If you're job hunting after age 40, ageism could be a problem you need to overcome using strategy.

Once you hit a certain point in life, ageism starts to live rent-free in your mind. This is especially true when you're job hunting over 40. To some, it can be terrifying to the point of paralyzing – stopping your job search dead in its tracks. 

You can't control what baggage and beliefs prospective employers will bring into reviewing your resume and the interview. However, there are plenty of factors you CAN manage strategically to create better outcomes. 

In this article, we'll give you six job-search strategies for when you're job hunting over 40. 

The main worry – too old, too expensive, too demanding

When calls from recruiters and hiring managers don't roll in like a tsunami wave, it's easy to get discouraged. There is a pesky little thought that can creep into your head when you're job hunting over 40 – “Perhaps everyone out there is looking for someone a little – or a lot – younger.” With that comes a couple of questions.  

  • Should the “over 40” crowd hang on to their current jobs for dear life? 

  • If you are job hunting over 40, is it practical to set your sights lower just to get out of unemployment and land a job?   

The tough reality is that age discrimination is real, especially when it comes to the senior job search. It can happen anywhere, despite age-awareness campaigns and threats of lawsuits. Hiring managers are human, and sometimes, that means having stereotypes and past experiences that aren't favorable towards seasoned professionals.

1. Update your professional presence

From the ATS to LinkedIn profiles, older candidates can appear unprepared for the digital scrutiny of today's hiring process. This includes your professional presence online, which includes your uploaded resume and LinkedIn profile. Make sure all of them are up to date.

Resume formats have changed a lot over the last decade. If your resume still opens with an “Objective” section, it's time to rework it. Remember, many companies use applicant tracking systems (or ATS for short) to screen resumes. If your resume isn't optimized for the ATS, it runs the risk of getting rejected before any human gets a chance to read it.

Related: What Is an ATS? How to Write a Resume to Beat the Bots

LinkedIn profile standards change quickly, as well. At the very least, your profile should be optimized and look freshly maintained. Check that your current employer of record is, in fact, still current. Also, make sure your profile includes a recent headshot. Some older professionals worry that a picture will disqualify them and opt to go without (or, worse yet, including one from 15 years ago). However, internal data from LinkedIn has shown that profiles without a picture get fewer views and less interaction – so dress professionally, smile, and look energetic.

2. Upgrade your job-search methods

Employers don't fill vacancies the way they used to. Fewer jobs are advertised in a newspaper; companies opt to publish their job openings online instead, so don't stick with an old-school approach for your job search!

Newspaper advertisement sections don't work anymore, and sending your resume to a company and waiting around for them to respond is likely to be disappointing as well. Yet, the silence doesn't mean there are no jobs out there for mid- and late-career candidates – job announcements just aren't where you last saw them!

Try widening your net. Look at LinkedIn Jobs, online job boards, and industry-specific job boards that are unique to your job search. Thought leaders and bloggers can sometimes share job announcements for employers in their field, as well. Dig around, and you might be surprised by the wealth of options you didn't realize existed. 

Also, network, network, and network. As you get to the part of your life when you're job hunting over 40, you have the unquestionable advantage of knowing people in the industry, so use it!

3. Be prepared for objections

It's important to remember that in the eyes of a hiring manager, every single candidate has at least some red flags. For one professional, it might be a gap on the resume. For someone else, it might be frequent job hopping or an out-of-state mailing address. And yes, age could be a potential concern as well – on both sides of the spectrum.

Hiring managers may have reservations about your qualifications, fluency, and fit with the team – it may not be just about your age. Don't take that as a sign you've failed, and don't get defensive. Instead, try to see the situation from the hiring manager's perspective when you prepare. 

  • If you were in their shoes, what concerns would you have? 

  • What questions would you ask, and what answers would you find encouraging? 

Prepare thoughtful and effective responses to ease the prospective employer's worries.

4. Keep your skills current

The problem with job hunting over 40 is that experienced candidates often aren't as up-to-date on technology as their job-seeking counterparts and, thus, become less attractive to hiring managers.

Technology changes fast, so show your prospective employer that you will hit the ground running. To do that, it's important to know what technology is “table stakes” for the job you are seeking and also to have a sense of what the future holds. 

An informational interview with the company you're interested in, combined with a careful review of the job description, should point you in the right direction for your research.

Even if you aren't looking for a job in technology, it's critical to have a level of comfort with using technology in your job search. Skype, video conferencing, and online scheduling are the new normal for interviews. Match the hiring manager's request for information exchanges: If they are asking for you to email answers to a few specific questions, don't insist on an in-person meeting!

5. Don't undercut yourself

This point is tough to overemphasize. All too often, people who are job hunting over 40 years of age are their own worst enemies. When you are dismissive of your own qualifications, make a joke about your age, or otherwise hint that age is an issue for you, you can hurt your own prospects – even with a neutral or sympathetic interviewer.

So, what should you look out for to avoid this?

  • Be prepared for the possibility that the hiring manager or the HR specialist conducting the initial interview will be younger than you. Don't go into the conversation feeling like you have to defend your right to be there. 

  • On the flip side, don't dismiss the person interviewing you just because they are younger. Stay focused on your contribution promise to the company – the core skills, qualifications, and experience that will make you an asset to the team.

Related: Don't Answer These Off-Limits Interview Questions

6. Make sure you are considering the right employers

Yes, it's possible to work for a company that will value your experience and reward you for being exactly who you are! And, let's be honest, some companies are just better than others at doing that. So, look around and scan through your prospective employers carefully. Read company reviews on Glassdoor (with a grain of salt, of course) and ask others in your network about their experiences.

Speaking of your network, one final note: The people you know can help you find opportunities that haven't been (and may never be) posted publicly. Keep those connections active, both during your job search and while you are employed. Remember that if you make a compelling case, a position or an opening might be created for you specifically.

Is it harder to get a job when you are over 40?

Age discrimination and job hunting over 40, sadly, can be bedfellows, making it more difficult to land a job after age 40. Ageism is unfortunate. It robs our workplaces of valuable experience and remarkable contributors. And, when it comes to the employer side, there's little you can do to control it beyond filing a lawsuit if you believe age discrimination has taken place.

However, you can do a lot to control your side. Brush up your professional presence, present a compelling case by demonstrating your expertise, sharp skills, flexibility, and energy, and be prepared to address possible objections – without getting defensive.

Combating ageism in your senior job search

As an older job candidate, you might feel as though the world is conspiring against you. Yet, the reality is that the job search process is tough for everyone. Right now, a new college grad might be sitting at a happy hour, complaining to his friends that no one will hire him because he has no experience, or there's probably a middle-aged candidate out there who's convinced that they're “too old” to get a good job.

Age is relative, so stay positive. Turn off the negative news. Get a workout, go for a walk, or invest in a resume rewrite to ageism-proof your resume. Stay focused on what you can control, take the next step, and the result will take care of itself.

Not sure if your resume is aging you? Check with a free resume critique from our experts today!

This article was originally written by Natalia Autenrieth. It's been updated by Marsha Hebert.

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