How to Beat Ageism and Get Hired

Ageism — age discrimination — in the job search is a reality that’s hitting both ends of the spectrum. As a job seeker, it’s pretty easy to fall prey to it (especially when you don’t get the job you’re after) if you don’t have the right attitude.

Can you guess which generation I’m describing?

  1. Old school. Stodgy. Unwilling to change.
  2. Lazy. Entitled. Selfish.
  3. Pessimistic. Disillusioned. Skeptical.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are pretty prevalent, and my guess is most of you had no problem identifying A as Baby Boomers, B as Millennials or C as Generation X.

Ageism — age discrimination — in the job search is a reality that’s hitting both ends of the spectrum. As a job seeker, it’s pretty easy to fall prey to it (especially when you don’t get the job you’re after) if you don’t have the right attitude.

A friend of mine — a young-looking 55 year-old — is coming up on the two-year anniversary of being in transition. He has had lots of interviews and been the second choice a couple times, so clearly he’s able to generate interest. However, when you ask him why he can’t seem to land the offer, he’ll tell you it’s because of his age.

Do you believe he’s right? I don’t.

You will experience ageism in your job search, but it’s not the cause of everything going wrong in your job search. Once you accept that it will be an obstacle you can’t control and change your focus to things you can control — your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, interviewing skills — you will no doubt land faster.

Avoid Looking Your Age on Paper

Whether it’s your LinkedIn profile, cover letter or resume, chances are hiring managers or recruiters will first meet you on paper (or online). A Millennial, GenXer or Baby Boomer “star” will either sizzle or fizzle with how they present themselves in writing.

Star Millennials will pounce on the opportunity to showcase their writing ability in their cover letter. It makes an impact because, unfortunately, most people don’t even bother writing one. It’s also a good way to debunk the myth that Millennials are only able to text and cannot write in complete sentences.

A star Millennial’s resume WILL NOT include the following:

  • Lists of tasks: Just because you’re a doer by the nature of a lower-level role, doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impact to your employer. What results did you help achieve?
  • Smugness: No jokes, irony, Millennial buzzwords or exaggerations. Just professional in tone and presentation.
  • Language errors and typos: “Your” and “you’re,” “there” and “their.” You get the point. No mistakes!
  • GPAs: Anyone that’s been out of school more than three years needs to scrap it from their resume.
  • Self-centered summaries: You need to focus on what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.

Gen Xers are in the middle of their careers — and in the middle of the workforce, so one strategy to take in your cover letter is to indicate how you serve as a bridge between Millennials and Baby Boomers. It can appeal to a hiring manager who may be older or younger than you.

When it comes to your resume, Gen Xers should quantify achievements with numbers and results. Many members of this generation have had managerial experience, so it’s great to highlight any organizational results here as well. A star Gen Xer’s resume WILL NOT include:

  • Overdone, meaningless cliché’s: “Results-oriented,” “passionate” and “guru” should be deleted.
  • Basic technical skills: Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are assumed skills and should be left off the resume.
  • References: “References Available Upon Request” should be left off because it’s assumed and having it there, just dates you.

When it comes to a star Baby Boomer’s cover letter, clearly illustrate how you’re willing to embrace new things and how you can help mentor younger employees. Highlight your unique qualifications and recent accomplishments (not from 10+ years ago). You might even tackle difficult issues here — things like resume gaps or why you’re coming back to a corporate environment after running your own business.

A star Baby Boomer’s resume WILL NOT include:

  • Volumes of your life story: Keep it under two pages at the most, focusing on your most recent 10 to 15 years. Anything prior to this can be included in a summary paragraph with dates left out.
  • TMI: Every single job you’ve had does not need to be clearly described and listed. Only relevant ones to the position you’re offering.
  • Descriptions of outdated skills: Outdated technology and skills should be simply documented as part of a job.

Avoid Appearing Your Age in Person

Now that we’ve got you looking good on paper, the next step is to look good in person – the interview. According to a survey of 2000 bosses, 33 percent claimed that they know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone. That means first impressions really count.

