Mature age job interviews

For mature age people, the job interview is déjà vu, back to the grindstone, and an experience many would rather not have to endure.

Some interviewers apparently don't get that.

Just to make things a bit more annoying, some are so much younger than the interviewees that it's socially awkward for both of them.

Age and employment issues

These situations actually reflect the real problems many mature age people experience, trying to get jobs. Some are ex-retirees, reentering the workforce, and while the same basic situation for people reentering applies, the added burden of age is another real difficulty.

This whole thing has to be seen objectively. The law is that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of age. It is a legitimate grievance if a person is refused employment on the grounds of age.

However, reality butts in at this point, too. Some jobs are just not good fits for older people. Strenuous physical work, for example, could create health issues.

Some workplace environments, like youth fashion, are places where an older person would feel completely out of place, and probably resent being reminded of the age difference every five minutes.

These are things the employer has to consider. The way out is usually to simply not give older people these jobs for some other reason. It's unfair in theory, but really, getting a job in a place where you're risking your health or your sanity isn't a great move.

Note: In some cases, employers may legally deem a person unsuited to a position for work related reasons. These situations are quite hard to contest for interviewees. If you have reason to believe you've been discriminated against for reasons of age, check your facts first, before taking any action. You could find a brick wall waiting for you, if you get it wrong, and waste a lot of time, money and effort.

Targeting jobs for mature age job seekers

So the mature age job seeker needs to target jobs by researching them pretty thoroughly before applying.

This will save time, and definitely save frustration:

  • Don't go for anything and everything. Check the jobs out.
  • Check out with the employer regarding any age related issues on the job.
  • Ask your contacts about jobs where your age is an asset, not a hindrance.
  • You may find your age a positive, in areas where the clientele is also older, because the employers need people who can speak the language. Jobs like retirement counselor, for example, are often looking for that added image of advisors who understand the issues.

At the interview

First of all, you need to orient yourself, and put yourself in the right mood to function effectively at the interview.

If you remember your own early experiences at job interviews, or have sat on interview panels, you'll know that interviewers aren't really sitting there finding reasons not to hire you. It just looks like that.

So ignore the paranoia, and get on with the interview.

The only real difference between your interview and those of others will be a few questions about your return to the workforce.

The age issue may not even be mentioned, but you'll consider it a subtext, however it's phrased.

Ignore your doubts, and don't try to second guess the interviewers.

It achieves nothing. You have to answer the questions effectively anyway, and there's no point in finding problems where there may not be problems.

The questions must be answered clearly, so the interviewers have something to work with when they make their recommendation. That's the only thing you really need to be thinking about, and you should use your time before the interview to put together a good set of responses.

The interviewers need to know:

  • Why you're reentering the workforce.
  • If you have any health issues.
  • If you're capable or incapable doing any particular tasks.
  • How you'll fit into their workplace culture.

As you can see, there's no reason for them to even mention age. Nor should your answer.

Why you're reentering the workforce.

Reentering the workforce is now very common. Economic conditions have hit a lot of people very hard, and the need for an income is understood.

You have some choices here. You can:

  • Stick to that basic economic argument
  • Add the fact that you're also a professional in your field, and you didn't really quite adjust to retirement, and want to get back to work
  • In some cases you can make a credible point that the job is a very good opportunity for someone with your skills
  • Emphasize that you want this particular job, because it meets both your economic needs and career requirements

If you have any health issues

This is extremely important.

If you do have actual health issues, don't be a hero.

The risks are very real. In the workplace, you don't get the luxury of slowing down when you need to slow down.

Note: Health is a legitimate employer issue, not a privacy issue. The employer is within their rights to ask anything reasonably related to work in this area.

The interviewers need to see:

  • Any issues, upfront.
  • Any supporting evidence, like a medical reference supporting your fitness for employment in your claim for the job. (Not strictly necessary legally, but they'll be a lot happier to see it.)
  • If you have any real reservations or there are things you really shouldn't be doing, say so. The worst that can happen is that you don't risk your health.

Don't stress out about this situation. They may be doing you a favor.

If you don't get the job for health reasons, you may be surprised to hear that many employers are so health conscious that they take great care about hiring people with actual health risks. Occupational Health and Safety is a lot more advanced than you may remember, and it's actually pretty good.

The workplace is now a much safer place than it used to be, and people aren't put at risk if anyone can help it.

If you're capable or incapable doing any particular tasks

Obviously this leads on from the general health issues. Employers can tailor duties for staff if there are considerations where the person is otherwise OK for work, but shouldn't be doing certain tasks.

You need to mention or clarify things like:

  • Bad back or other physical conditions
  • Handicaps
  • Physical impairment
  • Visual impairment
  • Speech impairment
  • Any condition where a physical task isn't a reasonable expectation
  • Any intellectual impairment
  • Other handicaps like a current or ongoing medical condition reducing capacity

These aren't big deals. Some are age-related, but the issues would be the same if you were a teenager.

Just be clear about what you can and can't do.

Do not make any unrealistic claims about being able to do work which is potentially dangerous.

Most of the OHS problems in the workplace are created by people doing things they shouldn't be doing.

How you'll fit into their workplace culture

This can be awkward. Younger people can find dealing with older people, particularly experienced older people, embarrassing. You probably bumped into that situation yourself earlier in your career. They don't quite know what to do about it. The Fit questions are always a bit tougher for them than they are for you.

You'll be asked things about team work, workplace relationships, and other relevant things, where you can show how you fit in pretty easily.

Just lead them through it, tactfully:

Yeah, look, I know this business inside out. It's one of the advantages of years on the job. I can appreciate you want a good team, and that's really where I think I fit in here. I can probably translate your software packages for some of your older customers, too…

Good working relationships are so important. I know for a fact that it was really good relationships that helped me in my career, and made things so much easier to learn the work and the really fundamental things about the business.

You see how easy this is. You understand exactly what they're talking about, and you have plenty of material to back yourself up with extra info if needed.

You're just making the point you know how to fit in. That's likely to be a relief for the interviewers. Some people really don't.

A word of caution:

Some places, however, you may not fit in too well, and you need to look out for some serial offenders.

Now, a horror story, by way of example, to show how important the Fit questions are:

If you've seen those ads for Bright young funky sales teams, you won't be surprised to find that the corporate image sometimes gets in the way of hiring people who actually know what they're doing.

Advertising, marketing and sales are true epics of major irritation for older employees, because the workplace is full of people passing through.

These are workplaces which normally have very high turnover of younger staff, and if you wind up working in one, you'll see why. Unless you're an absolute master at the job, you can find yourself being driven up the wall.

Avoid these things like the plague.

They're pressure cookers, and the older employees find themselves trying to follow the logic, or just locate the sanity.

Go for a real job.

There's nothing to stop older people getting jobs for which they're qualified.

Just recognize that the people interviewing you have to do their own jobs, and that means you have prove you can do what's required.

You're back at work.

Treat it like that, and your reflexes can do the rest.