Being a mid-career or advanced-career job candidate means you have plenty of years of experience under your belt, which should be an advantage during the interview process. Unfortunately, studies have shown that ageism is rampant when it comes to hiring.
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For example, a recent study conducted by Generation found that 63% of job seekers ages 45 and older are unemployed for more than a year versus only 36% of job seekers ages 18 to 24. The study also found that hiring managers believe younger candidates are more application-ready, have more relevant experience and are a better fit for company culture.
So, how do you combat any implicit biases while interviewing for a role? Here’s what career experts had to say.
Show Personality and Confidence
If you’ll be interviewing via Zoom or another video platform it can be nerve-wracking. Make sure to set up any software needed and practice using it ahead of time so you can exude confidence when it’s time for the interview.
“The mindset must be ‘this is normal,'” said Mark Anthony Dyson, founder of The Voice of Job Seekers. “You want to smile, be mindful of eye contact and have fun with the conversation. You don’t want to appear uncomfortable using technology.”
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No matter what your age, it’s important to go into the interview well prepared.
“You will doubtless be asked some of the same questions about your strengths, weaknesses, mistakes made (and learned from), and job objectives in any interview,” said Bill Catlette, executive coach and partner at Contented Cow Partners. “Be prepared for them, and know what you’re going to say. Learn as much as you can ahead of time about the position and company you’re applying to.
“Having prepared hard, whether the interview is face-to-face or virtual, show up wearing a smile and a positive expectation.”
Don’t Lead With Your Age
While it’s unfair that there is bias against older candidates, you should keep this knowledge in the back of your mind when answering questions.
“Don’t lead with your seniority if you don’t want your age to be a factor in a hiring decision,” said Margaret Buj, senior talent partner at Mixmax. “Also, once you’re interviewing with someone who’s younger than you, keep the focus on your relevant skills and don’t comment on your age directly. For example, don’t say, ‘Oh, I’m probably aging myself,’ when discussing a system you last worked with in 2006.”
Stick to Recent Achievements
“Don’t focus too much on the past during a job interview,” Buj said. “I remember doing a mock interview with a coaching client and when I asked him to describe his best achievement, he picked something from 15 years ago.
“While it’s OK to touch upon past accomplishments in job interviews, focus more on how your expertise can help the company with its current challenges and how you can contribute now and in the future,” she said.
Demonstrate Your Willingness To Learn
Even if you’re an experienced candidate, you might not have every hard skill an employer is looking for, but you can make up for this by demonstrating that you are willing to learn any new skill or technology that’s required.
“Show that you have a learning mindset and curiosity,” Buj said. “Ask some open-ended questions to try to better understand the organization’s challenges and to identify where you can add the most value.”
You may also provide some examples of your willingness to continually learn and evolve as an employee.
“Position yourself as a life-long learner and discuss recent courses, certifications or workshops you’ve completed to address skill gaps or ongoing professional development,” said Sid Upadhyay, CEO and co-founder of the hiring platform WizeHire. “This signals to potential employers that you have the drive to keep growing professionally.”
Talk About Your Comfort With New Technology
“Some employers may have an implicit bias that mature candidates are not as tech-savvy as younger jobseekers,” Upadhyay said. “Highlight your ability to adapt to new technology by discussing how you leveraged technology in your previous roles and continue to improve your skills with new technology.”
Nip Other Assumptions in the Bud
Two assumptions hiring managers sometimes have about older candidates is that they are overqualified and/or would demand too high of a salary to accept a role. You can nip these assumptions in the bud by addressing them directly during the interview process.
If an interviewer hints that you may be overqualified, “this is a great opportunity for the candidate to thank the interviewer for recognizing the depth of their expertise and then pivot to how that experience could help the organization and add value,” said Michelle V. Katz, director of talent and DEI at DailyPay.
Katz also offered advice for navigating questions about salary expectations: “During the interview, if asked about salary requirements, mature candidates can say that they want to fit into the salary range for the position and then ask what that range is for the role. Candidates can then add that what’s most important is challenge and feeling like they can make value-added contributions.”
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