Interview Strategies for the Over-50 Job Seeker

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You worked hard and paid your dues, but you’ve been recently “outplaced.” Trouble is, you’re too young for retirement and too old for many employers who are looking for fresh meat. You’re in the precarious 50’s, where, according to the Labor Department, the average duration of unemployment is just shy of a year. You’ve got the experience, the business savvy and certainly the emotional maturity to handle a solid sales position. But getting back in will take a lot of “shoe leather.”


Your stellar resume and salesy cover letter got you that long-awaited phone call. Now comes the hard part—the interview. Some tips to help you get the job:


Axe the Attitude

Don’t walk in with a “been there, done that” attitude. Rattling off your long list of tasks and titles won’t cut it, especially with young interviewers. Joyce Lain Kennedy’s Job Interviews for Dummies advises senior job seekers to avoid being perceived as a tiresome know-it-all by refraining from constantly saying “I know.” Instead, acknowledge an interviewer’s statement with “That’s interesting.” “You make a good point.” “I see what you mean.” Kennedy also suggests interviewees avoid the trap of thinking “uppity child” when being interviewed by a younger hiring manager. Over 50 job seekers need to realign their ideas of authority to one of mutual respect—even when the interviewer is young enough to be their kid.


Ask the Right Questions

You’ve gone through enough interviews in your life to know that when the interviewer asks, "do you have any questions for us," you need to be ready with a reply. But what should you be asking at your age? One question that will score points in your favor would be, "how would I exceed your expectations on a short-term basis, say in the first 30 to 60 days on the job?"  This lets your interviewer know that you want to be effective from day one, says career coach Julie Shifman, founder of Act Three, in an article by AARP. It shows initiative and preparation, attributes today’s employers are looking for. The answer to that question should provide "more in-depth knowledge about the tasks and challenges you'll be facing in your first couple of months," says Shifman. Another question you might ask is, "what qualities do your very best employees have in common?" This should give you a clue as to what the employer values in its top performers and what you need to do to succeed in this organization, says Shifman.


Don’t Wing It

Yes, you’ve done hundreds of interviews. You’re a grey fox who can sell beach chairs in Alaska. Doesn’t mean you’ll ace this interview. So practice--with someone at least half your age. “If you know you're going to be interviewed by someone who's 25 and you're 65, then find someone who's 25 and have them interview you," advises Cynthia Metzler, former president and CEO of Experience Works, in an article from ABC News. In the same article, Arthur Koff, a 70-something who runs a job site called Retired Brains, adds, “Try to get an interview with an employer you are not interested in working for as practice. You don't want to go to your first [important] interview in a long time and make easily correctable mistakes."


While you may still have plenty of "sand in the hourglass," if you’re over 50 and out of work, you’ve got to put your best foot forward during the all-important job interview. NBA basketball coach Pat Riley once said, “You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.”


Image courtesy of photostock/




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  • Lynn W
    Lynn W
    Very, very helpful article.  Thank you!
  • Carole S
    Carole S
    Thank you for an insightful article.  It is understandable to "realign" my ideas to the  younger people that I am interviewing with.  I feel more hopeful that a new job could be possible.  I am 68.
  • david d
    david d
    great advice!
  •  Ruth B
    Ruth B
    I liked the article and took the advice of being interviewed by a younger person as an equal with mutual respect. I liked that idea a lot

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