceived limitations.

I spent about four hours with Mike. What I taught him is what you'll find in the articles on Ask The Headhunter and in my book. I taught him to focus on one thing in the interview: the work an employer needs to have done. If the age issue comes up, I told him to shift gears and ask the manager what problems he needs fixed, and then to demonstrate how he's going to tackle them. You should have one goal, I told him: to show the employer what you're going to bring to the bottom line. Do that, and you control the interview. Do that, and you transcend the age (or almost any other) issue.

If the manager is a jerk, it doesn't matter what age you are. You aren't going to change him. But, there aren't many managers out there who are going to focus on your age if you don't.

Mike changed his attitude, if only because for four hours I didn't let up on him. He went on his next interview. A week later I ran into him at AT&T. He had a grin wide as a barn on his face. He walked up and clapped me on the shoulder. "I did what you said. [Company XYZ] not only hired me; they're giving me equity. When the interview started, I cut the manager off at the pass and asked him to lay out a live problem he was facing. That helped me get more comfortable by focusing the meeting on what I do best. Then I showed him how I'd handle it. Changed the whole interview."

"Come, on, Mike," I smiled. "You're too old for this."

I'm proud of him, because he got past his own wall, and in doing so, he made it unecessary for the employer to try to scale it. When an employer encounters this sort of obstacle, they just "pass" rather than deal with it. So the candidate has to deal with it.

This story is the best thing I can offer your dad. He's got to get his age completely out of the equation. Sure, he'll encounter a jerk or two. But he'll also encounter employers who need what he can do for them. It's up to him to communicate that without bringing his fears to the interview with him.

Not an easy task. But do-able.

I wish your dad the best.

-- The Headhunter


The contents of this site are Copyright (c) 1995-2015 North Bridge Group LLC.
All rights reserved. This material is for personal use only. Republication and redissemination, including posting to news groups, is expressly prohibited without prior written consent. Ask The Headhunter, Fearless Job Hunting, the ATH logo and other ATH titles are trademarks or registered trademarks of North Bridge Group LLC and Nick A. Corcodilos.

User agreement, legal information and disclaimer.

Visit the Ask The Headhunter Blog and sign up for your free subscription to the weekly Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.

We welcome comments and
suggestions. Please email to
Ask The Headhunter.