Leveraging Your Age as an Asset in Executive Interviews


For many executives, running into age discrimination is a unfortunate reality, especially since it’s partly about health and money. How do you turn your years of experience into an advantage?

Be prepared for those inappropriate questions. There’s nothing that exudes confidence and professionalism better than being prepared for those awkward and sometimes illegal questions that come out in an interview.

Don’t…be defensive. Recruiters and hiring managers look at a defensive behavior and try to read between the lines.

Do…your best to turn the situation around. For example, if the interviewer is focusing on your age, highlight how your expertise in the field and years of experience has prepared you for positions of increasingly higher responsibility.

executive_interviews_ageismShowcase your unique talents and skills. Your interviewers have not walked in your shoes. What you may take for granted as an easy job or task, may be quite impressive to an interviewer.

Don’t…assume that everyone knows what you know. You will be selling yourself short if you don’t point out how your accomplishments, skills, and experience bring a unique perspective to any new position you consider.

Do…share stories of your successes to demonstrate your abilities. Often, a company is interviewing you because they see something in your past that they like, or you’re an expert in an area that they are lacking and want you to help them create a solution.  

Show enthusiasm and energy. Companies want to hire great leaders, ones that are not only knowledgeable but passionate about their contributions to an organization. They lead with excitement and are great motivators to their teams.

Don’t…walk into an interview with a cloud hanging over your head or a bad attitude. Even if you’ve had a particularly hard time getting interviews, have been rejected or are feeling undervalued, don’t let that show.

Do…lean in a little closer in your chair to show more interest in the interviewer. Keep your voice upbeat and talk about how this type of work motivates you. Explain how your definition of success goes beyond a paycheck and is more about job satisfaction and your passion for excellence.

Turn your many years of history to your advantage. When you do this well, your age can be considered an asset and you become an extremely attractive candidate.

Equally important…have you ever thought about what prospective employers and executive recruiters can find out about you in the first 30 seconds of meeting you?

They can determine if you:

Value the interviewer’s time. It is common knowledge that most hiring managers are overworked. You might be one of them and understand that time is a very valuable asset when hiring new employees. When you (the job seeker) show up for an interview, it is a courtesy to your interviewer to show up 5-10 minutes early. Being a few minutes early demonstrates that you are honoring the time allotted to you for the interview, and the interviewer’s schedule. This also helps the interviewer stay on track which they appreciate.

Are you a leader or a follower? Approach your interview with one thing in mind – how you can be a solution to the company’s problems. That’s why they want to hire you. Of course you want to support that focus with how productive you are, how your background and experience has prepared you for this job, and how you can handle the responsibility, and position yourself as the best candidate for the job.

Have gnome mentality. Before you dismiss this section, hear me out. The interviewer is trying to get to know you quickly and one way is to ask a couple of very casual questions such as “Did you have a hard time finding us?” and “What do you think about the weather today?”

What they can discern from your response to these questions is: If you complain about the weather or the traffic or location of the office, that you may respond to other company issues in the same manner. So while these may seem like friendly get-to-know-you questions, be cognizant of your answers and how an interviewer might perceive them.

Hijack the interview. Do you step in the door and start pulling out your portfolio or other materials? While it is good to have materials in your possession, it may be wise to save them until it is appropriate to substantiate a key accomplishment you are talking about in your conversation. Make sure you have extra copies of your resume in hand.

Keep in mind that, with your first interview, you don’t get a second chance to make the best “first” impression. Recruiters skim your resume in about 6.5 seconds to get an overall view of who you are and what you can do for their clients. So during the first 30 seconds of an interview, they may pretty well have you summed up. Make that first impression count!


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About the author

Louise Garver's picture

Louise Garver, certified executive resume writer, branding and job search strategist/coach with BlueSteps Executive Career Services, has guided executives across industries and disciplines to land their ideal position in less time while maximizing their compensation. She would be happy to share this vital information with you! Energize your search and learn how to navigate easily the complex job market with her step-by-step job search system.

Learn more about the BlueSteps team of career advisors and the services they provide to help you improve your career trajectory here.

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A very good article with lots of good advice for older candidates such as myself. I´m based in Spain which for the last 7 years has had very high unemployment and have been out of work for many years. There is very little demand for qualified accountants such as myself with years of overseas experience or fluency in a foreign language. Next year, I´ll return to the U.K. after my 65 th. birthday and try to get work, just an ordinary accounting job. The economic crisis in Spain has destroyed the lives of many people.

I was interviewed for a senior management position. The interviewer looked at me from head to toe and gave me an odd look. Later, near the end of the interview, he asked, "So, how many more years do you think you will be working?" I tried to stay calm even though I was quite appalled. My hair was gray before the interview, and after that question I think it turned completely white. Or perhaps that was only my face. I answered, "I really have not given that any thought because I love doing this type of work and can't imagine ever stopping. Also, being pragmatic, I have kids in high school (note: I had them late in life but that's none of their business) so given their expected future undergraduate and post graduate college education expenses I fully expect at least for their sake to be working for many years to come. But I have to tell you I am a bit surprised that you asked this question. Having had at least a decade in management roles (note: much more than that, though I didn't say it), I know I would never ask this type of question because it could be misconstrued by some candidates as potential age discrimination and this is not something that you or I would want to construe." That was the best I could do, and no, I was not offered the job.

I think you were doing just fine until that last bit about age discrimination. Besides putting the interviewer's nose out of joint, it may also send a signal that "this guy could be trouble". I would give people of all ages, creeds and genders the same advice.

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