Employers are embracing older workers and the demand for their labor is growing. The number of Americans working in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s is at a record high, according to an analysis of federal employment data by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. As of August 2006, the number of workers 55 and older reached 24.6 million, the highest level ever recorded. And the number is growing faster than that of any other age group, especially in health care, teaching, consulting, retail, customer service/customer relations and small business.
The Challenger analysis showed employment among workers 55 and older grew 10.5 percent between 2003 and 2005. For those 65 and older, the increase was also 10.5 percent. Those increases are more than double the 4.1 percent growth rate experienced by 45- to 55-year-olds, while those ages 35 to 45 saw employment fall 0.7 percent.
“In 1948, one in four 65-year-olds was employed,” says CEO John A. Challenger. “That percentage steadily fell to a low of 10 percent in the mid-1980s. The percentage of working retirees has been on the rise since the mid-1990s, and it may not be long until we are back at the 25 percent level not seen since 1951.” According to recent surveys by AARP, 70 percent of baby boomers plan to continue working during their retirement years. “Older workers are already making it more difficult for younger employees to move up the ladder. The same gridlock is going to make it more difficult for other experienced job candidates to get a foot in the door,” Challenger says. He offers these dos and don’ts to older job seekers:
Dismantle the myths. Chances are your interviewer will be younger than you and may hold on to myths such as older workers get sick more, they are set in their ways and untrainable, and younger and older workers will clash.
Be accommodating. You may have to interview at odd hours. No matter your age, the job seeker who says they cannot come in for an interview after hours sends the message that they are not willing to put in extra hours to get the job done.
Emphasize relevant experience. Let them know you can hit the ground running, that age has nothing to do with learning new concepts and accepting new ways of doing things.
Emphasize past examples of loyalty. Let employers know you will be totally committed to the company.
Stay current and embrace technology. Do not be afraid of computers. If need be, take a course. New employers cannot spend a lot of time teaching computer skills.
Be enthusiastic. Dress in currently fashionable attire and show enthusiasm for the opportunity.
Don’t apologize. Never say, “Nobody really wants to hire someone my age.” A defeatist attitude will most likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Do not lead with your resume. You cannot omit dates from your resume or stop the chronology early. It’s a red flag that something is amiss. By the time the interviewer asks to see your resume, you should have won them over and age will not be an issue.
Do not mention early retirement. It reminds them that you are older and gives the impression you are just biding your time and that retirement is more important than the job you are seeking.
Don’t mention accomplishments from more than 10 years ago. If you feel these accomplishments are extraordinary and fill the needs of the employer, mention them but talk about them as if they happened today.