You are a senior job search candidate and you are interviewing for a new position. You have been successful in the interview process and are one of five finalists.
You note that the other finalists are younger than you, as were the people with whom you interviewed thus far. From the interview process you have learned that you are probably the most highly qualified candidate for the position.
You have sent a “Thank You” to each person with whom you interviewed. Several of these individuals have indicated that you are the only candidate who was polite enough to do this. Your rapport is very high with these individuals, and the position would be a very good fit for you personally, and for your skills and abilities.
At last you are called in for the final interview with the person to whom you will report if you are hired. You notice that this person, too, is younger than you. What do you do? Let’s set the scene.
You are called into the decision maker’s office and invited to be seated. The decision maker greets you, and says something like, “Before we get started with the interview, is there anything you want to say?”
“Yes,” you say, “I have noticed that there is a decided age difference between myself and others in the department. That certainly is not a problem for me. Is it for anyone here?” Please be very diplomatic in how you express yourself here. No arrogance. No challenge. Just a simple innocent question, a question of concern.
The response, probably 100% of the time, would be “No.”
You could also use this technique at the end of the interview, when almost always, the question “Do you have any questions for us?” is asked.
What you have created is a situation that brings out into the open, innocently, with concern, something that has been on everyone’s mind. You have made the decision maker aware that you are open to working with, and reporting to, and taking direction from, younger people. This simple technique may completely set aside the age challenge.
Yes, there are “laws” against age discrimination. Yes, companies and decision makers should realize that it is a violation of law to discriminate against you solely because of age.
However, to think that age discrimination does not exist, especially unconsciously, is foolish. It does exist, especially in a situation as described above. What you are doing here is bringing it to the forefront, and dismissing it. You may even be making the decision maker aware of his or her unconscious reaction to the age difference. This will cause it to become unimportant.
There is one more idea that needs to be emphasized here. It is a concept that is seldom considered, yet it is vital to a job offer, and vital to your success once you are hired and it is this: they must like you in order to hire you.
Turn the tables on your thinking. What if you were the decision maker? What if you had to make a hiring decision? Would you not want to surround yourself with qualified people that you enjoy being around? Of course you would.
Have you ever worked with, or for, someone that you did not like? How comfortable was it?
Over the years, I have seen people get hired because their likability factor was high, even for positions for which they were not fully qualified.
Do not underestimate the importance of this.
A summation: Prepare yourself for the interview. Research the company. Review likely interview questions and your potential answer. Send thank you cards. When you have enough information on the position, send a follow-up letter to the decision maker, and do your best to develop rapport. Better yet, email it within 24 hours to the personal email of the decision maker.
“Mr. / Ms. Decision-maker. I want to thank you and your staff for taking your valuable time to interview me. May I say, I am very impressed with you all. I strongly believe that I could make a valuable contribution to this company. You would find me an excellent employee. I would very much like to work here. Is there anything more that I could do in order to obtain this position?”
Richard M. Knappen is the president of Chessmen Career Movers, an outplacement, career management, and consulting firm that is one of the oldest and largest locally-owned companies of its type in Southern California.