Winning Strategies for the Mature Job Seeker

Welcome to this course on working with your older clients in their job search.  This course is important for career counselors, coaches, HR, workforce, and career center staff, career facilitators, and others.

Completion of the course contributes toward your fulfillment of NCDA’s Multicultural Career Counseling and Development competencies.

Listen to this message from your instructors.

In this course you will:

I. Identify barriers that older workers face

II. Define the benefits of age in today’s workplace

III. Recognize hidden age-related comments and effectively respond to age-related questions

IV. List steps candidates can take to prevent age-related biases, from first impression through decision-making.

 The course involves readings, videos, and completing a worksheet. Please download the worksheet and save it to your computer.   Complete the worksheet as you move through the course.  It is designed for about 4 hours of study.  As you complete each section, save your worksheet so that you can pick up where you left off. You will have 30 days to complete the course requirements.  Once you finish the course requirements you will send the worksheet to Anne Hull. During the course address any question you have to her. Once your worksheet has been reviewed and accepted, you will receive your certificate for 3.25 CEU clock hours for your professional development. 

Please keep track of the number of hours it takes you to complete this course as you will be asked that question on the evaluation form. 

Are you ready now? Let’s get started. Tasks that you must complete are in RED. The authors have provided extra resources to enhance your learning. 


Job search for your older client is much the same as it is for candidates of any age. This course addresses some of the unique issues older candidates face in their job search: the type of work they choose to pursue, developing their job search strategy and how they present themselves both on paper, electronically, and in person. Many career coaches, journalists and researchers offer helpful information on their blogs and in their publications so that a general Internet query results in hundreds of resources. We have aggregated many resources to reduce the repetition and find specific resources you can use to become more familiar with the older candidate issues as well as resources to use with and refer to your candidates.

Who are the older candidates? Older candidates may be 45, 55, 65 or even 75 years old and considered a “protected class” under US law. The ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) of 1967 makes it illegal for employers, employment agencies, and the federal government to discriminate against employees and job applicants who are age 40 and over and work for employers with at least 20 employees. [The UK established the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations on October 1, 2006.]

Overall, the ADEA prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing and layoffs, promotions, and wages. Employers that post job openings are required to keep any statements or specifications about preferred ages or age limitations out of the notices. A company can only set an age limit for a position when the age of the employee has been shown to be a bona fide occupational qualification, such as an actor.

However, it continues today and may be on the rise in certain industries.  You can assist your client to avoid and manage discrimination as they encounter it.

READ: “What You Can (and Can’t) Do About Age Bias, Understand your rights, and the attitudes you may face,”by Bob Skladany, from: AARP | May 30, 2008    Work@50+_ What You Can-and Can’t-Do About Age Bias                

COMPLETE  the Worksheet—Introduction.

Optional Resources:

Barriers Faced by Older Workers

The 50+ job searcher encounters many of the same issues as any other job searcher. They don’t know how to conduct an effective job search, prepare today’s resume, use social media for job search or market themselves. But older job searchers also have to deal with other age-related barriers such as an obsolete skill set, health/energy issues and for many out of work for an extended period of time. We’ll address these barriers from two perspectives:

1.  Employer assumptions about older candidates: Health, Technology, Out of Work Too Long, and

2.  Self-limiting ways older candidates create barriers.


1.1 Health 

Click on the link (1.1 Health) above and READ the document. Health care costs are significantly higher for older workers. One recent study found medical claims costs were 1.4 to 2.2 times higher for workers age 50 to 65 than for colleagues age 30-49. (Towers Perrin, 2005). 

Older workers less likely to have severe work injuries, but they miss more work days to recover. The rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work to recuperate was 112 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2012, down from 117 cases in 2011. The median days away from work—a key measure of severity of injuries and illnesses—was 9 days in 2012. Workers age 65 and older had the lowest incidence rate in 2012 at 89 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, but they required the longest time away from work to recover, a median of 14 days.   graphic 1 If the older workers have more health issues employers see this can contribute to not only to health care costs, but lead to absenteeism, lack of productivity and can create morale issues with other staff. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) we’ve seen a shift in employer provided health benefits. If your client needs employer provided health benefits, coach him/her to present an energetic impression both on paper and in person. While the employer cannot explicitly ask about health concerns, if there are none, help your client use that as a leverage point. Help him/her make every effort to reassure the employer that health issues will not interfere with their work performance.

Practice the conversation with them. If your client is already covered by another health care plan and does not need the potential employer health benefits, be sure to guide them on making this clear early in their communication (cover letter, screening interview, etc.).

In new research funded by the Social Security Administration, we consider whether an aging workforce has dragged down average worker productivity over the past quarter century. At least so far, the answer is an emphatic “No.” None of the indicators of male productivity suggest that older male workers are less productive than average male workers who are between 25 and 59.


