Several weeks ago, I posted a blog article in which I argued that “age discrimination” is usually a less accurate description than “experience discrimination” in terms of why many older workers seem to have increased difficulty landing jobs today.  This article (available here in case you missed it) generated an above-average amount of feedback compared to my usual postings, likely due to the sensitivity, confusion, and anxiety so many people have around this issue today and the impact it seems to have in the modern hiring process.

Specifically, though, I wanted to pass along the comments (anonymized) of one client who read this article and then had the courage to admit he’d walked right into the “trap” of age discrimination by reinforcing the stereotypes I pointed out in my original post.  Here’s what this individual had to say:

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Matt, in your most recent blog you wrote the following comments from an older worker who had hired their own replacement:

“. . . the company chose to extend the offer to the younger worker, instead.  Why?  Because the younger worker showed far more intellectual curiosity about the job, asked better questions, seemed to care about our needs more, and came across as much more interested and happy at the thought of doing this work for us.  The older candidate, on the other hand, seemed bored throughout the interview process and gave off the impression that she thought she already knew everything about our needs, was entitled to the job, and was hoping to just coast for a few more years into retirement.“

Unfortunately, Matt, after reading your article, I now look back and see myself traveling through the hiring process recently with a company here in town and realizing that I committed almost every blunder shared above, with the added mistake of not understanding the role of the corporate recruiter.  While losing out on this particular job offer may turn out to be a good thing, in the long run, I still wanted it at the time, and not only did I have to overcome the trauma of being laid off, but then I had to get over losing a job for which I was not only eminently qualified, but in the long run would have been the better choice.   At my age, finding work out there is a whole different ballgame, and I’m not ready to play.  Fortunately, I’m slowly and steadily establishing myself in my own consulting business, so the point might turn out to be moot, but I still should have known better.  I should have acted excited about the opportunity, instead of entitled.”

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Again, I salute this client for having the guts to admit he waltzed into the interview with the dangerous presumption his experience would speak for itself — and that he wouldn’t need to sell himself assertively, like any other candidate, or prove that he still had the energy, enthusiasm, and passion to get fired up about the company’s problems and how he could solve them.  Again, acting entitled to any job today is almost sure-fire grounds for elimination as a candidate.  Companies are looking for people who are still fully plugged into the business world, willing to learn new things, and who are ready to roll up their sleeves and “go to war with them” to get the job done — even if the position requires more hours and less pay, in many cases, than what might have been the norm in a more “bountiful” economy.

So if you’re a job hunter with 20 or more years of experience, keep these realities firmly in mind as you head out there on the interview circuit.  They’re sneaky and many people, including my client above, don’t always immediately realize how their experience might be being perceived by the hiring manager on the other side of the desk!

P.S.  On a related note, I had another alumni of my firm attribute part of his recent success to the fact that I drilled him in one mock interview for “not listening” to the questions being asked.  He was simply there talking about himself, and all the great things he’d done in his past, without placing his full attention on the most important thing — the present and future needs of his “customer” sitting across the desk.  This is again a fairly predictable tendency among older workers, moreso than younger ones, simply because older candidates have a lot more experience to draw from and talk about.  So keep your eyes on this issue, as well, if you’re a more seasoned candidate…