How to find a job when you’re over 50

More than 100 readers joined the Telegraph’s job-hunting Q&A to ask for advice and tips on how to find a decent job.

Many job hunters over-50 told our experts they were being discriminated against during recruitment because of their age, asking what they can do to beat age prejudice. Others wanted help with building an “online presence” on social networking sites, to increase the chance of being spotted by headhunters and recruiters.

Here we round up some of the best tips from the event:

Combating age discrimination
  • You don’t have to put your date of birth on any application forms or CVs.
  • Make sure your personal email address doesn’t contain the year you were born or your age, so as not to give it away.
  • You don’t have to put any dates on your CV. If you’re worried your year of graduation or schooling will give your age away, omit the dates.
  • It is illegal for an employer or recruiter to ask for your age during a job interview or any stage during the recruitment process.
  • Hema Patel, learning and development manager at Emplacement People, says: “List previous experience only going back the last ten years and summarise the rest briefly, without putting any dates for previous roles beyond ten years.”
  • Employers asking to see your passport are checking your eligibility to work in the UK. Some may spot your date of birth, and some may discriminate. But don’t assume this is the case – there are many good employers who do not judge.
  • Don’t assume you’re being discriminated against because of your age. It is normal for people to go through several interviews in this poor jobs market and get rejected.
  • Sue O’Brien, chief executive of headhunters Norman Broadbent, says: “Don’t be put off if it’s your second or third rejection and don’t assume it’s your age. It is the market. If you fear your age - all they will see is your fear.”
  • Phil Fanthom, managing director of Jenrick IT, says: “If people are receiving numerous rejections and not even reaching first interview, then your CV is probably too general. You must make it specific to your skills and achievements.”

Job-hunting advice
  • Make sure you get the support you are entitled to. If you’ve been out of work for over 12 months and are unemployed, you should automatically be put on the Government’s new Work Programme, which promises to work with you to get you a job.
  • Specialist advisers will help work out what, if any, training you might need to refresh your skill-set, and will work with you for two years (if that’s what it takes) helping you to get back into work.
  • Also try the Government’s Next Step careers service. Its career section provides info on over 700 jobs, the skills needed and how to get jobs within that field.
  • If you’ve been out of work for a while or there are gaps in your work history, make sure you include this in your CV. Don’t lie or miss out anything – it will come up at interview anyway so you may as well explain it now. But rather than just say you’ve been ‘unemployed’, try to list what you have been up to. So are you a member of any committees or groups – extra-curricular activities such as running the school fate etc?
  • Never pay a fee to a recruitment agency as a candidate. There is enough free help out there.
  • Sue O’Brien, chief executive of headhunters Norman Broadbent, says: “At an interview people are attracted to energy, insight and experience. The more you have impact the better your performance. If you go into a meeting with an executive mindset - not a candidate mindset, you will be more impressive.”
  • Use your contacts. If you’ve got a broad personal network or have experience working with a range of companies, “break into” that network and ask about opportunities.
  • Many executive search agencies specialise in non-executive director roles. A publication called Executive Grapevine lists them – you could seek out a copy or go to your local library and take a look.
  • Philip Fanthom, managing director at JenrickIT, a niche recruiter, says: “Contracting, freelancing and consultancy is a route worth considering. You can place yourself as a specialist or expert without having to take a lower salary just to find work.”

Market yourself online
  • Having a LinkedIn profile is a good way of telling your peers, industry experts, recruiters and potential employers all about yourself.
  • Many recruiters look on LinkedIn for suitable candidates before the advertise a job
  • Join groups on LinkedIn and join in chats/ forums. It will help you find out what’s going on and get new contacts. Employers often post job roles in those groups in a specific sector.
  • Be careful how you come across online. If an employer finds your professional profile on LinkedIn and then “Googles” you and finds you on Facebook – but you’re pictured at a party looking a bit worse for wear, for example, it could put the employer off. Try “Googling” yourself to see what comes up.
  • Sue O’Brien, chief executive of Norman Broadbent, says: “Tenacity normally pays off. Be bold - tell the agency that most of their competitors have been keen to meet you but they (the one you are calling) may miss out on placing you.”
  • When marketing yourself always communicate your skills and leadership qualities, backed up with numbers demonstrating the impact you’ve had at work.
  • Louisa Peacock, jobs editor at The Daily & Sunday Telegraph, says: “Something like 80pc of jobs are said not to be advertised. That’s why it’s so important to get yourself out there and network online.”
  • Keeran Gunnoo, of LinkedIn, says: “You can drive traffic back to your LinkedIn profile and be headhunted by those looking to recruit, whether it’s a company or recruitment agents.”

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