When the Job Interviewer is Younger Than You

Recently a client was describing what she regarded as a very unsuccessful job interview “because the interviewer was at least 25 years younger than me and she had a poker face throughout the interview”.   She concluded that ageism was present. We need to think about our approach when the interviewer is younger than you.

It got me thinking about what it must feel like for the interviewer. She has this very qualified and confident person before her and she begins to feel intimidated and uncomfortable. She’s thinking “How could I ever give direction to this person that knows way more than me?”

What can the Third Age Job Seeker do about this?  Our programming from a previous time tells us to go into job interviews with an air of confidence.  Well, perhaps it would make sense to tone that down a bit now.  Here are a few ideas that come to mind for putting the interviewer at ease:

  • Find a way to connect, even though the interviewer has control of the meeting;
  • Be relaxed,  as well as professional;
  • Smile into the eyes of the interviewer;
  • Don’t be afraid to use a bit of silence;
  • Answer questions factually, without a lot of embellishment – focus on the last 10 years; focus on skills rather than positions;
  • Stay light and use a bit of humour about yourself;
  • Show that you don’t take yourself too seriously – be truthful in your answers about your weaknesses;
  • Find a way to communicate that you value collaboration and you are ready to share what you know with other team members, and pull your weight;
  • Communicate your fascination with the speed of change and technology;
  • Mention how much you enjoy working with diverse groups:  young people, other races & cultures.   Mention what you have learned from them.
  • Ask questions that communicate that you are interested in furthering the vision and purpose of the company.
  • Explain that you don’t need to be in a high-level position now – the satisfaction derived from staying connected and contributing;
  • Focus less on what you need than on what the company needs;
  • Above all, don’t be condescending.

If you have had an unpleasant interview experience, I would like to hear about it. Maybe we can come up with some more strategies.

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Lowell Ann Fuglsang

Greetings from LowellAnn,

In my workstyle-lifestyle coaching work I love helping solopreneurs find direction, stay motivated and build systems that both support and promote their business. A great place to begin is the Solopreneur Evaluation Tool that will tell you where you need to put more time and energy.

8 thoughts on “When the Job Interviewer is Younger Than You”

  1. Excellent interview tips! I’ve been on both sides of the interview table and mutal respect for each others’ knowledge and ability is a key piece of a successful interview. The interviewer has a need they are hoping you will fill. If you make a good connection with them, they’ll remember you, even if they don’t hire you for that position. Next time they have a position available, they might just call you instead of posting it.

  2. Great suggestions for the over 45 job-seekers. I like the ideas of being confident, but not condescending, of using humour to connect, and being willing to work well as a team-player. They are all important in any job interview situation, of course, but particularly so in the situation you have described. Well done!

    • Hi Barbara – It’s a tricky balance – being confident yet not so much that it’s intimidating. Saying the team-player words might sound a bit trite, but to find ways to communicate that you are one is also tricky.

  3. This is a great list. I particularly agreed with the one finding a way to communicate the fact you are not needing a high level position now but wanting to stay connected and contributing. It is tricky to find the right way to communicate this without coming across as someone now looking for a bit of a hobby. I think the younger interviewer may find it hard to relate as they are more concerned (as I once was) about building their career and getting to the top. I also agree with highlighting skills rather than prior positions as it seems job titles are more intimidating than what you did in those positions.

    • Friend and former boss Norma – Guess we all remember the time we were focused on our ambition and should not lose sight of the fact that the interviewer cannot possibly see things from our point of view now. But we can see things from theirs because we’ve been there.


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