LinkedIn for Stealth Job Seekers

Updating your LinkedIn profile without looking like you’re launching a job search is tricky. Colleagues, bosses and other connections often react to a profile update as, “Oh, she must be looking for a new job.” But when you take the right precautionary steps, it becomes much easier to take a proactive approach to your career. Today, we’re going to discuss just how to do this.

How to update your LinkedIn profile without looking like you’re launching a job search is somewhat tricky. Most often colleagues, bosses and other connections react to a profile update as, “Oh, did you see Mary’s new LinkedIn profile? She must be looking for a new job.”

Well, when you take the precautionary steps to limit or suppress announcements to changes, and frame your experience as a dedicated and loyal employee, it becomes much easier to take a proactive approach to your career. Today we’re going to discuss just how to do this.

Settings to be a Stealth Job Seeker on LinkedIn

LinkedIn recently gave their settings area a facelift so things are easier to find. I would suggest taking some time to familiarize yourself with all the settings so you know exactly what is being broadcast and how to get the most out of the platform.

The most important setting before making any changes to your profile is “Sharing Profile Edits.” You want to make sure this is switched to “No.” You can also do this right from your edit profile screen by clicking “No” in the “Notify Your Network?” box (found on the right-hand sidebar).

LinkedIn Sharing Profile EditsLinkedIn Notify Your NetworkNext you want to change “Who Can See Your Connections” to only you. This is so people aren’t notified of when you’re making new connections, especially helpful if you are connecting with a potential employer.

LinkedIn Who Can See Your ConnectionsThe last setting to change is “Profile View Options.” You probably want this to be in “Private Mode” or “Private Profile” characteristics, so when you’re researching potential employers on LinkedIn and viewing profiles, no one knows who you are. Beware of this setting, though, if you have the free version of LinkedIn. Being anonymous will erase your viewer history, and you also won’t be able to see who viewed you.

LinkedIn Profile Viewing OptionsHow to Write a Headline and Summary That Grabs Attention
(But Not Too Much Attention)

When you’re in stealth job seeking mode, you will have two audiences for your LinkedIn profile — your primary and secondary.

What Do Marketing Executives Seek in Ideal Candidates?

Whether you are an active job seeker, or just seeking a promotion at your current employer, the job search process can be frustrating. I’m here to shed a little light on the hiring process from the perspective of hiring managers — CMOs, VPs of marketing, and directors of marketing

Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning
Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning

Whether you are an active job seeker, or just seeking a promotion at your current employer, the marketing job search process can be frustrating. It can often seem a mystery why you don’t get calls for jobs where you think you’re a match. And if you do get calls for interviews, then sometimes it’s a mystery why you don’t get the offer. What are they looking for in ideal candidates?

Well, I’m here to shed a little light on the hiring process from the perspective of hiring managers — CMOs, VPs of marketing and directors of marketing. Recently, I spoke to Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning. At OnCourse Learning, Evans manages a team of 41 that defines their overall go-to-market strategy across multiple on-line campus websites. His own expertise is in brand and product management and he has even developed three patents relating to marketing business intelligence for the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry.

Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Michelle Robin: What types of qualities do you look for in candidates?

Russell Evans: It varies by candidate. We follow a process called “Targeted Selection” which is a program put on by DDI (Development Dimensions International). We train our people how to interview using this method, and the specs for our jobs are based on competencies. Depending on the position, these might be things like strategic thinking, follow through and planning. We look for people that excel in those competencies tied to that specific job.

We have a pretty high standard on the quality of candidate we look for. In addition to the competencies, we also look at intangible qualities like teamwork. We want people who are good communicators, able to work through conflicts, can collaborate across different types of organizations, and then achieve break through results with that collaboration.

Robin: Where do you like to find candidates?

Evans: My best success has been through LinkedIn or referrals. I’ve been able to find top quality employees through people I’ve worked with over the years. Sometimes we use local publications like Crain’s Chicago Business and Careerbuilder to advertise openings.