In the July 2, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks whether employers hire 64 year olds:

I really enjoyed reading Too Old to Rock & Roll? My husband has great knowledge and is good at what he does. He is 64, confident and looks great.

He just interviewed, they liked him, and asked him to fill out an application. The first line asked for his date of birth. Employers can’t discriminate, but can think he’s too old and give a bogus reason for not hiring. Do you know of applicants who were hired at 64, or do you personally think that he is too old to seek employment?

Nick’s Reply

We recently heard from a 58-year-old who landed a new job. But your husband is in his sixties. I can offer you two things: Evidence that people in their sixties can get jobs. And methods to do it.

Consider this series of e-mails I received over an eight year period from a long-time subscriber, Stephanie Hunter.

over-60June 29, 2004 I have faced the job search at an advanced age and successfully defeated the age anxiety. I am a 63-year old woman, nothing special, with an M. A. in English and twenty years of progressive experience in public relations. I was suddenly outsourced from a job I loved and intended to retire from. After nine months of researching companies, training myself in the Ask The Headhunter methods, and working hard to do the job in the interview, I have — again, at age 63 — been hired into a Fortune 500 company.

I say I am “nothing special” because your readers should know anyone can do it. Often when I hear some phenomenal success story I look for the silver spoon or the uncle who was in on the ground floor, but I did this myself. With a little encouragement and a lot of help from your advice. Glad I discovered you. I will continue to read your e-mail newsletter and pass along your tips to my job-searching friends. There are plenty of them out there. Thanks.

March 14, 2006 Good morning Mr. Corcodilos: Just to let you know I found myself in your newsletter this morning (only now I am two years older!). I’ve received excellent reviews, one merit raise and — most important to me — serious job satisfaction. Thanks again for the timely and timeless advice; I read the newsletter every week and often forward sections of it.

September 11, 2007 Re: your piece today about age. Three years ago I wrote to tell you your work had inspired me to keep going and do it right. At age 66 I am still on the job, enjoying it and regularly taking on new responsibilities. Keep up the good work; no one in the business does it as well as you!

January 15, 2013 All is very well. I remain in the job we discussed; I have served for eight+ years, and my most recent review was “O” for outstanding plus a 4% raise. It’s too good to make up, and I thank my luck almost daily. Quick arithmetic will give you my current age, but there is one person on a staff of 200 who is, um, older than I!

Although I am not in the job market myself, I still pass along your new information and techniques to folks who are.

Stephanie Hunter is unusual only because she got in the door and turned her meeting into The New Interview.

I don’t think anyone is too old for employment if they can contribute to the bottom line. And I know companies that hire older workers for what they can do. Needless to say, I also know companies that discriminate and break the law. But I don’t think we can live our lives worrying what someone else’s motives are — being fearful leads to failure. Our challenge is always to inspire motives in others that enable us to achieve our own goals. That’s Fearless Job Hunting.

Your husband’s job is to inspire the belief that he will contribute to a company’s bottom line more than that he will pose a risk. Or he can collect evidence to sue for discrimination, or he can get depressed and give up and complain. He might win a suit in time, but there is no quarter in the latter.

Or, he could try this to get in the door, and to motivate an employer:

Excerpted from:
Fearless Job Hunting Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition)

FJH-3Don’t stop at the resume.
When the resume you send to a company is added to a big stack, your odds of success drop precipitously due to competition. Managers act first on information they receive directly from trusted sources, like co-workers, friends and experts they pay for help… Your resume isn’t sufficient.

Scope the community.
Every community has a structure and rules of navigation. Figure this out by circulating. Go to a party. Go to a professional conference or training program. Attend cultural and social events that require milling around with other people… The glue that holds industries together includes lawyers, accountants, bankers, real estate brokers, printers, caterers and janitors. Use these contacts to identify members of the community you want to join, and start hanging out with them.

Meet the players and participate.
Use the social geography we just discussed to figure out the lay of the land in your industry. Which companies do business with which others? What people circulate between related companies as employees, as vendors and customers, and as consultants? Then go to professional events armed with this information, which will make you a better participant.

Ask for help.
Once you have established yourself as a member of a relevant community, gently ask for help. Gently. Never ask for a job or a job lead. Ask for introductions to people who can help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge about a company’s (or industry’s) business.

Have something useful to say.
Produce a brief business plan describing the work you will do to make a company more profitable. Now, you could put that plan into a resume and send it along. Or, you could discuss it with a person who will talk to his friend the manager about you… It’s the people, Stupid… To get in the door, you need those people to introduce you. And the manager needs someone who has a plan to get the job done. Make that person you.

Do you know anyone in their sixties (or even seventies) who has been hired or who is still happily delivering value in their job? What’s your story? Regardless of your age, what methods have you used to get in the door?

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  1. Great story. Even better was Nick’s link to his “The New Interview” page. I read it and said that this advice applies to pitching clients as much as it does interviewing for a job (which pitching a client basically is, with some key variations).

    I am an independent public affairs consultant to non-profits—I hung out my own shingle after getting tired of the conventional job hunt in my late 50’s. The challenge of Nick’s approach is that there are many institutional obstacles to even getting to the point where you can take control of that interview; those obstacles are not really there for consultants developing business relationships, in my experience.

    But the basics are the same. Great advice!

  2. Very interesting topic!
    I am a career coach in Switzerland and have recently witness a similar experience with one of my client, a great professional 62 years old, looking for part-time occupation job. His experience and know-how are priceless on the job market, however, recruiters, with whom I first connected him, did not even bother looking seriously at his file.
    I connected him with the Director of a local SME who was really interested bringing some knowledge and experience into his growing enterprise and a couple of week later my client was on board. He is now bringing great value into this company and enjoy his new professional responsibilities.
    I believe that for 60+, just as for anybody else, the most important is to find how where you can add value, and to keep on developing your network at all stage of your career.
    Thanks a lot Nick for all your great articles!

