A popular article on the web site is Too Old to Rock & Roll? People naturally worry that as they get older, employers will discount them or flat-out discriminate against them.

Yah, poor judgment knows no bounds. I have another point of view on age and job interviews. A reader recently  asked:

I have an interview with a large company. I possess all of the qualifications asked for and have used some of your techniques to bypass HR and contact the hiring manager. It worked. I have been out of work for over a year and as I prepare for the interview, my biggest concern will be age. As soon as I walk in they are going to know that I am in my 50’s (mid-50’s, actually). How do I confidently address the age issue? Do I even bring it up? What if I sense that this is the only thing holding them back? I don’t want to draw attention to it, but I also don’t want to lose a potential offer because of it.

You’ve heard it said that “whoever controls the agenda, controls the meeting.” Well, employers notoriously control job interviews. So, change that. Tell ’em what they need to hear. Modify the agenda to one that may jolt the interviewer out of mindless worry about your age — and take control of your job interviews.

Try The New Interview. Quickly shift the discussion to how you’re going to improve the company’s bottom line. (Of course, you should not be pushy or presumptuous.) The interviewer will forget your age. Employers think first about profit. Help the interviewer think about it more.

Decide for yourself the best way to do this, but ask the interviewer — who I hope is the hiring manager, or why are you wasting your time? — (the sooner the better) to outline the problems and challenges they want the person they hire to tackle. “What’s the realistic impact you want to see to your bottom line by filling this position?”

If they tell, then it’s up to you to outline how you will achieve the objective. (This is the hard part. You must be ready. If you’re not, you have no business in the interview.) Show some respect: ask permission to outline your plan. Use the white board or a piece of paper. Engage the manager in the discussion, as though you’re already on board and getting your boss’s input and buy-in for your plan.
That gets their minds off your age like nothing else I know: Profit.

Can you pull that off?

  1. This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes; slightly un-PC but absolutely true wrt older people. I actually use this in one of the “stock” lectures I give on changing industries…

    An elderly farmer decided he wanted some fruit, so he grabbed a bucket and filled it from his fruit trees. He was about to head back to his house when he heard something from around a small hill, down by his fence. He followed the path and, sure enough, a parked car and several young co-eds who had decided his pond was a perfect place for an afternoon skinny dip.

    They see him, and hunker down in the water. “We’re not coming out, you dirty old man! We’re not going to let you get a free show!”

    “Oh you kids, don’t worry. Relax, have a great time. I didn’t even know you were here.” The old man smiled, hoisted the visibly heavy bucket, and added “I’m just here to feed the alligator.”

    Moral: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill

  2. Nick:

    In terms of controlling the interview or meeting, you probably recall one of the debates between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan. He took the age issue and fired back with a preemptive strike.

    When asked about his age at the time, President Reagan gave one of the best replies that turned the question completely in his favor:

    “I won’t hold my opponent’s youth and inexperience against him.”