5 Employer Biases Hinder 50+ Job Seekers

Why are so many 50+ professionals failing to convince employers to hire them, losing heart, and dropping out of the search process far too soon?

According to Ron Jamieson and Karen Tulk, of the Toronto recruiting firm, Hire Gray Matter, in addition to reversing their search tactics and being prepared to search for as long as 12 to 18 months, mature job seekers must also be able to successfully neutralize five critical employer age biases in order to land a suitable position.

While Jamieson and Tulk make a strong case for the importance of these biases, as the inventor of Authentic Personal Branding, I remain convinced that understanding and effectively communicating the value you bring to the table is the key to being the candidate of choice, at any age.

(If you’re not clear on the benefits you offer prospective employers, you won’t stand a chance of convincing them to choose you. Don’t delay! Grab my free 4-step Value Proposition Development Exercise and get started!)

Combining our perspectives makes it clear that the most successful job seekers are:
a) Self aware, and able to skillfully
b) Match the benefits they offer to eash specific prospective employers’ needs

c) Identify recruiters’, hiring managers’ and prospective bosses’ biases, and…
d) Deconstruct these biases as soon as they show up

So let’s take a look at the biases Hire Gray Matter cites as key deterrents to the employment of mature, experienced professionals.

5 Employer Age Biases:

  1. Lack of Drive and Energy:
    50+ applicants must battle the stereotype that pigeonholes them as old, tired, and ready for the rocking chair. Staying fit, dressing appropriately and presenting with youthful vitality all go a long way to over-
    coming this perception. Adding active personal interests and hobbies to resumes and LinkedIn profiles is also a plus. “After all,” Tulk quips, “No one thinks of a kayaking enthusiast as over sixty.”
  1. Technology:
    To avoid coming across as a dinosaur, it’s critical that older professionals stay current with the latest technologies. They must set aside their own biases against texting or Skyping, and jump in with both feet.
    Many free online tutorials offer updates on social media tools, the latest smartphone apps, technology trends, on-line networking sites, and much more.

    3. Skills:
    Whether they were “grandfathered” into their former position, or have all but the latest credentials, Tulk advises older workers to consider updating their certifications.  Recruiters looking for key certifications, such as a PMP (Project Management Professional) tend not to select an older applicant with 20 years experience and no credentials over a younger applicant with their PMP certification and 10 years experience.  However, when choosing between equally credentialed candidates with unequal experience, the applicant with more experience will have an edge.

  1. Salary:
    The belief that older, more experienced professionals cost more is accurate.  Tulk counsels senior professionals to be flexible in their salary expectations, such as opting for shorter hours (3 – 4 days a week, vs. 5) or longer vacations to make themselves more affordable. For older workers wanting to change their life/work balance, this may be appealing. However, if that is not the applicant’s goal, there are alternative approaches.
    Mature professionals could offer to work on a consulting basis. Not having to provide health, pension and other employee benefits makes a worker more affordable, without reducing their professional value in the employment marketplace.
    Negotiating a lower base salary paired with a higher, performance-based bonus demonstrates the candidate’s confidence in their ability to deliver value.  But… this approach should be used only by those applicant’s who are very confident, because… While it reduces the employer’s risk, it also provides a sort of hiring insurance. If the employee doesn’t hit their performance targets, not only won’t the employer have to pay their bonus, they gain cause to replace the under-performing employee.
  1. Younger Bosses:
    Older workers will end up reporting to younger bosses. It’s inevitable, given current demographics. Tulk advises older workers to show younger bosses the same respect and deference they would to a boss of their own age or older.  She also cautions older workers to resist urges to lecture the young pups on what the old dogs can teach them.

Join this discussion!

If you’ve faced these age biases or others in your job search, take a minute to add your comments.
Tell us about the situation you experienced it, and how you handled it.

11 Steps That Make the Difference Between Successful Authentic Personal Branding and Sure Failure

In Your Personal Brand Development Options we talked about the following 11-point checklist.