  3. I hate being a “me too” but…
    I was on a DoD contract until last September when all contractors at the site were cut due to budget cutbacks. But with six weeks “fair warning” I started the job hunt using your advice and landed another contract job starting October 1. Four days later I turned 64.

    This job’s in another location, but it’s supporting the VA and, as a veteran myself, I love this job and I’m making a REAL difference. During the job interview, the hiring manager did ask me when I thought I’d be retiring (his not-so-subtle attempt to determine my age). I told him I planned on working until they planted me.

    My qualifications? High school grad, 26 years military service, no degrees (need 4 courses to get AA and BA), a bunch of technical certifications, and a lifetime of leadership and management skills.

    I’ve received Nick’s e-mails since 1999 and used his advice time and again over the years since. Can’t speak highly enough of his methods. The only thing stopping you from landing your dream job….is you.

    You’re only as old as you think. And I think I migh hit puberty in the next year or so.

  4. I got hired full time with good pay and benefits at age 64 in summer 2012 working for an engineering services contractor in aerospace. The path in was a six month contract to hire arrangement with no strings. This gave the company a chance to see me in action.

    Previously, I had worked as an independent consultant for three years but in an energy-related industry.

    NB: The firm made the offer to full time employment at the six month mark.

    Here are few take-aways:

    What made me attractive to the hiring manager was my record of accomplishments with a string of diverse clients. I was able to “sell” my ability to deal with new and/or changing circumstances as a key reason to make the hire decision. I was not perceived as a “stuck in his ways” old guy.

    The employer was also looking for someone who was in their “second act” and could function as a mentor for mid-career managers getting ready for the next jump – AND – without being a competitive factor in the mix.

    Finally, the employer wanted someone who could bring to the table a wealth of “lessons learned” that would help the firm navigate a challenging environment involving a project that was sailing north in terms of increasing sales with no apparent let up on the accelerator.

    Being able to say “been there, done that,” but offering alternatives, not prescriptive solutions, positions my role as a valued adviser.

    My experience is that smart employers can and will seek out and hire older workers in their 60, but the worker must recognize what the employer wants and be prepared for a different role than the one they had in their 40s.

  5. Wow – 4 killer commentaries so far, and 3 of those success stories with enough detail to help others understand how it’s done. Thanks!

    I think we all know that some employers can’t get out of their own way when it comes to older workers, and it helps a lot when the employer is receptive to a well-articulated value proposition from the candidate. Then it’s clearly a win-win.

    This has already turned into a little seminar about getting hired when you’re over 60. Let’s hear more!

  6. I’ll drop back to the young age of 56. Lost my job from a hi-tech company in NC, Via outplacement picked up a short term consulting job with a small company while continuing to job hunt. networked to another hi tech company in TX, starting at 56;

    7 years later to the street again at 63. Very bad time for IT industry. Went through unemployment,

    took a part time job at The Home Depot where I became a duly ordained cashier at 64 years

    Came up with a B Plan & retooled myself into a recruiter, networked into a recruiting company as an IT age 65. Dues to pay, 100% commission on a draw, but with excellent benefits. It’s sales, #’s not pleasing to Mgmt, cut loose

    Networked into a Fortune 500 recruiting company at age 67. Oh what fun. Star on year, bum the next. cut loose again

    Networked into my current company at 69. Been here 5 years. Most notably, the President was probably 30 years old, and did not subscribe to the concept of “over qualified”

    In fact ever since 1979 I’ve worked for younger people. So I was in familiar territory except as I got older then got younger.

    As to age. on my end I just ignored it. It just adds one more element to your search, finding a hiring manager who values experience, and isn’t insecure about his/her skill base vs yours.

  7. @don–‘As to age. on my end I just ignored it.’ Great advice. We can’t know or do much about the prejudices of those we encounter in job search, so the best approach is to just forget about. Nick has a piece titled ‘Is it Age Discrimination or Age Anxiety?’ about how the job seeker’s on fixation on age as a problem creates other problems where there weren’t any to begin with. As Satchel Paige said ‘Age is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter’.

  8. @Don & Chris: The older I get, the more I find myself reminding well-intentioned friends what we all know but pretend to forget: We all keep getting older. No one gets younger. Including the interviewer, the boss, and the 25-year-old manager.

    So what’s the point of dwelling on age at all? It’s the great equalizer. It’s the common factor in virtually every human equation – so factor it out and move on! Focus on the factors that can make a difference. That’s where the value lies.

    I love today’s newsletter and the people who have commented about it on the blog. 63, 64, 71. I hope I can find someone in their 80s to add to this series. The harder you think about this topic, like the proverbial Zen mountain it disappears!

  9. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I will nine times out of ten hire a 70 plus individual, over a 25 year old any day of the week. I base this statement primarily on the fact that the 70 year old should have extensive experience and more likely than his/her younger peer knows what complete dedication to a job means.

    Also, the 70 year plus individual I highly doubt is going to be on a job with their mind addicted to gossip and social media, and/or as I have seen too many younger employees just want to sit on an iPhone all day to check social media instead of doing to a top notch job at the task at hand.

    This bit about over a certain age is a limiting issue and/or any age barriers to me are all manipulation in my view by those looking for cheap labour – but I feel cheap labor brings with it the well-known fact that we get what we pay for always and in all ways.

  10. I’m a 63 yr old woman and took early retirement two years ago. I have been recently approached by a previous manager and asked if i would join her in working for her brother’s family business working 2/3 days to suit myself. Got to say I’m very flattered and looking forward to starting this week.

    • @Marian: Good for you! Thanks for posting your story.