COMPLETE the Worksheet 1.1 Health Issues.

1.2 Technology

Click on the link above (1.2 Technology) and read the contents. READ:


COMPLETE the Worksheet—Section 1.2 Technology.

1.3 Overqualified

READ the link above (1.3 Overqualified).  Some employers looking at your job application as an older candidate may include issues of ageism. They may also wonder if:

  • How long will you stay in the job? Will you leave as soon as you find something else that more closely matches your experience and salary history?
  • Why would you want to take a step back in responsibilities? Will you intimidate others?


For more employer perspectives and tips to address (or even present ) them, READ: Overqualified for a Job: How to Fight the Overqualified Label by Jason Alba

COMPLETE the Worksheet — Section 1.3  Over-Qualified.

1.4 Out of Work Too Long 

READ the link above (1.4 Out of Work Too Long) on “Strategies for Extended Unemployment.” Employers often see a red flag when an applicant has been without work for an extended time. Many misgivings arise in their minds. Take a look and see how to coach your clients to avoid some of the pitfalls.

READ the AARP Public Policy Institute Report “The Long Road Back: Struggling to Find Work after Unemployment”

COMPLETE the Worksheet—Section 1.4  Out of Work Too Long.

1.5 Motivation 

Employers wonder, “Will the older worker get bored?”  “How long will they stay in the job?” “Why are they applying for something that is vastly different than their former work?” Data is showing that older workers actually stay in their new jobs longer than younger workers who may be job hopping. Your clients should address this early in their communications. This is often best handled in networking and referral conversations before submitting resumes and applications. Coach them to talk about how their additional experience is an asset, not a threat to the potential hiring manager and team. 

READ the link above (1.5 Motivation) on Motivation/Commitment.

COMPLETE the Worksheet — Section 1.5 Motivation/Commitment

1.6 Slow Learner

Click on the link above (1.6 Slow Learner) and read the document.

Check your assumptions about Older Workers with these Myths

COMPLETE the Worksheet—Section 1.6 Slow Learner.

Be sure to save your worksheet before moving on.


Renee Ward, founder of, conducted a recent telephone survey of 1,000 members age 50 and older. She found that “the majority sabotage their job hunting efforts by making too many negative assumptions and not doing enough.” For example, 70% assumed that they would face age discrimination in the workplace, 85% assumed that a younger hiring manager would not treat them fairly, and 60% assumed that an employer would not consider retraining them for a new position. The survey also revealed that 54% are not going beyond reading newspaper ads, and 41% are not networking. “Older job seekers set themselves up for failure by these assumptions and by not doing more,” says Ward, an experienced recruitment consultant. WATCH the video.

2.1 Appearance

READ the link above (2.1 Appearance) on Appearance.  A Gallup poll report released in July, 2014 shows older people are slightly less concerned about their appearance, more accepting of aging, middle aged people. Discuss not only what makes your client feel confident, but also the possible expectations of the hiring team and organization’s culture. Source:

OPTIONAL RESOURCES: Search: “Mature Men’s and Women’s Makeover Sites” Here is one example.

COMPLETE the Worksheet—Section 2.1 Appearance.

2.2 Limited Perception of Skill Sets

READ the above link (2.2 Limited Perception of Skills Sets). Skill Set Perceptions Optional Resources: Worksearch Assessment System helps assess work interests and personal characteristics as well as workplace and transferable skills.  The system will also match jobs are currently available in your community process. 


Optional Tools to help clients tool to assess skills:

General work skills:

Employers/recruiters to pre-screen applicants:

Library of variety of professional skills such a business, coding, marketing, etc.:

Higher level transferable skills:

Explore non-traditional ways to enter a company. Many people are hired from temp to perm status. Here are some more examples:

Additional Resources are found at

COMPLETE the Worksheet — Section 2.2 Limited Perception of Skills Sets

2.3 Interviewing

READ the above link (2.3 Interviewing) on Interviewing with “Kids”.

Part of the interviewing process includes reference checking. This is another area for advance planning.

READ Your References – Care and Feeding

COMPLETE the Worksheet — Section 2.3  Interviewing.

2.4 Emotions

READ the link above (2.4 Emotions) on Emotions — Feeling Betrayed.

COMPLETE the Worksheet — Section 2.4 Emotions Feeling Betrayed.

Finished?  That’s great.  You finished the longest section of the course. Bravo! Now is a good time to take a break.  Be sure to save your worksheet before you move on.

When you are ready, move on to this next part of this course.

