I 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.