Job Hunting Advice If You Have More Than 15 Years Experience

Posted by Pat Tovo

job hunting advice if you have more than 15 years experienceI have a friend who is an Executive Recruiter. She once told me that a client actually said to her, “Don’t bring me any gray hair.” Meaning she didn’t want to see candidates who were considered older. While age discrimination is illegal that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

If you have more than 15-20 years of experience, you fall into the “older” category. Sad, but true. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t find a good cleared job. Here are some strategies to strengthen your cleared job search.

Be Hip

Just using that term “hip” will date you, so maybe “be current” is a better phrase. But the point is you want to present yourself as relevant and up-to-date on current trends and technology. This knowledge is an ongoing process. You can’t cram the day before an interview and expect to demonstrate relevancy.

Does your profession or the contracts you have worked on typically require specific certifications, and if so, do you have them? If your technology skills are rusty or lagging behind, find a community college, continuing education program, professional association or Meetup that offers appropriate training.

Know Your Industry and Profession

The automatic assumption often made by hiring managers is that gray hair is going to bring with it a stuck-in-a-rut, know-it-all attitude. Be prepared to demonstrate that you understand current trends and appreciate cutting-edge thinking. Don’t be pretentious, but have a solid arsenal of examples that prove your worth and demonstrate flexibility and adaptation.

Simplify Your Resume

It may hurt your pride a bit to cut back on some of your experience or accomplishments, but you don’t want to overwhelm recruiters with too much info that is only going to date you, or that may not be relevant to the job you’re applying for. Don’t recap your background in terms of years; for example, don’t use in a summary “Over 20 years of xx experience.” For the vast majority of jobs, 10-15 years of work history is plenty. Cut back your chronology to that shorter time frame, and really focus on the last 5-10 years because that’s what’s most important.

We recently surveyed recruiters and hiring managers at several job fairs, and the majority still want your resume to be no longer than two pages. Sure you need to address the level of experience required in the job posting, but again, how many job postings do you see that require more than 10-15 years of experience?

Polish the Look of Your Resume

Do an online search of resume formats, ask a friend in the hiring industry, or a resume reviewer at one of our job fairs to give you some formatting tips. Chronological is the norm, so avoid functional resumes. Make sure you have a lot of white space and that your accomplishment statements are as short and crisp as possible. We see a correlation between the experience level of a cleared job seeker and the length both of their resume, as well as their bullet point descriptions.

All the tools in your job search tool kit need to be top notch, and making sure your resume format, content and length are fresh and relevant to the positions you’re applying for improves your chances of getting an interview.

Take a Hard Look at Your Wardrobe

Showing up for an interview with a tie that is 20 years old, shoes your grandmother might wear, or clothes that don’t fit you properly screams “I’m dating myself and I don’t care.” Look online or ask for help from a personal shopper or a friend or family member that has a polished look. Get yourself an interview outfit that says “I’m professional, I’m contemporary, I’m polished.” The review of your professional look should also include an assessment of your haircut and briefcase/handbag, and your grooming.

Yes these things are superficial. Yes they shouldn’t matter. But they do. You only have one chance to make a good first impression, so don’t handicap yourself — defy our culture and human nature at your own job search peril.

Age Targeted Interview Questions

Every hiring manager knows they can’t ask about age, but that just makes some of them more cunning in how they interview you. I was once asked what year I graduated from college. I knew where it was going and it threw me for a curve. Be prepared for that kind of question.

A good response would be, “I’m curious to know why you’re asking me this. Are you worried my skills might be out-of-date?” Explain that your age/experience would be an asset but you remain eager to learn. Describe appropriate accomplishments and the strengths you would bring to the job. In other words, be prepared to deflect and turn the conversation into a dialog about your value.

Hunting for a good cleared job at any age is a tough process. Don’t fall into a trap of feeling sorry for yourself. Instead concentrate on how to improve your relevancy, develop skills that are in demand, and continue to network. Perseverance is a trait of the “older” generation. Use it to your advantage.

One last tip: If you still have an AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail account, consider creating a new email address for your job search. Read Does My Email Service Provider Make Me Look Old.

Pat Tovo guides job seekers in conducting successful employment searches through targeted prospecting, effective resume writing, and polished interviewing skills. She enjoys facilitating workshops and working one-on-one in career counseling.


This entry was posted on Sunday, October 15, 2017 7:06 pm

One thought on “Job Hunting Advice If You Have More Than 15 Years Experience”

  1. Many thanks for posting this insightful and useful article!

    As a gray-haired one, I can appreciate and relate to those good pointers, the first of which will be to trim my resume substantially and immediately.


    Stephen H. Franke, M.Ed., PMP (Pending)
    Middle East regional analyst and specialist in development and modernization of foreign military forces in the CENTCOM / SOCCENT AOR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation