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How to Overcome the Bleak Employment Prospects Faced by Older Workers

Category: Work and Volunteering

December 24, 2018 — (this is a continuation of our “Time to Retire Retirement” Series.) Part 1 of this series starts with the idea that since people are living active lives much longer than what used to be retirement age, the idea of retirement might need to be reconsidered. In this edition we want to focus on the difficulties that older workers have if they decide to take up on that idea – postponing or maybe never retiring. An article from the Wall St. Journal, “Booming Employment Market Can’t Fill the Retirement Shortfall“, has some very sobering information on older people who would like to remain in the workplace.

The number of older Americans are out of work or stuck in low-quality jobs is large, almost 8 million. Over 5 million of those do not have health insurance. Adding to retirement savings or improving their earning record for Social Security in a meaningful way is difficult for them.  Even for those who do manage getting another job, their earnings after a period of unemployment will likely suffer.  Whereas workers under 30 usually see a 7% increase in their earnings after a period of not working, people over 56 experience an average earnings decline  of 27%. Workers over 55 spend an average of three months longer looking for a job than do the unemployed aged 25-54. Sadly, the longer anyone is unemployed the more unattractive they become to the job market.

Many reasons. There are a variety of reasons why older workers face a harder time finding a job.  One is age discrimination. Certain experiments show that resumes with clues that a candidate is older often do not generate the interviews that similarly qualified resumes from a younger people do.  Even when they do get an interview, people in their 50s and 60s don’t get job offers at the same rate as younger folks. To some extent employers are not looking in the places where older workers hang out, and vice versa.  Companies fear that older candidates might require more expensive health care insurance. Older candidates often do not have the latest job skills and qualifications, particularly in the technical world.  They are probably not as adept at negotiating the digital recruiting marketplace, nor are they as flexible about relocation.

Some are trying to help. One employer that is capitalizing on the market for older job seekers is Chroma Technology Corp in Vermont, which has 44% of its worker aged 54 or older. It offers training and sabbaticals to workers of all ages. A number of nonprofits are trying to assist older workers get good jobs. One of those is Nova Workforce Development Board,  a nonprofit employment training agency in Silicon Valley which manage most of the country nonprofit bookkeeping. Another is New Directions Career Center, which helps women in central Ohio. Outfits like these try to “de-age” resumes and update skills to make candidates more attractive employment prospects, as well as work with employers and other organizations to hold job fairs

What can you do. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself unemployed when you don’t want to be, there are some steps you can take.  You do have to be active though, no one is going to seek you out if you don’t look!  Here are some steps and resources that can help:

  • Look online and ask others what kind of organizations are available in your area to help older workers find jobs
  • Get familiar with online recruiting vehicles that are used in the field(s) you are interested in
  • Contact your community college to see what kind of vocational training they offer.  Most are interested in training people for the vacant jobs that exist in your area
  • Get help updating your resume to de-age it and emphasize your skills, training, and strengths for today’s market
  • Think about applying for part time work, even if your goal is full time. If the situation is right, maybe you can work your way to full time or get the experience to move on
  • Practice role playing to make your questions and answers more attractive and relevant to an interviewer who might be much younger than you are.

For further reading: 
How to Find a Job That Works for You
Best Places to Find a Job in Retirement

Comments? Please let know about your job seeking experiences. Any tips or strategies that worked, or didn’t work?

