Baby Boomer interview tips

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jun 17

Conventional wisdom tells us that now, with the Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, that employers will soon experience shortages of labor. An employee’s market. One where  employees choose work from competing companies because of the shortage of labor.

That hasn’t happened so far. Instead, given the harsh financial retirement realities, Baby Boomers are holding on to their jobs. But employers don’t want to hang on to them.

From Older Staffers Get Uneasy Embrace:

Americans are, in fact, working longer, reversing a long trend toward earlier retirement.

The nation’s typical worker now retires at age 62, up from 60 a decade ago, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. About 60% of men between 60 and 64 are in the labor force, and 20% of men over 65, up from 55% and 17%, respectively, a decade ago, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The pattern is similar for women.

This is a significant change in a short period of time. In the past, health was a large cause in forcing retirement. So, too, was physical capacity to do the work. A larger service workforce lessen these causes.

Yet, finances play a large role in staying on. Baby Boomers never did as much saving for retirement as they should have as a group. That comes back to bite you. If you are healthy enough to work into your sixties, a few more years makes a big difference:

The Boston College scholars say delaying retirement three or four years — to 66, instead of 62, say — will boost retirement income by a third.

Assuming you save the money, of course.

From a career management perspective, doing the employment dance after age fifty becomes problematic – employers don’t want to hire you and don’t want to keep you:

While employers are “reasonably comfortable” with the older workers they currently employ, “they are not keen on retaining even half who want to stay on to age 67 or 69,” the Boston researchers concluded. They predict “a messy and uncomfortable mismatch with large numbers of older workers wanting to stay on while employers prefer that they do not.”

Why? Employers fear older workers “cost too much, lack current skills and don’t stick around long,” Ms. Munnell and co-author Steven Sass write. Wages tend to rise with seniority. Health costs for older workers are higher. Older workers are viewed, rightly or not, as less supple in dealing with new technologies.

That, my Boomer friends, is what you are fighting in the interviews for new jobs. Cost too much salary, no current skills, and higher benefit costs.

You can only fight these issues by proving your part in the formula “job skills + performance = opportunity.”

Going into interviews, or even setting up personal brands, it is important that you have the job and technology skills needed for the position. You also need to show clearly your performance in the work. Experience needs to count for something and performance is where that is done.

I would also add that you should display a continuing willingness to learn – especially technology. Gone are the days ignoring technology skills; too many products and processes require understanding the underlying integrated technology.

Anything that suggests that you are set in your ways (even if you are 25…) and are not willing to learn will give you a prompt “no” for the position. A person over 50, I believe, has a stereotype of unwilling to learn whereas a younger person has a stereotype of being able and willing to learn. Neither is true, of course, but that is the setup when looking for a position. Experience needs to have “willing to learn displayed by behavior” in the interview to fight the stereotype.

Only by demonstrating your current skills, job performance and willingness to learn can you overcome the inherent higher costs that come with experience to stay in the workforce.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

  • Thank you for this advice.

    As a Career Management Professional, I work with many ‘Baby Boomers’ all concerned for their future employment options.

    I’d be interested in working with you further, as this demographic fascinates me!

  • I really read this one through…It kind of fits in the way life is going..True employers may want to let go of their aging staff. A big mistake…THese baby boomers(the ones closer to retirement age(whatever that may be) are hard workers, want their jobs and will be far more dependab le than younger people today. Just food for thought…carol stanley http://www.carolstanley1.com “For Kids 59.99 and Over”

    • Scot Herrick says:

      @carol stanley
      But, the stereotypes remain, so it is important that Boomers stay current in skills and perform well. Otherwise, a dependable non-skilled, non-performing person won’t cut it, even if they want the job.

  • Rick says:

    Excellent post Scot! You’re spot on! Human beings, by nature, fear change. But the current changes – as well as the changes that have taken place over the past 10 to 15 years – are so profound that the Boomers must embrace them lest they become candidates for forced early retirements.

    But at the same time, they have so much to offer by way of experience that companies should not blithely dump them, but rather allow them to share their experience with their younger colleagues. They, in turn, can share their seemingly greater technological prowess with the Boomers who could benefit from it.

    • Scot Herrick says:

      @Rick
      True enough. I’d like to think that hiring managers don’t have stereotypes about boomers, but I doubt it. So I think boomers need to seriously evaluate their skills and technical capabilities to current market so they can overcome the stereotypes.

      Boomers experience is valuable because they have seen and solved many issues before — they get to the answer faster. Whether it is a process bottleneck, a customer issue, or how to build something faster, boomers have done it before significantly reducing the learning curve.

      But all that goes away if you don’t know how to use Word, or Excel, or how to use the web. You can’t have a John McCain “Google” moment as a boomer interviewing for a job.

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  • Rita says:

    Boy, that’s harsh. Employers don’t want older boomer workers.

    Some do and see employing older boomers as one to fill up the empty chairs when boomers start retiring in droves. Weyerhaeuser in Washington state has set up a special program to train boomers to work part time after they retire.

    I write a boomer consumer blog called The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com and a blog called the Boomer Consumer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer at http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/boomerconsumer/.

    Rita

    • Scot Herrick says:

      @Rita
      Harsh, but real.

      I think it is important to be the voice that shows the stereotypes, negates the Corporate Speak, and tell it like it is for knowledge workers. That’s why it’s Cube Rules.

      It is a good conversation.

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