Hiding the “Gray” on Your Résumé (and Beyond)

Dear, Anita,

I’m 61 and graying. I get job interviews because I have a great résumé, I do everything right, I am usually the most qualified with years of experience and training. However, I do not get hired. I believe it is my age. I try to emphasize my energy and work ethic. I make it a point to tell them I go to the gym regularly and I’m a triathlete. I still don’t get the job. What can I do? I’ve even tried coloring my hair!

Hiding_the_Gray_000012255136Dear, Motivated Methuselah,

Over the past three decades, long-term unemployment has been more common among older men and women, spiking after the Great Recession, according to AARP. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people 55 and older were far more likely to be unemployed long-term (44.6% compared to 22.1% of those under age 25). But the news isn’t all bad. A CareerBuilder survey indicates that 57% of private sector employers plan to hire mature workers (age 50+) in 2015, up from 48% two years ago.

Let this old dog see if she can teach you a few new tricks to get you on the road to employment.

You’re a prime candidate to take advantage of the “old boys’ club.” Networking is almost twice as effective as applying to internet job boards, so reach out to old contacts, via social media or tried and true phone calls and face-to-face business mixer events. While I applaud your foray into hair coloring, please be sure your LinkedIn profile picture resembles the current in-person you. (As an aside, I really don’t get the #grannyhair trend where young women intentionally go gray. I fought it for years – and lost!)

Explore jobs outside your given areas of expertise (you may need to have several customized résumés on hand). This may mean a pay cut. If your retirement account can afford it, lower your salary requirements to compete with younger workers. After all, it may be better to have some wages flowing in than none at all. In fact, you may need to postpone your retirement, as this TradePost article direly predicts.

You say you have a great CV, but other mature professionals may not have the best mid-life résumé. The functional résumé may be the best way to age-proof this first impression. In the accompanying cover letter, walk that fine line between touting your vast experience and coming across as a fossil. Be sure to pick up on any software requirements in the ad postings, and stress your up-to-date tech skills to combat this common misperception about older workers.

Interview_Men_PinterestInterview-Women_PinterestTo prepare for interviews, dress in stylish clothing – without trying to look like a hipster. Ladies, lose the banker suit (unless you are applying at a bank) and have a youngish depart­ment store sales­person help you select a modern yet professional outfit for the big day. Check out my Pinterest boards for visual ideas for interview wear for men and women. Follow Anita Clew while you’re there!

During the interview, don’t come across as a know-it-all, especially if you are interviewing with a youthful boss. You want to accurately portray your experience, but still seem like a team player who will work in harmony with people of all ages.

The silver lining is that graybeards are consistently more engaged, have admirable work ethics, and as a demographic waste less time than their younger counterparts. Before long, you’ll find an employer who doesn’t think you’re “overqualified” (frequently a euphemism for too old).

Boomers: How have you age-proofed your presentation when seeking a job?
Hiring Managers: What impresses you about “mature” job applicants?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Functional Format for Résumés
Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age
From Self-Employed to Employed
Still Working at 100? Not Going to Happen
Age Discrimination in the Workplace

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ruby Kelly
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 08:57:05

    I also face that same challenge. I am a very young 61 and let my hair come in grey. I keep a stylish younger cut and enjoy it. I have also been turned down from multiple interviews which I know that I am qualified for and feel that it is age related. I am an optimist and will keep plugging along until the right person interviews me and sees me for more than my biological age and appearance. I keep up to date on using the computer, internet , smart phones and tablets. I just want the over 50 crowd to know that we can prevail if we just keep the faith.


  2. Imran Shujauddin
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 08:56:29

    In reply to your article for the 61 year old man looking for a job, what advice do you have for younger folk like me, I’m 23, appear older and more mature than other young people?


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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