Use it to find the personal brand strategist who will help you develop the effective Authentic Personal Brand that delivers an excellent return on your personal brand investment (ROI).

1. A “Top Notch” Personal Brand Strategist WILL be Hard to Find

They will be especially hard to find on-line.  Because they’re busy “doing the work” of personal branding, they have little time to spend writing and speaking about personal branding.  It’s a better bet to ask someone who has a personal  brand that they are happy with for a referral. Once you have that,  ask that personal brand strategist the following questions.  As with diamonds, those that are found easily on the surface are usually not worth keeping.  You’ve got to dig deep for the quality stones.

2. They Will Deliver an Excellent ROI

“Top Notch” personal brand strategists deliver an excellent ROI. (Return on Investment) Their clients can easily identify the tangible benefits their personal branding has (and is) delivering. You must verify that the personal brand strategist you are considering gives their clients a consistently solid return on their personal branding investment.

3. They Are Experienced

An experienced personal brand strategist can readily prove “they know their stuff.”  Typically, they do this through numerous testimonials or case studies. You should be able to validate by actually speaking with the person who wrote the testimonial or is the subject of the case study.  Be wary of “unidentified” case studies or “name withheld” testimonials. While it’s true that some clients prefer to have their identity protected, if only a few of a personal brand strategist’s clients are willing to put their names to their testimonial – this is a “red flag” you should heed.

4. They “Walk their Talk”

An experienced personal brand strategist has their own distinctive, consistent, and authentic personal brand.  They genuinely “walk their talk.”

5. They Have “The Right” Backgrounds

The only professional experience that equips a personal brand strategist with the skills they need to “do” personal branding is a background in corporate or product branding.  And there’s a BIG caveat here.

In order to make traditional branding work for people – as opposed to working for products or businesses – the personal brand strategist must make adjustments to the traditional branding process.  Corporate and product branding is a process that requires the brand strategists to “assign” values, attitudes, strengths and other brand traits to the brand they are developing.  These brand traits are carefully chosen to appeal to the target market who will buy the branded product, or the services provided by the branded company.

In order to build an Authentic Personal Brand, the personal brand strategist needs to be able to work with their client’s REAL values, attitudes, strengths, and other authentic brand traits.

6. They do NOT Hold Any Sort of “Personal Brand Certification”

As Personal Branding is a new and unregulated field – you need to choose your “personal brand strategist” carefully.  Those who cite a “personal brand certification” are telling you that they have been through some sort program that is equivalent to a general interest course in the traditional education system.  They may have learned some good information, but taking the class does not enable them to “think like” an experienced brand strategist. It does not equip them to  “do” personal branding.  At best, such training makes them a talented amateur who has educated themselves on the subject of personal branding. They have a theoretical perspective – but lack the practical, functional skills that come only from the “right” professional background.

7. Their Own Personal Brand Appeals to You

It’s important that you find the personal brand strategist’s brand appealing. Why?  Because it’s necessary for your brand values to relate to theirs.  If your goal in developing a personal brand is to build a technology based business that will net you a massive amount of wealth, you should not choose to work with a personal brand strategist whose brand values do not include achievement business success and wealth. And you must avoid working with the personal brand strategist whose values make her the perfect selection for NGOs or non-profit organizations.  You need to be able to relate to your brand strategist on numerous levels, and as your brand values are not yet identified – use your “gut” response to the appeal of the strategist’s personal brand as your compass.

8. Their Personal Branding Process Includes Multiple External Checks and Balances

The personal branding process used by the personal brand strategist you choose must NOT be solely dependent on the opinions and views of the individual being branded.  Their branding process must require that others’ perspectives are included at critical point, in order to validate or redirect the personal branding process.

9. Their Personal Branding Process is Guided

You need to find out how much support the personal brand strategist will be providing to you.  And also, how much involvement you will have in developing the final brand deliverables.  Be wary of programs that allow you to direct the brand development entirely on your own.

Even for a professional personal brand strategist, the human trait of being unable to be objective about yourself will get in your way – and  negatively impact your personal brand.

