Dear DFS: How Do I Avoid Age Becoming a Factor in my Interviews?

Dear DFS,

I have been working in the same career for many years, but was just recently laid off. Now I am on the job search again, and I’m interviewing with people who are half my age. I haven’t been making it to the second round of interviews, and I think I may be coming off wrong to these prospective employers, but it’s hard when you feel like the person interviewing you could be your kid.  How can I change how I’m perceived in these interviews?


Jan, Baltimore

Dear Jan,

First, I would like to congratulate you on landing an interview!  This is a chance for you to begin developing relationships with hiring managers/key personnel in your industry and affords you the opportunity to showcase your talents and brand face-to-face.  I understand that you are concerned that your age may be considered a negative factor, however, I believe this can be turned into a positive attribute.  I advise you to consider a three-pronged approach to interviewing.

First and foremost, a positive attitude is essential!  If you are approaching the interview with a negative outlook (i.e. they will automatically dismiss me because of my age, this hiring manager is young enough to be my child/grandchild) it will be evident.  No one is interested in hiring someone with a chip on their shoulder.  Conversely, if you are open-minded with a positive attitude, you will come across as approachable and friendly.  Who would you rather have on your team: someone who is grumpy or someone who is energetic and enthusiastic?

Second, make sure that your skills are current.  Often, people feel discriminated against solely because of their age, when in fact, their lack of up-to-date skills is the real barrier to getting hired.  You should objectively examine your skills/abilities against the hiring criteria and ask yourself if you are up to the task.  If not, consider taking classes to bring yourself up to speed.  Also, clarify during the interview that you are open to training and willing to learn, but demonstrate that you already possess the knowledge and skills required to do the job.  You need to demonstrate how you are capable of making a positive contribution to the success of the organization.

Finally, be approachable and show how you will be an awesome team member.  You have lots of experiences and knowledge to offer to others and you are willing to share.  Demonstrate how your skills will complement others, and describe your desire to be a dedicated, hard-working team member who is willing to put forth the effort necessary to achieve the company’s goals.

As always, do your homework to prepare for the interview.  This preparation coupled with a great attitude, the required skill set, and compatible personality will help set you apart from others and make you an irresistible candidate.

Best Wishes,

Sue Hicks, SPHR

Career Center Coordinator

Dress for Success Lexington

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