  Benefits of Age in Today’s Workplace

Mature workers have a lot to offer employers.  As a coach, counselor, or career facilitator, you can help clients to demonstrate that they have a clear understanding of their value to an employer and are interested in mentoring and contributing.  To allay concerns, clients can offer the benefits of hiring them over a younger person by describing the ways they offer:

⇒Greater reliability than younger workers record of absenteeism and current schedule flexibility due to lack of childcare

⇒Eagerness to learn new skills –  Describe what recently learned and why

⇒Well-developed core skills – show the relevance to the position and industry, reduced need for “basic” training and entry-level work

⇒Well-developed speaking and writing skills – provide a portfolio of accomplishments

⇒Lower turnover – discuss and compare to current time-in-job

⇒Ability to work with minimal supervision faster on-boarding

⇒Wide network of relationships (resources) to leverage

⇒Depth of industry/customer knowledge

Employers who are interested in recruiting older workers recognize:

  • Money is less important to these workers than life balance and flexibility
  • Mature workers often are quick to take job sharing opportunities
  • Flexible work schedules and greater independence appeal to mature workers
  • Mature workers can be attracted by offering free training to upgrade computer skills
  • Perks like free use of a facility, company services, free use of computers or similar perks are often attractive.

WATCH the video below.


COMPLETE the Worksheet—Section II. Benefits of Age in Today’s Workforce.

OK, you are more than half way through the course.  Keep going! You are doing great!!

Recognize and Diffuse Age-Related Statements

Anytime a discriminatory statement is made or question posed in an interview, clients need to recognize the implications and know how they want to respond to it. Often the interviewer is not aware of the transgression; they are merely making “small talk.” If it is intentional, then the client needs to look beyond the statement as to what might be the interviewer’s true concern. Practice with your older client to recognize not only the age-related biases, but not to respond negatively or with anger. Help them discern the true concern behind them. Here are some examples: COMPLETE the Worksheet for Section III.

Steps Clients Can take to Prevent Age-Related Bias

We are slowly breaking many myths about older workers and you can help your clients to show employers why they are a great hire.

1.  Exploration: What should an older client consider in their job search?

The answer is, “the same thing anyone does when launching a job search. First take your older client through a thorough self assessment and follow it with a reality check.  The older worker has a wealth of knowledge and experience to mine for both technical/professional and transferable skills. Thinking that they can only do the one job they have done for the past umpteen years is very self-limiting. 

As a career professional you are uniquely able to help identify the blind spots of talent and achievement. You can remind your client to include non-paid achievements such as work with the community, school and other volunteer activities in assessing their skills, interests, and abilities. Use a variety of tools and worksheets to inventory and then match knowledge and skills to job descriptions and company values statements. Few companies today look for a “jack-of-all trades.” Even if that’s going to be a day to day job function, your client will likely be hired for a concentrated subject matter expertise and their ability to solve a specific business problem.

Another area of exploration is to help your client evaluate their past work, what benefits they derived from that work and if they are they seeking similar or different benefits in their next job. Circumstances and lifestyles change over time. Having a clear understanding of what they want from their work will improve not only their interviewing, but overall job satisfaction.

2. Targeting: How can you help the older client find companies who want older workers?

You can help narrow or broaden the field for the older client. Here are a few ideas:

  • The older worker may discover that “A Job” is not going to meet all their requirements. They may need to look at multiple work places for job satisfaction, salary and benefits they need. Explore the variety of work options – FT, PT (multiple), self-employment, volunteerism, internships, temporary, etc. Virtual work settings are on the rise and eliminate many barriers for talented workers . . . of any age.
  • Changing industries is also an effective strategy to avoid ageism. Small and start-up organizations are often thrilled to have someone with the brains, skills, expertise and experience older clients bring.
  • Help your client find companies with workers at their level and talk to them about ageism in the workplace, and see what it’s like at their company. Starting points can be SimplyHired’s filter for over 50 friendly companies and AARP’s Best Places to Work annual list. Don’t focus on the jobs listed, but rather, on the companies who are hiring people over 50.
  • Look for companies in the client’s industry that are being sold, or where the owner is retiring. These are companies that are more likely to need senior leadership, and may not need the person to be willing to commit to the next 30 years of their life.
  • Explore companies that support or sell to the growing senior market Investigate companies who have problems in your client’s area of subject matter expertise. They may have less experienced management and seek someone to mentor managers through a turnaround.

Optional Resources: 5 Expert Tips for Older Workers

3.  Networking:  It’s a new twist on a familiar strategy for the older job seeker.

“CareerXroads,” Gerry Crispin’s 2012 research shows that only 20% of jobs are filled through on-line job boards.  Help your clients to:

  • Broaden their search strategy to develop referrals from current employees at their targeted organizations. Use Facebook and LinkedIn advanced searches for companies and organizations.
  • Network with people in their age group. Determine what their company thinks are the most valuable attributes and experiences, and then sell that.
  • Focus on organizations that value your client’s expertise. 
  • Show them how to maintain and develop their network of relationships. Older clients often don’t understand the informality of today’s networking.

