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Why is it harder to get hired after 40?

oldermanI was browsing the business groups on LinkedIn to see what people were talking about and I tripped over a post about senior executives who are out of work and struggling to get their career back on track because they were being passed over in the hiring process by younger, cheaper candidates.

I’m glad they brought this up because as a 45 year old man, I have some experience in this area.

First of all, let’s break this down and be real here. Many businesses and corporations have an unwritten [or scratch paper written] policy for their human resources department to find the younger, least expensive staff options. I know it seems unfair for us seasoned resume carriers, but hey, it’s life, get over it. People by nature behave this way in all industries and even sometimes in their personal lives.

I never fell for the [Younger = Better] formula. As a director, I don’t use a narrow game-plan when building my teams. I am open to all age groups, so long as they provide the company with some upside.

What is upside?

Merriam’s Dictionary: Upside:  noun;  a part of something that is good or desirable : an advantage or benefit

In regards to employees I hired, ‘upside’ was the deciding factor in bringing them on.


 

Here are some examples of UPSIDE that I want to see if you apply at my company:

  • Are You Teachable?

Nothing worse than hiring a know-it-all. I know you have experience in this field, that’s why I’m interested in hiring you. Yet, if you think you don’t have anything to learn from me or my company, I’m gonna show you the door. Everyone has something to learn, at all stages of their career, you just need to be open to it.

  • No Bad Habits

This is similar to the last upside example I gave but I really want to drive the point home. Many people with a long resume come to a new position like an old dog that can’t learn new tricks. I call them ‘bad career habits’. They may even be willing to change but because they’ve done something one way for so long, they are unable to change. A new industry professional [a young person] has the upside in this area because they don’t have any habits yet. If I interview you, I want to hear you say, “I’m not a slave to ‘bad career habits’. I can be trained to follow any procedures or protocols.”

  • Are You A Team Player?

This isn’t always easy to detect during a job interview because most people are putting on their best behavior, but if you are all about you, I want nothing to do with you. I want to hire an employee or executive who is so company focused, that I catch you taking your own garbage to the dumpster. I want you to be hungry to see the team succeed, not just yourself. I want you to, by nature, be willing to lend a hand to a co-worker, without being told to. Selfless acts of good overall work ethic.

  • Don’t Despise Small Beginnings

You may have read or heard to this quote in The Bible, “Don’t Despise Small Beginnings”. It’s a great quote in today’s work place because companies may see you in another role that you didn’t apply for. And as long as there is an opportunity to grow with the company, accepting a different position in this tough market should definitely be considered. Another common thing today is the merging of job descriptions. Let me explain. You may have worked at one company in the social media/marketing department and another company as VP of Sales. A willingness to play a role in both areas will get you hired in a minute at my company. People that can wear many hats bring great value to a business.

  • A Good Personality

This sounds like it should be a given, but you’d be surprised how many people come to a job interview with the personality of a pet rock. You need to smile, have a positive outlook on things and display a sense of hungriness without seeming like it’s forced. You need to be excited and passionate to tell me about your credits but you also need to shut up when I’m talking. I like when you’re confident, even borderline a little cocky, but I also have information that I need to give you and it’s hard to do that if you keep talking over me.

  • You’re Hungry

I touched on this in the last paragraph, but this is big. I can’t tell you how many people I interview who show up looking like they’re forced to be there. Dude?! Do you know how hard it is to find a decent paying gig right now? When you sit across from me, I want to see that you’re excited about the chance to be a part of this company. I want you asking me, “when can I start?” That kind of passion gives me a sneak preview of you taking on projects or working with clients. I like energy.


 

When I was a radio producer in charge of major market radio shows, I interviewed for a morning show producer position at a Los Angeles radio station and I feel I made a pretty nice impression on my interview. I was hungry, full of energy and passion. However, I have been involved in many situations over the years where I thought I nailed it, only to get rejected later.

So, just to be sure, at the end of my interview I asked if they would let me prove my skills to them. I told them to give me two or three topics they planned on discussing on tomorrow’s show and then let me have access to their production room for about 30 minutes.

“Oh that’s not necessary,” the Program Director responded. But I insisted.

