Rightly or wrongly, some interviewers will form opinions of candidates based on misunderstandings or preconceptions. Older candidates can sometimes find themselves at the receiving end of such prejudicial assumptions and it can feel like you are battling against a stereotype rather than the actual reality of your situation.
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of age, so you should not be faced with overt discrimination. According to Ministry of Justice figures, there were approximately 3,700 cases of age discrimination brought to employment tribunals for 2011-12, just over 1 percent of the total number.
However you may have to overcome impressions of hiring managers that, as an older candidate you are less dynamic, inflexible in your approach, lacking in IT skills or bitter about having to look for work.
Just to avoid any doubt, this is not to say that these negative characteristics apply to older candidates by default. More so it is to recognise that some hiring managers will assume they are true. Therefore our objective is to remove these as an obstacle at the earliest stage.
As an older person you may already know what stereotypes could be in a hiring manager’s mind and this gives you an opportunity to address them proactively. How do you do this? Firstly, by using action words to describe your skills and experience and secondly, by ensuring your CV includes relevant details that will counter negative impressions.
A surprisingly effective way to influence a reader’s perception of you as a candidate, essentially they are words (usually verbs) that suggest pro-activity – managed, led, inspired, completed, achieved and implemented. By using action words you can start to counter negative stereotypes by forming a picture of you as a dynamic and effective candidate. For example:
- Successfully managed a team of four diverse personalities, motivating them to consistently exceed targets by up to 20% and winning regional performance awards on three occasions.
Make a list of words that run contrary to the negative traits previously mentioned and incorporate these into your CV. This may include: energetic or dynamic (versus tired); flexible, adaptable or innovative (versus inflexible); technologically adept (versus out of touch) and excited about challenges (versus apprehensive).
Evidence in the detail
The second part of the strategy in creating a CV as an older candidate is to include information about your skills and experience that highlights the positive ‘older person’ traits and counters the negative ones. Remember that stereotypes can work in your favour. Hiring managers may have an impression of older candidates that they are wiser, more emotionally mature and less likely to make rash decisions. You can use this in your favour by highlighting areas of your experience that reflect these qualities. This may include details of your:
- Leadership experience and achievements.
- Ability to assess situations and make decisions based on evidence.
- Demonstrating emotional maturity in dealing with difficult situations.
In addition to countering negative preconceptions:
- Adaptable approach to work e.g. helping to implement new approaches or new processes.
- Seeking out opportunities for training.
- Taking on new challenges.