We have had several clients who have expressed concerns about their age being a reason they might not get hired. It's a valid concern. People decide not to hire folks for all sorts of reasons, and age can be one of them (even though it's illegal). Sometimes it's because they think you're "overqualified" for a lower level position for which they are hiring and assume you won't stay in the role long enough to be worth it. They might also be under the impression that, given your experience, you're looking for a salary higher than their budget. Other times, there is a concern about whether you will fit in with their team. Very rarely, it's straight out because they hate older people and don't want to hire you because of your age. Now, I'm not defending any of these rationales, I'm simply saying this is often what's going on in their minds.
Knowing this, I'm going to give you a way to flip the script and get the interviewer on your side.
Before you get into answering questions and are introducing yourself, try saying, "The question I want to answer for you today is: How will my experience improve your team?"
This simple statement takes the focus away from age and puts it on experience and improvement. That's powerful for several reasons.
1. You are Saying What the Other Person is Thinking
Ultimately, the manager hiring for a position is seeking someone who will make them and their team look good - preferably sooner rather than later. This is something only an experienced person can provide.
They want someone who can hit the ground running and can make an immediate impact. Waiting until a new person, who has little or no experience, to become fully trained and able to do their job at their highest level takes a lot of time and energy. Depending on their situation, they may not have the luxuries of time or energy. What often happens in this scenario, is they throw the poor new guy into the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim or sink. If they sink, then it's on to hiring someone else over and over again, until finally they hire a swimmer.
You, however, can take all that pain and frustration away. You're a guaranteed swimmer because you've been swimming and winning races your whole career. Additionally, you might be the person who can help others on the team perform at a higher level by being a mentor. As they say, a team is only as strong as its weakest link. You have the ability to strengthen that weakest link. I'm sure the manager would appreciate that.
2. It Allows You to Pace and Lead the Interviewer
You'll know the line works when you see the manager nod with you. Suddenly, things change from, "Oh, I can't hire him/her because he's overqualified," to "Maybe this person is just who I need." You've just managed to make the interviewer feel like the two of you are on the same page.
You'll need to give them a little more background about what you've done, the skills you've acquired, and the knowledge you've attained that's going to be a benefit to them (so, make sure you do your research to figure out what they really need). But once you've done this, you have them listening to you with open and unfiltered ears. Once this is accomplished, you can lead them towards the logical conclusion that they ought to hire you or, at the very least, make you one of their top candidates under consideration.
3. It Gets the Interviewer Thinking Past the Sale
The phrase is also powerful because it gets them think past the interview and even past the hire. It gets them visualizing you sitting in that empty chair behind that empty desk, improving the team. They can start to see you working with or mentoring others. They imagine you coming to their desk and recommending some great, new ideas. In other words, they have already mentally hired you.
What's amazing about this is that if you start the interview off right, even if you give a poor answer to a question, the interviewer will rationalize it so that it sounds better in their mind. Why? Because they're sold on you already.
4. You Become What You Say
Not only does the statement change how the other person responds to you, it also has an effect on your mindset and how you behave. You'll be more confident because you just labeled yourself an expert who is going to be an effective person on their team. You'll find that you will speak more clearly, sit taller, and be more comfortable. I know, it sounds bizarre. However, it's been documented in research that words can truly be that powerful.
You are not only persuading the other person, you're also persuading yourself.
5. It Creates a Good First Impression
They say first impressions only take about 7 seconds to establish, but takes way longer to overcome if it's a bad one. By stating at the top of the interview that you're going to show them how you can make their team better, you're doing what other people neglect. There are way too many candidates out there who make things all about them. They are more interested in what the company can do for them instead of what they can do for the company. That's just a bad way to go about interviewing and leaves a terrible impression. WIIFM is not a radio station hiring managers want to listen to.
By contrast, those seven words that I wrote in bold, starts the conversation on the right foot. Instead of talking about you, your talking about them. This will help you create a halo effect, where the impression made in your opening statement will positively bias how they hear and process the rest of the interview.
6. It Puts Your Message on the High Ground
Another advantage to starting the interview this way is that you've just brought the whole conversation up to a higher level of how your experience is going to be their asset. Now, all the details you provide in subsequent answers can be directly tied to what you said initially. This is what they call in marketing, a branded message. The interview will feel all tied together and the manager will be more compelled because there's a clear message. In turn, the manager will find they have all the reasons and justifications needed to extend a reasonable offer to you.
I'm going to end this with a positive story.
At the end of last year we had a client who had a long career in sales. He was getting near to retirement age, but wanted one more challenge before he hung up his spurs. He had an interview with a company who was trying to land a big client. He had been in the industry they were trying to break into and had a lot of great connections that would help the company he was interviewing with have a good chance of landing the sale. Now, keep in mind, this was an industry predominated by men and women about half his age.
Before his interview, he came to us and asked if we could help him put a presentation together that would show the hiring team how his experience and connections would help them. We assisted him in laying out his 30 - 60 - 90 day plan along with 6-month and 12-month projections. What did this do for him? Essentially, he was answering the question "How will my experience improve your team?" He flipped the script.
We got an email from him a couple weeks after his interview letting us know that he just received the Christmas present of a fantastic job offer.
You can do it too. Don't walk into an interview already convinced you won't get the job because of your age. Walk into the interview knowing that your age, experience, and wisdom are your biggest selling points. Re-frame them as an asset.
About RockIt Careers
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!