How to Conquer Ageism in Executive Job Search

by Meg Guiseppi on August 8, 2016

The 3-Step Strategy to Overcome Age Bias


First, give up the notion that you can hide your age.

Until recently, career professionals relied on a strategy to minimize age in our clients’ documents and online profiles – including only the past 10-15 years of career history and not including dates for education.

These tricks are ineffectual now that personal information exists about each of us online (whether or not we’ve put it there), and people sourcing and assessing job seekers are Googling potential candidates’ names before reaching out to them.

Numerous aggregator sites pull information about us from various sources. Anyone can easily find your age within the first several search pages, unless you have a very strong, far-reaching online presence. Even then, with a little patience, your age can still be found.

Google your name and see how easily you find your own age.

What can you do about ageism?

You need to accept that it does exist and can limit your possibilities. If you’re a 50+ c-suite or senior-level executive, you may be competing against 30+ year olds who have reached this professional level, too.

Some employers won’t be interested in you – no matter how stellar your qualifications and credentials – because they want someone younger. Obviously, this kind of company is just not a good fit for you.

But don’t despair. There are plenty of employers out there that respect and seek seasoned candidates with the wisdom that only comes from years of overcoming the tough business challenges.

These employers recognize that mature candidates bring many things to the table that their younger competitors may not. According to staffing industry executive Lauren Griffin, in a LinkedIn Pulse post, hiring seasoned workers has its perks for employers:

Known quantity: Mature workers come with an established work history. Their profiles can be vetted more quickly and efficiently than other potential candidates.

Writing Skills: Basic skills like spelling and grammar can be lost on the younger set. A study conducted by SHRM and AARP showed that 51% of HR professionals thought spelling and grammar were two of the biggest skills that are a strength of the older generation and is something younger people were lacking.

Connections: Older employees are able to bring a level of credibility and comfort to clients, both existing and new. The longer you have been in the game, the more intelligently you can speak about the rules.

Communication: After years of navigating various workplace landscapes, older employees have most likely developed a knack for diplomacy as well as clearly and concisely sharing their thoughts.

Cost Savings: This demographic tends to be more loyal to a company than younger workers. Long-term retention can save the company money, time and help increase efficiency.

Here’s your 3-step strategy for overcoming age bias:

1. Do the personal branding work to define your unique value proposition.

Start by targeting your job search, and defining the true value you offer those particular target employers, so that you can position yourself as someone who will step in and take care of particular problems facing them right now.

Uncover the pain points beleaguering them that you’ve fixed for other employers in the past – where they’re bleeding, what’s sabotaging their growth and profitability, etc. – through research and informational interviews with employees and other insiders. Think about all the strong contributions you’ve made to your companies that your less experienced competitors can’t claim.

Remember that the value you offer – built around your years of experience solving critical pressing problems – will win out over age for most employers.

Then build out your personal brand communications – LinkedIn profile, resume, bio, etc. – to resonate with your target employers, reflecting what makes you a good-fit candidate. Make it crystal clear how you can help them and what differentiates you from other candidates.

How to Build Personal Brand Content for Executive Job Search

And make sure your executive resume isn’t still partying like it’s 1999.

2. Circumvent the gatekeepers and network into the goldmine of hidden jobs.

Networking gets your foot in the door and helps you become at least a somewhat known entity, instead of responding to job board postings (which are designed to rule people out) and becoming part of the vast unknown pool of candidates.

How Do I Find a Job in the “Hidden” Job Market?

Work on getting introductions and referrals from employees at your target companies, and avoid having your resume thrown into the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) black hole for as long as possible.

3. Dispel the concern that you’re out of date with the digital age.

As much as possible, keep pace with your younger competitors who are social media savvy, active on various social networks, and have built a strong online presence.

Align your LinkedIn profile with your resume focus, optimize and fully populate all applicable LinkedIn sections to boost your personal SEO with plenty of relevant keywords, and get busy leveraging all that LinkedIn has to offer.

Essential Checklist to Optimize LinkedIn For Executive Job Search

Expand your online footprint with diverse search results for social proof, to help you get found online, and to reinforce your subject matter expertise and thought leadership.

Social Proof: Where Online Presence Meets Personal Branding

And keep an eye on the quality and number of search results for your name by self-Googling about once a week.

More About Today’s Executive Job Search

Are You Executive Job Search-Ready?

Is Your Online Presence Strong Enough to Compete?

How to Balance Personal Branding With Personal SEO

The New 10-Step Executive Personal Branding Worksheet

How to Network Your Way Into a Great-Fit Executive Job

Why You Need to Self-Google Once a Week

Use Job Boards for Research … Not to Find Jobs

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