How can you overcome ageism in interviews?

In our youth obsessed culture, what’s the best way to navigate unconscious bias in interviews? Acknowledging its existence is a good starting point. Many of us have internalised the idea that risk, energy and agility are the preserve of the young. Yet when you reflect more deeply, we all know people in their 20s who crave security and routine, preferring Netflix to running marathons. The reality is, there’s as much diversity in the over 40s as there is in the under 40s.

To ensure you don’t get blindsided by ageism in interviews, consider paying attention to the following five areas:

Flexibility

The elephant in the room for many interviewers is whether you can work well with leaders who are younger than you. A good way of addressing this in the interview is by highlighting where you’ve worked on projects with younger mangers. Emphasise how you enjoyed collaborating with them and what you learnt from them. This will help present you as a team player and someone who can adapt easily to new situations.

Language matters

Lead with passion not experience. Reframing experience as passion will position you as someone who’s dynamic and constantly looking to expand your knowledge. By doing this you’re recognising that your journey is never ending and that you welcome new ideas and other peoples’ perspectives.

Many organisations now embrace a collaborative style of management which values initiative and the team development.  In the interview position yourself as someone who champions this. Be aware of your language. Talk about how you “lead you team” instead of “managing your staff.” Emphasise how you empower people to reach their potential and find meaning in their work.   

Growth mind set

Having a natural curiosity and managing your learning and development is really important for employers. Skills get outdated very quickly so staying relevant through doing further education, attending seminars and going to networking events to stay abreast of industry trends is essential if you want to stay relevant.

Present yourself as a problem solver

When you’re researching the company, think critically about challenges they’re facing and what opportunities may exist. Use your network to speak to people in the company to get up to speed on current projects or developments. Strengthen your sector expertise by reading articles and meeting other contacts in their field.

By anticipating these challenges and highlighting how you’re addressed similar issues in the past, you’ll present yourself as a solutions focused, action oriented player.

Manage your image

Harvey Coleman in “Empowering Yourself. The Organisational Game Revealed.” attributes 30% of career success to image, so it’s worth paying attention to. Ask yourself what your clothes and body language are saying about you. If you’re not sure, ask a friend to give you honest feedback.

Conclusion

These steps will help you make that vital connection with the interview panel and spotlight the attention on why you’re the best fit for the role.

About the author

Laura McGrath is an Executive Coach with a background in recruitment and career coaching. She has a post graduate qualification in Executive Coaching from the IMI and has been a guest lecturer with Trinity College Dublin and TU Dublin. For more information call 087 669 1192.