Job hunting as a mature candidate

When you’re getting towards the latter part of your career, or returning to work after many years out of the workforce, it’s not uncommon to feel like prospective employers are suddenly oblivious to your talent and experience!

It’s no secret that older job seekers find it harder to compete in the job market … but it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are our “Top Tips” for how to approach job hunting as a mature candidate.

Enthusiasm knows no age:
Take time to think about why a younger candidate might sound more attractive to an employer. We often associate youth with energy, passion and a willingness to learn, but these attributes are not exclusive to the young — and don’t let them be! You’ll likely have these traits in spades, so make sure your CV and cover letter reflect this.

When you get the opportunity to be interviewed, bring your enthusiasm for the role and the organisation with you. We aren’t saying you need to be over the top, but if you give the impression that you already know all there is to know, you aren’t demonstrating a willingness to learn new things or get to know a new organisation.

Take advantage of your advantages:
Your considerable experience, and the ability to apply it from day one, can be very attractive to an employer. And your willingness to impart your experience to new or younger employees can make you even more valuable.

Being older often means having larger networks and contacts, so use them to your advantage. Younger candidates can often be considered flight risks, so use that to your advantage too.

Get tech savvy:
Whether true or not, older candidates are often associated with being technophobes or lacking tech skills. Technology in the workplace today is inescapable and basic computer skills are pretty much essential. Highlight the skills you have, so potential employers can see them. But if you feel you’re lacking in this area, there are some great courses available — lots of them are free! We’ve added some useful links at the end of this article.

It’s also important to make sure you’re visible online. Have SEEK and LinkedIn profiles that are up to date and ensure your profiles are connected to a current email address, so if an employer or recruiter does reach out … you’ll get the message!

Mind your language:
It can be easy to guess a person’s age or generation by the way they talk and the language they use. Prevent any potential bias by using contemporary language in your application and interview. For example, there are very few “secretaries” these days but there are a lot of Personal and Executive Assistants. Also remember that unless it’s an extremely physically demanding role that you are applying for, there’s no need to talk about your age or how many years you have “left in you”.

Always play nice:
It is quite possible that your potential managers and colleagues will be younger than you. Don’t ever give the impression that you feel superior to them or are going to struggle taking direction. Approaching the application process with any preconceived notions about a younger generation’s abilities will not endear you to anyone.

Keep it recent and relevant:
Where possible, use recent examples when answering interview questions. Focus on your skills and experience in general, rather than your seniority or lengthy career. Of course, the level of role you are going for will come into play here. If it’s a senior executive or leadership position, then your decades of experience will be of benefit. However, for other positions you don’t want to give them the impression that you’re “old school”.

The same goes for your CV. You don’t need to include your entire work history or the date that you graduated secondary school. Try to keep it within the last fifteen years and as relevant as possible to the position you’re applying for.

A drop down isn’t a bad thing:
If you’re not having much success with your job hunt, you may need to re-evaluate the salary or job level that you’re aiming for — particularly if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while or have been with the same company for a long period of time. Sometimes you have to move down to then move up. Get your foot in the door … and then prove just how valuable you can be!

Keep perspective:
It might feel like you’re being rejected due to your age, but ask any recent graduate, stay-at-home parent returning to work or new immigrant, and you’ll quickly find that there are many people out there who are also finding things tough.

By automatically assuming it’s your age holding you back, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The job market rises and falls. Approaching it with a negative frame of mind won’t get you far, regardless of your circumstance.

Finally, it goes without saying that no matter how old you are or how many times you have done this before, always do your research before applying for a job. Even if it’s an industry you know or with an organisation you’ve worked for previously, there are bound to be things that have changed.

Good luck. Stay positive. And remember … it’s only about your age if you make it about your age!

Best wishes,
Kirsty and Nikki

Click on any of the links below for information on free computer courses in your area.
Stepping Up
Weltec – Foundation Computing
Smart Newtown
Auckland Libraries

Why you should be considering mature candidates for your next appointment
Emerging recruitment trends for employers in 2018


Add yours →

  1. Great article Kristy and Nikki! Good balance with the realities of being an older candidate and the useful tips for the job search process. Regards, Jude

    • Thanks Jude! We very much appreciate your feedback! Don’t hesitate to get in touch if there are any other topics that you would like to see us cover!

  2. Good advice thank you. It has made me think slightly differently, which I am sure will help in my approach to finding a new role.

  3. Thanks so much for the great article. It is a harsh reality out there. We need to help make more people aware of the value of mature employees!

  4. This is ma very good article and comes at a time when I’m thinking ahead and the challenges I will have going forward, as age has been one of the main concerning issues I am currently focusing on. Some good tools were mentioned to work with what I bring, and some issues I don’t need to bring when applying for a vacant position.

  5. Hi Kirsty, Nikki and Georgia, many thanks for this and it makes for interesting reading.

    You (McLaren & Associates) introduced and recommended me for a sales position some years ago but looking at the positions that you’ve been advertising on your mailouts, are you still handling sales roles as I don’t see many of these? It also seems that the recruitment business has changed where there seems to be more of a focus on on-line advertising? It used to be that consultants would meet with job-seekers so that you they can get a “feel” for them and the positions they may be suitable for? Do you still do this as it seems that many agencies just look at our curriculum vitae before forwarding to your clients? Cheers, Ray

    • Hi Ray – great to hear from you! Yes you are right in that we haven’t had a huge volume of sales based roles recently. As we recruit across all role and sector types, this can mean that the vacancies we advertise can be really varied. We do specialise in the not-for-profit sector which naturally tends to have less sales focused positions. However we can certainly keep you in mind if anything suitable does come up! Unfortunately it is not always possible to meet in person with job-seekers, given the volume of roles that we recruit for at any one time. However we do encourage job seekers to give us a call so that we can chat through previous experience and get an idea of what they are looking for!