Posted by Admin on December 24th, 2018


  1. Another idea for finding employment is to contact a temp agency. There are companies that place temps in many areas from admins to accountants to tech and research. The company I worked for used to bring on many temps to staff up projects to cover the peaks and often hired those temps as permanent employees. The people who came in for temp jobs often did not have to exact resume that would have been considered for a perm hire but they had a skill that was needed and once on the team contributed a lot. Temp agencies usually offer health insurance and other benefits as well. It’s a

    by jean — December 25, 2018

  2. One of the last positions I held was Director of Education and Talent Development. Be prepared to do either a phone or video/skype interview. Over 90% of the interviews I conducted were not done in person. Do some research about the company you are applying to, understand the products and services company “XYZ” provide, as I always asked. As the bullet point above mentioned it is good to practice/role play, but be able to talk about yourself in a comfortable manner. Be prepared to ask a few questions for the interviewer, they should ask if there is anything you would like to know about the company or position.

    by Bruce — December 25, 2018

  3. One must network. Let others know you are looking. That is how I found my part-time jobs. I would prefer to be full time with benefits and health insurance as I am only 64 since September. I was able to find cheaper options for insurance-a health care cooperative which is ACA approved and through former jobs found work through people who knew me and my skillsets. I am a former nurse with heavy Admin and surgery background and a tour guide as well.

    by Jennifer — December 25, 2018

  4. I’m sure there are some hiring managers who are retired, who might offer some good tips here. I sometimes interviewed applicants for management and professional positions before I retired this year, and can give a few comments about bad interviews.

    Based on my own experiences, older applicants seemed to fall into these traps more than the younger ones: (1) do NOT be the “know-it-all” applicant who claims to be able to do everything, based on years & years of prior experience (unless they are hiring for someone to start up a function). Every company has their own way of doing things, and could want you to do things their way. They may structure the position to do less, or to do more than your prior jobs. Just because you did X at company ABC doesn’t mean it’s done the same way at this company. The new company might even have a low opinion of your prior employer’s business practices, managemet or product. Flexibility and a willingness to learn the new employer’s preferences are good. “Know-it-all” is usually not an asset. (2) Don’t say negative things about your prior employer and manager, even if they treated you poorly or you were laid off due to age discrimination. I heard a lot of anger and bitterness from older applicants, which poisoned their interviews. You never know if the interviewer actually knows your prior employer. (3) Don’t talk about your prior employer’s confidential Information. I was surprisd at how often I’d be told confidental information about an applicant’s work for clients at prior employer, a competitor’s pricing or finances, that an applicant could bring us a competitor’s documents, and more. (4) Don’t talk about your medical issues, financial problems, personal issues or plans to stop work completely when you are interviewing for a job. It seems obvious, but ALL of the older applicants that I interviewed made this mistake. Yes, an interviewer may be pleasant and seem interested but this doesn’t belong in an interview. It won’t help you. (5) Everyone knows not to ask about salary or benefits in a first interview. All of the older applicants I interviewed made this mistake. HR fixed salaries based on a job description, salaries paid to existing employees, the budget and pay surveys. The fact someone had 30 years of industry experience or is looking to supplement retirement savings is irrelevant. While this doesn’t mean that sometimes there’s room to negotiate, that can’t happen until the job is offered. You don’t want an employer to think it might get a half-a**ed effort by a applicant who already has one foot out the door.

    We primarily looked for people who were team players, good listeners, had a positive attitude, and who were enthusiastic and interested in working for our company. Someone else may have completely different suggestions. This isn’t black & white, and every employer can look for different things. And yes, IMO age discrimination exists. The EEOC has just successfully trained employers how to hide it.

    by Kate — December 26, 2018

  5. Thanks for sharing Kate. That was a very useful post.

    by Caps — December 26, 2018

  6. Great job Kate. You are right on.

    by John — December 26, 2018

  7. Kate: I agree with you 100%. You have handed out words of wisdom and common sense too. I would never have hired a person who made it clear they would not be long term. In my current situation one of our team is a lady who just turned 92! You would never guess it. She drivers herself to work, maintains a large garden in the Spring and Summer months and acts and dresses like a person much younger than her age. She is very engaging in conversation as well. She works two days a week and is very happy to do so. She does forget things once in a while, but I totally overlook this because she has great customer service skills, has been there over 25 years, and has even given me helpful tips. She is a great example for the rest of us in the office and the patients like her too.

    by Jennifer — December 27, 2018

  8. If you are older and do get the job, keep in mind that older people have baggage. It is natural because they have experienced a lot of good and bad from previous employers. If you should get the job, don’t compare current job to your last job with your coworkers. How much better working conditions were, how much better benefits were. How you had a better cubicle or desk or office. How the 401k match was better, bigger. How you got bonuses and now you don’t. How your health insurance was better, cheaper.

