~ by Steve Throckmorton
In this post I will review the reasons why employers may choose not to hire older workers and give practical suggestions on how to overcome them. If you suspect that one or more of these reasons may be getting in the way of being hired then here are some strategies to follow. It is important to remember one principle. You must take PRE-EMPTIVE action or you must act early to overcome objections. Once you are denied employment these strategies will be of no value to you. After an employer makes a decision it is too late, they will almost never change the decision. You must determine on your own where the objections lie BEFORE the hiring decision is announced. This is not easy to do but part 9 will discuss ideas on how to uncover these hidden objections. For now let’s just talk about how to address the objections.
1. Employers fear that the older employee will take the job to fill a temporary employment gap and then leave as soon as he/she finds a better situation. If you suspect that an employer is concerned about your longevity with the company one approach is to offer to sign an employment agreement that binds you to remain employed for a certain period of time. Employment agreements are common for C level employees such as the CEO, CFO or CIO but these agreements usually heavily favor the executive being employed by providing a “bailout” clause which pays the executive a handsome bonus should the company choose to terminate the executive’s employment. In exchange the executive agrees to stay for some period of time, commonly 3 to 5 years. I am suggesting that you offer an employment agreement that binds you to the job but with no downside to the employer. This might come in the form of a penalty such as forfeiting vacation pay or even a final paycheck if you choose to leave early. This gives the employer some degree of financial leverage if you choose to leave early. This may sound distasteful, especially if you have been accustomed to employers seeking you out in your younger years but remember what this blog is about. I am asking you to be honest with yourself about the new situation you are facing and take positive action to overcome it.
2. Older employees raise the cost of health insurance premiums. It is a sad reality that older workers require more medication and more hospitalization than younger workers. Many older employees are in a kind of catch 22 of being uninsurable under an individual policy due to some past medical issue (cancer, cardiovascular problems, etc.) and yet they are too young to be covered by Medicare. People in this situation may want employment primarily for the group insurance benefit and not so much the income. If you are in this situation you may want to be honest and up front with your prospective employer and tell them you need employment primarily for the insurance. If you acknowledge the fact that your insurance may be more expensive than the average employee and offer to take a compensating reduction in salary in exchange for the increased cost of premiums that may satisfy the concerns of the employer. You probably cannot offer to pay a larger share of the premium because employers are required to offer benefit packages that do not discriminate among employees in order to qualify for favorable tax treatment. So the only legal way to handle this offset in compensation may be to accept a reduced salary. If you do not need the insurance either because your spouse already has coverage or because you qualify for Medicare then you might offer to exempt yourself from coverage. Employers are required under law to offer similar benefits to all employees but you are not required to accept the benefits. In this case your employer will most likely ask you to sign a waiver stating that you voluntarily refuse coverage.
3. We live in a culture of youth worship. Let’s face it, young is often perceived as physically attractive and many studies have been conducted demonstrating that physically attractive people are more likely to get a job over their less attractive counterparts. I grant that you have limited options to overcome this objection. Go back and review Part 7 of this blog called “Look Younger”. You will find suggestions that will help in this area.
4. Employers sometimes fear that older employees will be “set in their ways” and inflexible, unwilling to adjust to a constantly changing competitive environment. Closely related to this is a fear that older workers will be unable to learn new concepts or learn them slowly, costing the company time and money. Once again I refer you back to an earlier chapter in this blog called “Think Younger” Chapter 6. Before conducting an interview get a good night’s sleep in order to maximize mental alertness. Be prepared with recent examples of times when you demonstrated flexible and innovative thinking.
5. Hiring managers are sometimes insecure about hiring someone who may know more than they do. This can produce an array of concerns ranging from the possibility of the older employee as a threat to their own job to general intimidation over having someone report to them that might be the age of a parent or an uncle. This may be the toughest objection to overcome because most prospective employers are not going to admit that they are threatened by your age and experience. In fact they may not even be consciously aware of this, even though it may be a real fear. The best way to overcome this objection is to communicate clearly to the interviewer that you will be supportive and loyal to them. Give specific examples of how you helped a previous employer look good, perhaps even how you helped your old boss get a promotion. Don’t lie of course but if you can sincerely say that you had great respect for a prior manager then verbalize that. Give your old boss praise for whatever good qualities that he or she had. All of these things will communicate on a subconscious level to your prospective employer that you are not the sort of employee who will sacrifice his success to achieve yours. You want to communicate that you will be on his or her team.
Part 9 will discuss techniques of how you can uncover objections in an interview situation.