One question I ask during my introductory workshops is, "When did you last have to look for work?" Not surprisingly, given our career center's age demographic, some will say 25, 35, or even 40 years.
On the other hand, other customers haven't had to look for work in the past five or ten years, some in the past two years or less. The disparity is great between my customers who have been long-tenured workers and those who are veterans of the job search.
The folks new to the job search haven't had to write a resume that fits today's standards – if they had to write one at all – nor have they had the experience of conducting 5-10 rounds of interviews. They might also be new to networking, have never used LinkedIn, haven't engaged in informational meetings, and be used to entirely different job-search methods. Some tell me, "Companies came to me. I didn't have to do anything."
These people have lost looks on their faces. It's as if they have to learn to walk all over again.
Needless to say, there have been changes to the job search process in the past decade or two, changes that represent challenges to people who aren't used to them. Here are nine components of the job search that may be new to older workers:
1. The Most Obvious Change: Being Out of Work
This scenario may come as a complete shock to those who worked at their last company for 20 or more years. Gone is their routine, the camaraderie they shared with their colleagues, and the income they relied on. Also gone, for some, is their self-esteem and confidence.
2. The Hiring Process Is Longer
The good news is that employers are hiring. The bad news is that it's taking them longer to pull the trigger. I've witnessed many job seekers get jobs, but usually after a much longer process than before. It's not unusual for job candidates to be interviewed multiple times over the telephone and endure additional face-to-face interviews.
3. Resumes Have Changed
There are enough articles written on how it's important to list quantified accomplishment statements, like this one about the 10 important elements of a professional resume.
However, talk has increasingly turned to the importance of appeasing the applicant tracking system (ATS). Simply put, this software may eliminate as much as 75 percent of resumes based on a lack of keywords. Approximately 95 percent of my customers haven't heard of ATSs.
4. Networking Is Imperative
Back when securing a job took less time and all the openings were listed in the newspapers, networking wasn't as important as it is now. This is a tough change for many people who haven't had to look for work for a couple of decades. Networking may have been necessary as part of their job, but to find a job? Not so important back then.
The best first step to adjusting to this change is to recognize the importance of getting outside your comfort zone when networking.
5. LinkedIn Arrived on the Scene
About 94 percent of hiring authorities (recruiters/hiring managers/HR pros) are using LinkedIn to source talent. Fourteen years ago, however, LinkedIn didn't exist. My customers who haven't had to look for work since 1988 feel very confused when they hear of LinkedIn's ability to help them find work. Talk about having to learn to walk again!
6. Some Jobs Are Posted Online – But Many Are Never Advertised
Older workers now face the prospect of searching for jobs on boards like Monster, Dice, and a plethora of others. Because most jobs – perhaps as many as 80 percent – are unadvertised, time spent on job boards is often time wasted. In addition, applications through job boards are difficult to fill out for some older workers who aren't familiar with computers.
7. Telephone Interviews Are More Challenging
Yes, employers want to know your salary requirements, but the questions go way beyond that. Employers ask behavior-based questions that truly get to the core of their candidates.
Nowadays, most employers conduct telephone interviews. Furthermore, Skype interviews have entered the scene since the last time many older workers have had to look for work, and this format poses a set of new and difficult challenges.
8. In Fact, Interviews in General Are Tougher
In addition to having to answer tough behavioral-based questions, many older job seekers are taken aback by the fact that they now have to attend group interviews. This format was not common 30 or so years ago. Back then, most companies would conduct one-on-one interviews to size up candidates, and the questions tended to be more traditional and predictable.
9. Age Discrimination Is the Elephant in the Room
This is neither a myth nor an excuse: older workers are, in fact, experiencing age discrimination, and not just from younger interviewers. Older interviewers are also guilty of the practice. Often, this discrimination is based on the fear that older workers will demand higher salaries than their younger counterparts or the concern that older workers won't be able to keep up in a fast-paced workplace. However, the smart employers understand these concerns aren't necessarily warranted and that older workers bring many fine attributes to the table.
These are some of the changes that have occurred since many older workers have had to look for work. Very talented people at the tops of their companies are experiencing changes that are hard for them to grapple with. Eventually, however, older workers get into the groove and learn the basics of the new job search. Some of the long-tenured workers even start to see these changes as welcome challenges!
Have you noticed any other changes to the job search that older workers must learn to contend with? Please add to this list!
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.