First, give up the notion that you can hide your age to minimize ageism in your executive job search.
Until recently, career and job search professionals like myself relied on a proven strategy to minimize our clients’ age. We would include only the past 10-15 years of career history in their resumes and other job search materials. We would also exclude dates for education, when they indicated that the candidate was over 50.
These tricks are ineffectual now. People sourcing and assessing job seekers these days will Google their names before considering them. Maybe you weren’t aware, but personal information like age exists online for each of us. And we have little to no control over it.
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 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 in executive job search?
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. Plenty of younger people have reached this professional level, too.
Some employers won’t be interested in you. No matter how stellar your qualifications and credentials, they may only 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. They want 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 younger folks may not. According to staffing industry executive Lauren Griffin, in a LinkedIn Pulse post, hiring seasoned workers has its perks for employers:
Mature workers come with an established work history. Their profiles can be vetted more quickly and efficiently than other potential candidates.
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 in which the older generation excels over younger people.
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.
After years of navigating various workplace landscapes, older employees have most likely developed a knack for diplomacy. And they typically are better at clearly and concisely sharing their thoughts.
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 ageism in executive job search:
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. Then you can position yourself as a “fixer” for certain pressing problems they’re having.
Uncover the pain points beleaguering them that you’ve fixed for other employers in the past. Determine where they’re bleeding, what’s sabotaging their growth and profitability, etc.
Research the needs of each of your target companies. Try to get 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 will win out over age for smart employers.
Then build out your personal brand communications – LinkedIn profile, resume, bio, etc. – to resonate with your target employers. Make sure these things showcase what makes you a good-fit candidate. Make it crystal clear how you can help them and what differentiates you from other candidates.
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 to the employers you’re targeting. This is the way to go, instead of responding to job board postings. They put you in the vast pool of unknown candidates. Employers prefer candidates they feel they know.
Work on getting introductions and referrals from employees at your target companies. And, most especially, 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. They are social media savvy, active on various social networks, and have built a strong online presence. You need to do the same.
- 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.
- Get busy leveraging all that LinkedIn has to offer.
- Expand your online footprint with diverse search results. This boosts your social proof and helps you get found online. And it reinforces your subject matter expertise and thought leadership.
- Keep an eye on the quality and number of search results for your name by self-Googling about once a week.