4. Resume: Keep it relevant to the type of work your client wants now.

On most older client’s resumes, much of their work history can be abbreviated. Accomplishments need to point towards the current type of work they want:

  • Stick to the past 10 years and list other relevant accomplishments under “Other Related Experience” without dates. If they keep their accomplishments relevant to the position, there is no need to ‘dumb- down’ the resume.
  • Showcase current technology and skills.
  • Use current job titles, such as Administrative Assistant, not Stenographer or Secretary.

5.  Cover Letter:  Smart job seekers will address stereotypes head-on on their cover letters.

Address stereotypes here with statements that show the client can work with a variety of ages, including reporting to someone that may be the same age as their child. For example, your client might say:

  • “My last worker team was comprised of all age groups and cultures. It really sparked some interesting and exciting new ways for our marketing team. Let me tell you how…”
  • “I work well with all people at all levels of the organizations as evidenced by voted Employee of the Month six times in the last two years.
  • “I am currently expanding my technical abilities by taking ….”
  • “I enjoy new challenges. I particularly enjoy embracing new technologies and adapting them to the workplace. In my last job, I was the first to learn and begin using the new [fill in the blank] software…”

6. Coach your older job seeker not to “date” themselves in the interview.

Coach your client to avoid giving information that “dates” him/herself, such as referring to their grandchildren or events from the 1960s-80s. Keep comments related to the past 10 years (that’s a ‘lifetime’ to many hiring managers!).

  • They can provide graduation dates, if asked, and, without pause, talk about what they have done to keep those skills up-to-date (within the last 2 years).
  • Highlight their energetic pursuits, such as hobbies or other activities like jogging, skiing vacations, or community work. If they are not actively involved in sporting pursuits, help them to speak of their interest in specific sports; show up-to-date knowledge and then move on. Caution them to not talk about their bad knee or back.
  • Target for the work and company, and coach them talk only about those things. They may have done terrific things in the past, but some of those experiences may not be in demand now. Sell the employers only what they want.
  • Prepare them to tell employers, even if they don’t ask, that they are creative, energetic, comfortable with new technology, etc. These “young” qualities are exactly the things to emphasize.
  • During your work with older clients, become aware of any out-dated attitudes. Some examples are:
    •              Don’t raise eyebrows by talking of “young people today” or refer to women as “girls,” “sweetie,” or “dear.”
    •              Never make any negative comment on race, religion or nationality.
    •              Don’t use phrases such as: “Years ago…” “When I was starting out…” “When I was your age…” “When you get to be my age…” “When I was younger…” “Back then, of course…” “I can’t stand Facebook!”

While practicing for networking and interviewing, remind them to smile and keep a pleasant expression. Think about how much fun working with this new team will be.


Regardless of how many laws there are regarding age discrimination, it still exists and will likely exist for a long time. In perspective, every age group has assets and liabilities. Some general liabilities for a person in their 20’s would be: little or no experience, job hopping and being unreliable. Some assets for the 20’s would be: energetic, computer savvy, and a fast learner. Some general liabilities for the middle ager’s—30’s and 40’s would be: absent when children are sick, less flexibility with scheduling and less willingness to relocate.  On the other hand, some general assets for the middle agers would be: a good skill set, job stability, and many good years ahead for growth. Yes, seniors have liabilities and assets as well. However, in this course we have attempted to show that many of the quote “liabilities” are “perceived liabilities.” While some may exist, a large segment of the “perceived liabilities” do not exist according to research. Regardless of the research, a senior looking for a job needs to be aware of the perceived liabilities and be ready to answer, demonstrate and even be proactive in dispelling some of the “perceived liabilities.”

Unfortunately many older workers buy into the age issue and it immediately becomes a huge barrier and a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe you’re too old, then you are too old. There is nothing we can do about our age — we are as old as we are.
There are, however, many things we can do to deal with our age and the perception others have toward us. “I’ve never felt as though I was discriminated against in any way due to my age. I believe it’s up to each of us older workers to do whatever we can to help dispel the age discrimination myth, or at least put it into perspective. Source: “Ask Matt: Is age really an issue?” by Matt Krumrie; StarTribune, April 3, 2012.

According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the unemployment rate for workers 55 and up was  2.9% in 2018 and dropped to 2.5% at the end of 2019.[Source:]

The demographics show that more 50+ people will be in the workforce for the next decade. There are lots of opportunities to make that career transition and clients need your help to show them the way!

COMPLETE the Worksheet Section — Conclusion. 

Congratulations! You have now completed the course. Be sure that you send your completed worksheet to Anne Hull.

Be sure to complete the evaluation in order to receive your certificate. 

Thanks for Your Support of!