    Have good hygiene, shower every day! Don’t over do it on perfume or aftershave. Wear age appropriate clothing. Dress for success.

    Avoid gossip, be busy at work and not twiddle thumbs when others are killing themselves. Offer to help if you are allowed to do so. Don’t do personal activities at work like taking a million phone calls from children, doing Christmas cards, doing your bills. Come to work on time and leave on time, not before it is time.

    Do the best job you can possibly do, mind your own business and be the person people come to for advice on work problems.

    Go home to your family and crab about your job, but leave baggage at home. Come to work with a smile on your face.

    Be kind to people because you never know what is going on in their lives.

    I worked with some horrid people (old and young) over the years and that made working with them miserable. But I also worked with some wonderful people (old and young) who were real team players and helped me when I needed it.

    These suggestions are no brainers but some people think they are entitled to do what they want.

    by Louise — December 27, 2018

  9. I always assumed that, after a certain age, workers just aged our of most higher level career opportunities. I recently learned that there are certainly exceptions to this. We have a close friend who is 71 years old and lost his position due to a mandatory business closure. He is not particularly youthful or physically vigorous, but because of his vast level of experience in his field and a decent network of colleagues, he was able to find gainful employment at a similar level he was used to. His salary did decrease quite a bit due to the size of the business that hired him. Nonetheless, he is now able to continue supporting himself and his wife and benefiting from private insurance. Retirement, unfortunately, is nowhere on the horizon for them so this was very good fortune.

    by Linda — December 27, 2018

  10. Great info! Thanks to all who contributed. Especially, “Be kind to people because you never know what is going on in their lives.” …Louise 12/27/18

    by Molly — December 28, 2018

  11. While the suggestions and observations here are in keeping with the angle of the article, and many certainly are savvy tips for professionalism, I take issue with the elephant in the living room. If age discrimination is the leading reason why older people aren’t getting hired, THAT is what must change. Please take a moment to apply some of the same suggestions and observations to populations who experience other forms of discrimination, such as race, gender and disability. Many of the same shortfalls and criticisms have been leveled at those groups. While we are still fighting those forms of discrimination, remember WHY advocacy and special legal protections HAD to be put into place. And, give some thought to the fact that the revved up economy is NOT benefitting all Americans. Ultimately, the financial burden created by millions of aging baby boomers unable to land jobs to keep their homes or afford decent housing and health care will be felt — by the younger generations. This situation is occurring while so many employers reap record profits. Employers who have existing employees doing several jobs (white collar, blue collar – makes no difference) for stagnant pay could remain profitable and still spread the work around. There are plenty of older people with great skills and experience who are effectively kept out of the workplace for no reason other than stereotyping. Some companies are putting experienced, capable seniors to work full- or part-time or even as consultants and reaping value. They “get it.”

    by Sandy — December 28, 2018

  12. Read this article with a great deal of interest. Here are a couple of other points not raised by commenters:

    IMHO, there is a level of alignment between age and the cultural ‘fit’ into an employer’s work force. A senior IT person with decades of experience might have a challenge fitting into the culture of a Google, for example. Before bothering to submit your resume, network into the company you’re interested in and get a feeling for the culture of the firm. Then ask yourself if you can adapt.

    Get on Linkedin

    Try something different that will capitalize on your experience in different ways. Take an aptitude test. Had I decided to continue working instead of retiring, I would have needed a big change. If you’re trying to emulate a role that was eliminated due to firm re-structuring, it’s like asking the same question continually and expecting different results. I think that may be the definition of insanity? Here’s a link that might help from MSN: If you’re really good at something you enjoy, it will be noticed – and you will grow.

