Savvy hiring managers know that some of the most incredible hires are people “taking on a new challenge,” having officially retired from one or two jobs. The richness of their experience in the workforce confers earned strengths like:
- Experience under Pressure – many years of identifying, communicating, diffusing and handling tough issues, tasks and problems.
- Interpersonal Communications – the power of persuasion without hiding behind technology.
- Work Ethic – the proven ability to show up, work through it and grow with the company!
And yet, there’s an elephant in the room.
No one wants to discuss age discrimination for fear of being sued. HR managers sometimes run from the room if asked. But the reality is that there are covert concerns that can lead an employer to discount an otherwise-qualified “retired” candidate.
So, let’s talk about it. Being able to head off these unspoken concerns could give experienced candidates the leg-up they deserve.
What might they be thinking?
(And remember, this isn’t personal, though it may feel that way. If you are easily offended, stop reading now.)
- Are you a Digital Dinosaur?
Brush up your digital skills. Before applying for a position, review all of the company’s social channels for level of engagement and to assess the company culture. Clearly communicate on your resume and in practice that you are up to date with digital trends. If your past career did not require this, simply jump on YouTube or a webinar to see what all the buzz is about. Be sure to include more social channels than only Facebook, because reducing the wide world of social media to “Sure, I’m on FB” is like having an AOL email address. (Don’t do it!) Become familiar with at least the basic functions and your industry’s usage of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Reddit.
- Do you have enough drive?
Just the word “retired” brings to mind someone who is slowing down to coast into their sunset years. Even if your chronological age is below 65, steer clear of “retired.” Instead, use language to illustrate the energy, drive and stamina you have in other ways. Describe the reason you left your prior role as “having completed my goals” and “ready for a new challenge,” “now eager to master the next opportunity.” Words are powerful, so be sure the potential employer knows your energy level and why you want to keep working.
- Will you be “hungry,” open and willing to do what others won’t do?
Curiosity ranks high on the list of traits managers look for in all new hires. “Look for someone who is open and excited to learn and grow, as opposed to someone who comes in thinking they already know everything.” –Inc. Magazine
Employers also look for great candidates who buy into the culture, vision and mission of the company. This often means being willing to jump in on new projects and seizing the opportunity to shine. “Retirees” could be perceived as complacent, having nothing to prove because they’ve “been there, done that” and only show up to collect a paycheck. Communicate your eagerness to keep on learning and developing your skills and experience.
- Are you responsive to communication?
Regardless of the position you are applying for, when job seeking, stay on your toes and respond quickly. Many friends and colleagues have shared their frustration with me over missing a contact from a potential employer. When asked about it, they say, “Well, I don’t text,” or “I only check email every few days.”
Healthy boundaries with work are one thing, but during a hire phase, managers are in the communication driver’s seat and this is the 24/7 world of digital. Your accessibility now will be interpreted as the responsiveness they can expect from you later. Be sure to be available via phone, text, email, LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, Instagram and any other method you see the company using to communicate.
- Do you remind them of their mom or dad?
Yikes. Even those who adore their parents (me included) don’t necessarily want to hire someone who will admonish them, judge them or watch over them in an authoritative manner. Be authentic and humble: years of experience and accomplishments can be balanced by a fresh eagerness to take on a new role and learn. You want to make an impression more like a cool, articulate, fun, accomplished, kick-butt Aunt or Uncle.
If you are having difficulty getting interviews because you are “overqualified”
- Reach out to your colleagues and ask them for personal introductions.
- Contact a recruiter who can help market you.
- Don’t be afraid to write a personal note to the hiring manager articulating why you would like an opportunity to interview. Let your strengths and curiosity shine!
Wishing you the best
Light Your Fire