Ask The Big Game Hunter: Competing Against Younger Workers

Hey, Jeff, how about the topic of 48 year olds trying to compete with 28 and 38 year olds  for a topic?  It is what I have been going through in my job search for the past 2 1/2 years here in xxxx. I have no problem getting interviews and have been told by many people that I interview very well.  But then they always hire someone 10 years and sometimes even 20 years younger.

At the time I write this, I am 61 years old. I compete every second of the day against younger workers in my office (and older ones as well) and in other recruiting firm’s offices.

I always find this a tricky subject because although age bias is rampant in our culture (if you don’t believe me, watch tv advertising critically and see who it is geared toward), it is often not as rampant as people believe it is in the job market.

You see, by the time someone is in their 40’s or 50’s, for example, they have far surpassed the job requirements of positions for which someone in their 20’s will be hired for.

If they are in technology fields, often the technology has changed two or three times since their 20’s and although someone =may be capable of managing someone who develops in the technology, that doesn’t make someone actually able to develop in it on a day to day basis.

So, although you may arrive at an interview ready and willing to do the job, you are competing against someone more able than you to do it . . . and willing to do it for a lot less money, too.

So in these cases, you really cannot compete with someone who can do the job better than you.

However, if you are competing with others with similar or identical skills and coming in second or not being invited back for second interviews, there are some things to be aware of that you can improve upon.

1. Even though you are being told you’re interviewing well, you aren’t.

Feedback that is passed on often isn’t truthful because firms don’t want to be sued and recruiters don’t want to explain themselves further. It is easier to be dishonest than engage a candidate with the hard truth. Push to get more detailed feedback than you were “too light.”

2. You haven’t made them comfortable enough that you will fit into the group

This is the one that people confuse with age bias. Let’s assume that you are my age interviewing with a 32 year old. The group consists of 26 and 27 year olds. In other words, you are the age of a grandparent and they are interviewing you for a job working at the same level as a 27 year old.

#1. You need to demonstrate identical skills competence as a 27 year old competing for the job and

#2. You need to confront the potential for ageism by using your experience as an advantage for you.


There will be some point in the interview where you can go off scripted questions and, if there isn’t an obvious point, at the point where the interview is about to end, before they are about to conclude it, ask them, “Before we conclude, may I make a point or offer some information to you?”


Use your own language to convey this message. you don’t have to use my words.

“Although we and your team might be of different generations, I want to make it clear that I am interested in doing this job, fitting into your group (company, organization, team), doing a great job and helping you look good to management.

“Where some on the team will buck to earn more money than your firm is willing to pay or advance to a job like yours even if it means moving to another firm to get it, I want to join, learn and do a great job here and not use it as a stepping stone to advancement. Frankly, I’ve been there and done that and I like this a whole lot more.”

“I also may have some experience that can be useful to help mentor and coach your group and can be helpful to you at times. But I want to assure you that I won’t second guess decisions you make with the team. I’m here to support you with doing (whatever the job is).”

“So, if you decide that I am someone who can do this job well, and certainly, this seems like a great job to me, I just ask you to rest assured tat I will be excited to join you.”

3. You convey “the know-it-all syndrome”

Sometimes, people with significant experience have a way of carrying themselves as being so confident or self assured that it crosses the line into arrogance. They tell interviewers that they have done this job before and it would be a snap! A breeze! Easy!

You haven’t done the job before for them in this organization and for these folks. You’ve heard of “The Easy Button?” Try “The Humble Button.”

Again, age discrimination is common but often people over use this as an excuse for why they are rejected from a job. And where it may exist, there are ways to position yourself as a humble servant that will make them realize what a treasure you would be if they hired you.

© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC  2012