10. Their Personal Branding Process is Fully Developed

Your personal brand strategist needs to be able to outline their process, so you can see how step 1 leads to step 2 and step 3 and so on. If they can’t (or won’t) they might be just flying by the seat of their pants.  And most of us don’t like being treated like “lab rats.”

  • 11. Your Personal Brand Strategist Has All the Answers
  • Your personal brand strategist needs to be able to clearly and quickly answer all of your questions on the timing, cost and tangible deliverables that you will get from their Personal Brand Development Process.  If they don’t have a quick answer, they may be applying their creativity to develop one – and that is something no “real” expert will EVER need to do.Using this checklist will enable you to find a competent Personal Brand Development expert.  They will be able to give you the functional, quality, personal brand that enables you to maximize your performance and realize your goals.

    This Checklist was first made public by Rosemary Davies-Janes in a March 18, 2009  interview broadcast by The Guru Nation.  Rosemary (RDJ)  served as The Guru Nation’s Authentic Personal Branding Guru.

Your Personal Brand Development Options

If you are thinking about developing a personal brand, how will you go about doing that?

1. Who will you ask?

2. What will you ask them?

3. How can you tell if a personal brand
is truly effective and authentic?

Perhaps you’ll try to find someone to help you develop your Authentic Personal Brand through a Google search? 

If you do, “personal brand” will deliver 391,000,000 + results. You’ll get links to lots and lots (and lots!) of information on personal branding.

You’ll find that people are  talking about personal branding on every available platform: blogs, websites,  audio and video.

And while all that talk will give you some information on personal branding, what you learn won’t give you the insight you need to develop your own Authentic Personal Brand.

But all of this information won’t give you the insight you need to develop your own Authentic Personal Brand

When you come to this conclusion, what’s your next step?

If your next step is to search for “personal branding experts,” you will get  more links to sites, articles and posts promoting people who call themselves personal brand experts by talking about personal branding.

The same holds true of searches for “personal branding products.” You’ll get a lot of information, and the option to possibly buy some products, but little or no support.

Ironically, when you key in “personal branding support” you’ll get even more talk, but little  support.

Do you believe that someone who writes or speaks extensively on the topic of personal branding can build a personal brand?

I think most people do!

So it’s astonishing to see how many of the people writing and speaking on the topic of personal branding have NEVER actually developed a personal brand.  Not even their own!

Many of those writing and speaking  about personal branding
have NEVER developed a personal brand. Not even their own!

I’ve been shocked to find that many of these self proclaimed personal branding experts are themselves in dire need of personal branding.  They wear many hats, hoping that the more services they offer, the more clients they will attract.  Nothing could be less effective. After all, who hires a “jack of all trades” when they could hire a “master”?

The following example was provided by someone who recently wrote a personal branding post for a branding blog.

“I often function as a [1] brand [and] [2] social media expert… I also function as a [3] public relations consultant…a [4] trainer… a [5] columnist and writer…a [6] Public speaker…as a [7] social crusader…”

Based on how he presents himself, I don’t think he’ll need to worry you’ll be asking him to find time to brand YOU!

What searches deliver better results?

  • “Personal Branding Services”
  • “Personal Branding Programs”

These search terms are a little closer to the mark. But you’ll still have to do a lot of sifting and sorting of the results.  Why?

Because most Advertising “leaves out” a method for you to use to make a good buying decision.

  • Is the personal branding expert you find relying on flashy
    or funny stories that are repeated over and over again?
  • Are they giving you a methodology that you can use to
    choose a qualified and experienced personal brand strategist?

Whether you find a likely personal branding expert on-line or through a referral, there are a number of key questions you need to ask to separate the “pros” from the “pontificators.”

Read 11 Steps That Make the Difference Between Successful Authentic Personal Branding and Sure Failure.

Use this checklist to find the personal brand strategist who will help you develop the effective Authentic Personal Brand that delivers an excellent return on your personal brand investment (ROI).