9 ways to screw up your job search when you’re 50 or older

Elderly woman covers her mouth because she made a mistake during an online job interview for remote work on her laptop
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Millions of Americans are looking for work in their 50s, 60s and beyond. Some of these seniors are looking for work because they love to work. Others send resumes from pink slips to financial need.

Seniors can be attractive job candidates. Many potential employers value older workers for their experience and work ethic, as well as the stability they bring to the workplace. But if you’re hoping to get a job after 50, there are some basic mistakes to avoid.

Here are some critical mistakes that can derail the job search of anyone who’s passed the half-century mark.

1. Forgetting to edit your resume

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Today’s businesses receive an avalanche of resumes every time they post a job opening. Computer programs can scan them first and eliminate lost causes. Survivors then go to a hiring manager, who may only give them a cursory glance before deciding who moves on to the interview stage.

Age discrimination against older workers is illegal. But let’s face it, there is bias. Employers sifting through hundreds of resumes can streamline those resumes by dropping them from people they think are too old.

Don’t let your resume be a gift to your age. Eliminate your education dates and limit your work history to no more than the last 15 years. Both changes can help you avoid standing out as a senior job candidate.

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2. Being too proud to volunteer when you’re watching

Happy volunteer
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If your job search isn’t going as fast as you’d like, make good use of your downtime. Volunteering can be a great way to get out of the house and make connections that can lead to paid work.

You can volunteer at an organization you already know, or go to VolunteerMatch to find new opportunities. Don’t overlook volunteering at your local Chamber of Commerce or professional organizations in your field of interest.

3. Failure to update technical skills

Stressed businessman at the computer
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If there’s one thing that can separate older workers from younger competitors, it’s technical skills, or lack thereof.

While a hiring manager may automatically assume that 20-something job candidates know their way around computers and the Internet, they may assume the opposite of an older applicant. Prove them wrong by getting some technical training before you start your job search so you can confidently say you’re capable of using the software and applications the position requires.

4. Not having an online presence

Middle aged blonde woman with computer
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While you’re updating your tech skills, take some time to build an online presence. Today’s HR departments are more likely to plug your name into a search engine than make a phone call to your references.

And what will they find when they do? Crickets. Or worse, that angry letter you sent to the newspaper and nothing else.

You should take charge of your online presence by at least creating a LinkedIn profile. This will serve as your online resume, and you’ll want to complete it with a professional photo and details about your work experience.

5. Ignoring your networks

An older employee
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You’ve been around the block a few times, right? Well then, put all those connections you’ve made to good use.

Pick up the phone, shoot an email or send a text. Be direct and to the point. Tell people in your professional network that you are looking for a new position and ask if they know of any opportunities.

For more information, check out 9 Simple Tips for Successful and Painless Networking.

6. Being shy about highlighting your experience

Quiet businessman
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The deep web isn’t the only thing you’ve probably accumulated over the years. You probably also have experience. Put it to your advantage.

In fact, when you get to the interview stage, don’t skip the question. The interviewer can already think. “Wow, this guy is old!” So go ahead and embrace it.

Explain that while you may not be the youngest job candidate to walk through the door, your experience will benefit the company. Emphasize that you’ll need little or no training to hit the ground running, and how that fact can save the business both time and money.

7. Acting like you know everything

Senior man pointing finger up
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Emphasis on experience is fine – up to a point. You don’t want your story to scare people younger than you. A 30-year-old boss might worry that a 60-year-old job candidate wants to run the show. The last thing young brats want is a mom or dad looking over their shoulder and criticizing their every move.

Of course, you know you’re not going to do it, but you have to convince the interviewer of that as well. Be enthusiastic about current business leadership and share a few stories that highlight your work as part of a team.

8. Looking at employers who don’t value older workers

Age discrimination
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Rather than trying to convince a youth-focused company that you’re right for the job, it may be wiser to focus your efforts on employers who value older workers.

You can find these employers through these resources.

9. Not wanting to lean on income

The woman is asking for money
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While your experience may be an asset, an employer may see dollar signs when they weigh it. Companies sometimes prefer to hire a younger worker who will settle for a lower salary.

Of course, you deserve to be well compensated for your experience. However, some income is better than no income, and if you want to get back into the workforce quickly, your best bet is to be flexible with your income requirements.

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