    I hope this helps.

    by Dave — December 28, 2018

  13. I have been looking at the on line want ads to see what is being offered. I would entertain a part time job, however, I am seeing that I am already a dinosaur at age 65. So many jobs require using social media. Not quite sure what they want! I don’t use twitter and barely use facebook and just a couple of years ago ‘learned’ to text. I just have no reason to use most of these things. I worked in a very state of the art R&D company so I don’t think I totally turned into a blithering idiot in just a few years. I have never run a cash register so even the most low paying retail jobs I can’t do! No experience! To think, I used to do excel spread sheets, write technical reports, do experiments, run equipment and travel for the company all over the USA. Now, it seems I am not qualified for anything! If you have a job and are getting on in years, keep it for as long as you can if you desire to work! Getting a new job as an older person is not easy!

    by Louise — December 28, 2018

  14. Sandy, very well stated! Age discrimination is real and the disastrous economy from 20008-2016 was very real. I am starting to think that the country is divided right now by those who were hurt by the economy and those who were not. Regardless of political affiliation, millions of people our age were irreparably harmed during those years. All the pointers are great, but do not change the fact that age discrimination coupled with failed economic policies have changed the retirement plans of millions of us baby boomers.

    by Maimi — December 28, 2018

  15. One additional note. The big deal for seniors on the street right now is medical coverage – until they reach the Medicare eligibility age. Combining a couple of thoughts below, in addition to cultural ‘fit’, applicants should try to find employers who value the ‘boomer’ work ethic – very dependable. To get an idea of what I mean, walk into any Home Depot and look at the age demographic of the staff members. Hmmmmm….I have a friend who works there. I asked if there were benefits and the response was immediate….Home Depot and Coca-Cola offer the best in the country. So…why not land there while you pursue other options? Just a thought.

    by Dave — December 28, 2018

  16. Indeed, discussing age discrimination in terms of how to combat it rather than as referenced above: the elephant in the room it is but half maybe less than half of the conversation needing to be had.

    Age discrimination is the one universal as we were all young and likely will then be anything but.

    Having tools to address the issue as it is part of the here and now is one task.

    The longer game, larger goal, deeper discussion is how to change the inclination towards socially acceptable constructs promoting such trends.

    We’re here and getting older by the day, get used to it.

    by Elle — December 29, 2018

  17. This study from Propublica and the Urban Institute studied employment for people over 50. They concluded that the odds are most people will not be the ones to decide when they stop working – their employers will. Of the people in their long term study with stable, long term jobs, 56% experienced an employer-driven job loss. Only 10% regained their former earning power. Only 47% of people entering their 50s have full-time, long term employment.

    by Admin — December 29, 2018

  18. This article is true and it really irks me. The problem is identified over and over yet our lawmakers have done precious little to assist people in the 50-65 age group. I am trained as a nurse, and have done administrative nursing since a back injury when I was younger. I have great skills and am now employed three days a week and collect early SS benefits. I am now 64. I did not want to retire until I was 70. Even then I thought I would work part-time I neither look nor act like an older person and so far I am healthy. I feel fortunate to have the job I have. I have to pay for my health insurance and if I had gone the traditional way, I would most likely be in very bad shape financially.I use a wonderful healthcare co-op. My full-time job was eliminated from an Episcopal Church Dec 1, 2017…. Since this happened to me I am feeling lucky it did not happen in my 50’s. It is hard to save now on much less income, but I am not extravagant and I have learned to live on less and still put a few dollars away. If I find fulltime employment in the future, then I will suspend my SS benefits so they can grow. Fortunately, I love my part-time employer and I really thank God every day that I am working for someone who is generous and ethical as a medical practitioner.

    by Jennifer — December 30, 2018

  19. One of our Members brought this AARP job board to our attention. Looks like it could be of help!

    by Admin — February 7, 2019

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