While some experts believe age discrimination may have caused older employees to be laid off at higher rates during the COVID-19 crisis than their younger counterparts, many agree that ageism will make it more difficult for older workers to find new jobs.
"Business has a disproportionate number of high-end performers out of a job because of the pandemic," Joe Mullings, CEO and founder of The Mullings Group and Chief Visionary Officer of MRI, said. "The over-50-year-old category of managers and professionals will likely be hit the hardest. They will have a tougher time re-engaging with their markets due to ageism and their higher salaries."
There are changes older folks can make — to your job search, mindset and job application — to get on the right side of the hiring curve when the economy bounces back, according to Mullings. These five pieces of career advice, from experts, can help you do just that.
1. Recognize the red flags of ageist organizations.
Sean Nguyen, Director at Internet Advisor, says companies that are "overly boastful about their 'young,' 'fun' company culture instead of experience or that use too many buzzwords" may not be worth your time.
"If I had to bet, they won’t last long, either, so you’ll have to start from square one," Nguyen added.
Phone screen questions can also serve as a red flag a company isn't worth sinking more time into.
"If you encounter interview questions like 'when do you expect to retire?' or 'how long have you been working?,' these are likely signs of a company that discriminates based on age," Jack Wang, CEO of Amazing Beauty Hair, said.
2. Demonstrate your value as a coach or mentor.
While companies may be hiring many younger employees to man the bases, Wang points out that for every so-many inexperienced hires, they need a more experienced candidate to lead the pack.
"Use your seniority to your advantage. Angle it in a way that you’re showing how much of an effective mentor you will be," he said.
If you're an individual contributor, demonstrate times you have led or coached others on your resume and in your cover letter. If you're a manager, explain how you've gone above and beyond to drive your teams to success. Consider including volunteer experience where you've provided interpersonal value, such as volunteering with an employee resource group or a peer networking program.
3. Limit the years of experience on your resume.
One place where many people leave themselves vulnerable to age discrimination: the experience section of their resume.
"Do not include 'last century' jobs on your resume. In fact, employers cannot verify employment you left more than 10 years ago, so consider dropping these jobs," Frank Grossman, a Certified Career Management Coach and Nationally Certified Online Profile Expert, said.
Cindy Makita, a career strategist and founder of Hired Institute, agrees.
"Use a modern resume template, avoid adding a date to your education (it is not needed) and only include 10 to 15 years of relevant work experience on your resume," she said.
4. Highlight the experiences that will set you apart in the COVID era.
Companies are changing during this unprecedented time. Those changes will only continue. And they're going to influence how people hire. Hiring managers are looking for people who can float during times of change and who can add special value to their organization while those changes are happening.
"Focus on how you uniquely can add value, especially at this time," Kathy Oneto, executive coach and founder of The Agency Oneto, said. "Bring a consulting mindset into interviews, demonstrating curiosity and an ability to problem solve amidst uncertainty. Sell your experience, maturity, and ability to navigate rough waters."
This may mean focusing on specific niche experiences you have dealing with organizational change, according to Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES and the career and life coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com.
"Instead of hiding your age, demonstrate how your robust experience is an advantage to the company and position you are applying for," Elliott said. "Are you adaptable? Have you steered multiple companies through M&As? What is it about your years of experience that sets you apart from other candidates?"
You can also highlight how you reacted to past cultural shake ups to prove your value in the post-COVID era, Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com, advises.
"Play up your accomplishments over the decades as they relate to difficult times throughout our history. For example, let's say you were a young manager during 9/11. Share a story of how you were able to lead and the leadership tactics and strategies you used to manage your team in an uncertain time," she said. "Play up moments where you found opportunities in unprecedented circumstances throughout your career. Talk about how you found ways to leverage what was going on to ultimately grow the company."
5. Get excited.
Last but not least, let your passion for your work set you apart — it's something you've had time to cultivate!
"Don’t underestimate the power of enthusiasm and energy for the company and role. Excitement makes a candidate attractive," Oneto said. "Drop any ego by showing how you can be collaborative... In an interview, be sure to build rapport."