After gaining access, I quickly wrote and fully produced a few parody commercials and jingles that they could use to accent their planned topics. I did all the voices, added effects and music, and the quality was at such a high level that all of a sudden the “we’ll let ya know” closing comments turned to “how soon can you start”?

What’s my point?

Young or old, go to your job interview with confidence and on a mission to snatch that gig out from everyone else. If you face hesitation based on age, don’t let it shake you. At the end of the day, companies need the position filled by the best candidate. Show them that YOU are their best option, regardless of the fact that you’re over 40.

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Secret: You’re Not the First Salesperson They Met

handshakeI know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but the prospects you contact, have probably met other sales people before. They have probably been pitched, presented and smooshed about similar products and services.

I know, I know, that’s a little heartbreaking because you thought the canned sales process that you learned from a company handbook was gonna be the exact formula you needed to see your picture on the wallboard behind the reception desk at ABC Contractors.

Sorry to burst your bubble but I’m here to encourage you to think outside the box. Take your game to a higher level by incorporating your personality and some creativity in the mix. Don’t fight your way tooth and nail to a pitch appointment and then blow it by presenting the prospect with the same old sales pitch that they’ve seen over and over again. Shock, awe, and wow them.

When I was 23 years old, I decided I was going to start an advertising agency. I didn’t know anything about the advertising business but as a performer, voice over artist and singer, I knew how to make commercials and jingles.

I never consulted anyone about my business decision and there really wasn’t much of an internet back then to look up any tips or blog postings about it, so I flew completely blind.

I was living in Santa Barbara at the time and one day, I hit the streets and started walking into restaurants around town, just to grab a flyer or to-go menu. After I collected the material I was looking for, I went home and produced full blown :30 and :60 second radio commercials featuring these businesses. I had a different style with my commercials, mostly humorous and some very in-your-face.

I then contacted all the local radio stations and asked for their rate sheets, explaining that I was a new agency in town and I would be bringing them business. Sales managers were all very cooperative and happy to help.

As soon as I marked up the spot rates and printed out some advertising contracts, I took a boom-box and all the cassettes I made [back then we had these odd shaped things called ‘tapes’–Google it], and I re-visited all of the businesses that I had made the commercials for. I dressed nice, but not in a suit. I asked for the owner or manager, shook their hand and hit “play” on the machine.

I had a 100% selling success rate. There was not one business that didn’t move forward in an advertising campaign with my agency.

The radio stations loved me. I was bringing them so much business that one company finally asked me to host my own show on their station. That later led to me having a career in radio so I let my business fade, but had I stayed with it, I know it would have grown tremendously.

Why was I so successful?

I came up with something different. Once they heard their name in lights, they couldn’t say no.  People love to be in the spotlight [if they only knew about ‘selfies’ back then].  But it’s deeper than that. Here’s a guy that walks in off the street with something they can grab a hold of. Something tangible. I didn’t walk in wearing a sales-suit with a bunch of graphs on a piece of paper, touting all kinds of padded statistics. I handed them something they could experience for themselves.

The quality of the commercials and the approach was so good, they didn’t even care what radio station I placed them on. They trusted my judgment. Then when the commercials brought results, they kept reordering more blocks of advertising.

One customer actually called me after a few months of advertising and said, “hey, I think we’re gonna have to tone down the commercials a little. This last one you did, some lady complained to me that it really bothered her.”

“Where was she when she complained,” I asked him.

“She was in line ordering food.” He responded.

“Do you still want to change our approach?” I asked.

Whatever industry your in, there’s always a creative game plan you can put together to stand out among your competitors.

When I sold cars, I walked out to greet customers on the lot and began by saying, “Hi my name is Wayne and I hate car salesman”.  No one expected that and it brought their guard down.

When I sold AFLAC insurance, I didn’t just pitch the payouts a customer could get, I showed a breakdown of what one of my family members who fought a long bout of cancer would have been paid if she had AFLAC. I said, “If I was working here sooner, she would have been covered and been paid $30,000+”

You get the idea. Now go do it. Put yourself in your prospects seat. What part of your sales process would annoy or alienate you if you were pitching yourself? Remove it and come up with something fresh…and go make some money dang it! 🙂