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Overcoming Ageism in Your Executive Job Search

Companies typically don’t intend to discriminate, but if they have doubts, they may use age as the factor that screens you out. Your job as the candidate is to leave the impression that there is no one more qualified for the job than you. Whether you are young and have risen quickly in your career, or you’re older with a long record of success, here are some strategies you can use during your next executive job search.

Your Executive Resume or CV

Regardless of your age, make sure your executive resume prominently showcases your greatest contributions, accomplishments and quantifiable results and downplays references to everyday duties and responsibilities. Companies don’t want to read your job description, they want to know what you have contributed to previous employers and your impact to the bottom line.

If you’re younger, your executive resume will need to show breadth of experience and high-level strategic work. To do that, be sure to describe any high-visibility initiatives you’ve led that have had corporate-wide impact.

If you’re older, resist the temptation to begin your resume with, “Accomplished executive with more than 30 years’ experience…,” as that can be an immediate tip-off to your age and suggest you are overqualified. Showcasing 15 years of experience will show enough breadth and depth of experience without painting you as “old.” You may want to consider leaving the dates off of your education and removing personal data (i.e., birth date), as they will disclose your age as well.

The Executive Job Search

Networking plays a crucial role in an executive job search but is even more important to younger and older candidates. Having well-respected executives in your network offer an endorsement of your skills and qualifications will pave the way with a prospective employer. Strategically tap into your network and ask key contacts to introduce you to hiring managers and sing your praises.

Another important tool is the use of social networking, especially for the older candidate. At a minimum, a presence on LinkedIn is critical. Contributing to other social media platforms (Twitter, blogs) will allow you to promote yourself, connect with others and build a compelling personal brand. Don’t overlook this key strategy.

The Executive Interview

Younger candidates are challenged with convincing an employer they are mature, experienced and able to translate their skills and accomplishments to new environments and challenges. Make sure you can clearly articulate your strategic contributions, bottom-line impact and unique brand. In addition, although energy is positive in any executive interview, an overplay of energy and enthusiasm can be perceived as young and immature.

Older candidates face different executive interview challenges. Graying hair, lower energy and perceived lack of drive can cause a company to consider a younger candidate. Companies often wonder if older candidates are just waiting to retire… or if they have the flexibility to adjust to a new and different (younger?) culture… or if they are technology (and social media) savvy. To interview successfully, make sure you exude energy and enthusiasm when describing how your skills and experiences meet the needs of the company. In addition, show a willingness to adapt to a new culture, the flexibility to learn new operations and the drive and energy to withstand changing priorities.
 
This article was written by Jeanne Knight, Career Consultant for BlueSteps Executive Career Services.

Jeanne Knight, coach with BlueSteps Executive Career Services (BECS), has worked as a former HR Executive with companies ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 corporation. She knows first-hand the challenges executives face when embarking on a job search or a serious career transition. With her in-depth understanding of the business world and unique “behind the scenes” perspective of the employment process, she offers her clients a personal and pragmatic approach to positioning themselves in a competitive marketplace and conducting a successful job search campaign.

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The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Advanced Job Search

As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to:

- Manage your career while currently employed
- Decide when to make a career transition
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About the author

Jeanne Knight's picture

This article was written by Jeanne Knight, Career Consultant for BlueSteps Executive Career Services.

Jeanne Knight, coach with BlueSteps Executive Career Services (BECS), has worked as a former HR Executive with companies ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 corporation. She knows first-hand the challenges executives face when embarking on a job search or a serious career transition. With her in-depth understanding of the business world and unique “behind the scenes” perspective of the employment process, she offers her clients a personal and pragmatic approach to positioning themselves in a competitive marketplace and conducting a successful job search campaign.

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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