Combating Ageism & Getting Hired When You’re In Your 50s & Older

If you’re over 50 and looking for a job or a career change, certain recruiters may not consider your resume just because of your age. As it stands, ageism is one of the most common forms of discrimination in the workplace; and one of the most difficult to identify. Ageism is a challenge for many late-career job seekers because there are many misconceptions held by recruiters and hiring managers based on an applicant’s perceived age. Some of the more common misconceptions are that older candidates:

  • Can’t adapt to new technology
  • May have higher salary expectations
  • Are set in their ways and tough to change habits
  • Will retire sooner, diminishing ROI on the cost of recruiting

However, the chances of getting a new job after 55 aren’t as low as you may think. Older applicants can take advantage of unique generational traits, sophisticated skill sets, and a job market currently tilted in their favor.

Why businesses want candidates from older generations

Fortunately for older job seekers, given the current war for talent, recruiters must address the disproportionate number of available jobs compared to the number of job seekers. As of September 2021, there were over 10.4 million available jobs and only 8.4 million unemployed individuals in the US. We also saw a record number of people (4.4 million) quitting their jobs voluntarily. Consequently, recruiters must widen their applicant sources to fill roles, and look at job seekers in groups that they haven’t previously considered, including those with decades of work experience. Regardless of the current war for talent, there are many reasons why a more veteran candidate is a great hire.

Life experience

If you’ve been in the workforce for a couple of decades, it typically means you’ve seen a lot. You have successfully navigated a range of economic conditions and offer a record of success with demonstrated accomplishments – which your younger colleagues have yet to achieve. Additionally, there are plenty of jobs where your age and maturity are an advantage. In sectors such as wealth management or insurance sales, clients prefer to speak with someone they can relate to and trust based on their years of invested care and problem-solving.

Communication skills

Good communication is a critical soft skill that is something of a lost art in today’s world of texting and emojis. Your willingness to pick up the phone to speak with people makes you an attractive candidate for roles in sales, customer service, hospitality, or public relations. Moreover, younger employees with less experience dealing with customers might have difficulty communicating and connecting with people from various walks of life.

Extensive network

Applicants with many years in the workplace likely have a wider and stronger network. Relationships take time to build, and if you’ve been in the workforce for a while, chances are you’ve built up an extensive network of former customers, colleagues, suppliers, and professional contacts. Prospective employers see tremendous value in having a long list of business connections, which can make your resume stand out above the rest.


In a 2019 study conducted by LinkedIn, of the five generations that are currently in the workforce, they found that Baby Boomers are the most loyal to their employers and are less likely to job hop. In contrast, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees between the ages of 25-34 only stay at their jobs for an average of 2.8 years, and only 1.3 years for workers between the ages of 20-24. Companies are starting to realize that veteran candidates tend to be steadfast in their career choices and less likely to leave after a short tenure.


With the growing emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), many companies are striving to have a workforce encompassing all categories: race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, as well as age. Companies understand that their client base also covers the full age spectrum; therefore, business sense dictates a workforce that both reflects and understands customers from multiple generations. Greater diversity also yields more ideas, and senior staff members can offer unique perspectives to junior members of a team.

Increase Your Chances of Getting A Job After 55

Although the current job market is favoring a more seasoned candidate, managers still have reservations about hires with lots of experience. The trap older candidates can fall into is that they see a company wants an “experienced” person, so they continue to make their past work history their major selling point in the interview. As a result, they may end up getting labeled as overqualified for the role.

Additionally, recruiters may think an overly experienced candidate won’t take direction easily or adapt fast enough to new systems and procedures. Without hearing about how a candidate would love to do the work and how well they would fit in with the team, managers might have nothing to counter their reservations. Evidently, simply having experience isn’t enough to land a job these days – you’ll want the right kinds of skills, a polished resume, and to showcase a motivated mindset.

Update your skills

Getting online certifications for programs commonly used in your field is a simple and great way to build up your resume while showcasing a will to learn new things. Become familiar with go-to software tools, so you can hit the ground running at your new job. Online learning platforms including General Assembly, Coursera, and edX offer a range of free and low-cost programs that can help you learn the latest skills to enhance your opportunities.

Optimize your application

If you’re a late-career job seeker, there’s no better time than now to land your next great gig. However, you may have to make some modifications to your resume to make it stand out and be more attractive to recruiters. In the age of ATS (Application Tracking Systems), the chances of your resume being reviewed by an actual human are low if it doesn’t pass the ATS filter first. Here are some quick tips you may wish to consider:

  • Reformat your resume work history from chronological to highlighting your skills and accomplishments
  • Remove years of employment from your work experience
  • Remove the year of graduation from your education
  • Showcase only the companies you’ve worked for the last 20 years
  • Make sure to include technology-related keywords relevant to your industry and experience such as Salesforce, blockchain, AI, etc. 

Prepare to meet with younger managers

Young managers, middle career managers, and maybe all managers look for three basic things in a candidate. They look to see if a candidate can do the job, if they want to do the job for their organization, and if they are a good fit for the company culture. Thus, as a candidate you have to prepare to talk about yourself in all three ways.

Whether you can do the job is all about knowledge, skill, and experience. Having been in the workforce for a while, you have plenty of that but don’t let it crowd out the other two elements. Wanting to do the job is about your motivation. Talk about why you want the job in a way that aligns with the company’s goals and show that their motives are also your motives. Fitting in with the company culture is about working comfortably with the boss and the team as it currently exists. Be prepared to describe how you have worked in organizations with similar cultures, working styles, and procedures.

Be a role model

Capitalize on your extensive experience by being a positive role model. Present yourself as a mentor, one with the proven ability to calm people during times of crisis. Reinforce the narrative that you have seen the ups and downs of the business cycle and know how to help the organization survive and succeed.

Keystone Partners empowers employees from every generation

With decades of experience in outplacement, career management services, and leadership development, Keystone Partners is accustomed to shifting workplace demographics. Generational gaps are getting wider and the average age of retirement is increasing, and businesses need to prepare for this change. Keystone Partners’ unique solutions are creating better company cultures, hiring processes, and leadership roles for every generation in the workforce. Click here to learn more today.

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