Forty may be the new 50, but how can employees in their 40s best highlight their skill sets to shine in today’s competitive job market and land a new position?
Whether it’s adding tech-savvy skills to a resume, boosting SEO search terms or incorporating more social media in your job search, there’s much to know in the career landscape.
FOX Business reached out to job experts who provided tips on how to get an edge if you’re over 40 and looking for a new role in 2024.
Reboot your resume
Ageism is real, but it does not have to get in the way, according to experts.
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It’s all in how you present yourself, said Stacie Haller, a Boston-based chief career adviser with Resumebuilder.com.
“Your resume must reflect what it should look like in today’s world — and experience of over 20 years should not be listed with dates,” she said.
Haller instead proposed creating something like an “Earlier Career” section, if it is helpful when applying to a particular position.
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Additionally, she said that easy fixes such as not using an AOL email address and removing your street address and picture can eliminate obvious ageism tip-offs that have nothing to do with your ability to do a terrific job but can present you as “an old person.”
Tailor your cover letter
Cover letters should be targeted and well-prepared, advised Haller.
“It should generally contain three simple paragraphs,” she said.
“The first one is what you are applying to and why; the middle is highlighting a few of your specific experiences and successes that match the job description; and the third is thanking [a hiring manager] for their time and consideration and looking forward to next steps.”
Research your prospects
“Doing your homework is key, as is individualizing your approach,” Haller told FOX Business.
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She added, “You should not be sending the same resume and cover letter to every job you apply for — they must be customized.”
To that end, Haller said the individual job posting has all the details you need to know so that you can highlight certain areas on your resume and in your cover letter.
“You should not be sending the same resume and cover letter to every job you apply for — they must be customized.”
Add keywords as well. If the resume and other materials are being scanned, any keywords will pop in a company’s automated applicant tracking system.
Be sure to network
During the job hunt, prioritize networking by connecting with former colleagues and friends to let them know you are open to new opportunities, recommended Doug Walker, manager of HR Services with Insperity in San Diego.
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“Additionally, applicants over 40 should actively participate in professional organizations to stay updated on industry changes and ensure they hear about upcoming roles first.”
Plus, those in their 40s and above have the leg up when it comes to networking, he indicated.
“They have already established a network of former colleagues and industry professionals with whom they have a rapport,” said Walker.
“These relationships have been fostered over decades and can lead to some of the most helpful referrals, especially because an applicant over 40 is likelier to have connections who have risen into more senior roles.”
Plan for an interview
If you’ve secured an interview, there are specific steps you can take to create better footing.
Refrain from dominating the discussion
During the interview, listen closely to the hiring manager or talent executive — and be prepared to ask your interviewer thought-provoking questions.
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“This will show your aptitude for understanding the organization and identifying areas where you may help with any existing challenges,” noted Walker.
Key point: Do not over-talk during your interview.
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“Try to limit your talking to 40% and get the interviewer talking at least 60%,” said Walker. “Interviewers will think you are a good listener who is very interested in the role. Ask open-ended questions and listen actively to accomplish that 40/60 ratio.”
Highlight your skills and experience
Although you have talents, educational credentials and demonstrated performance — there could still be bias.
“Age is a protected group; however, people have unconscious biases,” Walker said.
“If a candidate’s first interaction with the organization is through their cover letter and resume, it is suggested a person not promote age.”
For example, raising awareness of one’s age with phrases such as, “I have amassed a wealth of knowledge” — or using outdated business terms can suggest to the employer that the candidate has not changed with the times, even if that’s not true, he said.
Showcase your updated talents
Highlight your measurable accomplishments and tailor your message about why you’re a great fit for the job at hand.
“Candidates should also include any training or certifications for new business challenges like AI to let the employer know they’re in tune with current trends,” Walker said.
“When interviewing, the recommendations are the same for any age,” emphasized Walker.
“Research the company’s culture, dress to whatever standard is considered ‘professional’ by that industry and let your personality shine,” he also said.
“Though ‘business formal’ was once expected for interviews, the in-person workplace is more casual than ever before, so business casual interview attire may be appropriate. Whatever the role, dress the part.”
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