How to pitch your skills “after a certain age”

May 2, 2010 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

Several email correspondents “of a certain age” (past 40 or 50) have been wondering if they didn’t land a job recently because of their age — they felt like everything was going well until the interview and “salary requirement” part of the process, and then things chilled markedly.

While outright age discrimination still exists (see Jan. 25 post, “What you can do if you suspect hiring discrimination”), more often it’s not the applicant’s age itself that “concerns” a prospective employer, but what goes along with age. Yes, experience, while we tend to think of it as a positive attribute may worry an organization, if a hiring manager thinks you may have more of it than is necessary for the job and may bolt once something better comes along. Also, recruiters may worry about salary — even before you provide your salary expectations — figuring that it would be cheaper to hire someone less experienced who presumably would command a lower salary.

Also, they may worry, rightly or wrongly, that an older employer could have trouble “fitting in” with younger employees, especially if they may be reporting to someone who may be decades younger than them. They also can harbor stereotypes about older workers (especially if the hiring manager is in their 20s and the prospective employee is in their 40s or 50s and seems more like their parent than a possible colleague!) such as the fact that they may be slow to adapt to new technology and may be inflexible and set in their ways (see Nov. 9 post, “When you’re more seasoned.”)

What to do? The best thing, hiring experts advise, is to focus on your skills rather than years of experience or other attributes that may get stereotyped despite your best efforts to combat this. By playing up your skills and fit for a particular job, you stand the best chance of getting beyond what often is a (misguided) desire by companies to hire younger, cheaper workers. Here are some ways to pitch your skills beyond a “certain age:”

*Make sure you are seeking positions that are a very good fit for your skills. While this is good advice for any job candidate, it’s particularly important for workers past 40. You want to be able to show the hiring manager that it’s worth it to hire you because you will be able to step into the job right away. Employers often expect to do a lot of training and coaching of young, inexperienced workers, figuring that their lower salary is worth the time it’ll take them to learn the position on the job. If you can make a case that you’d be ready to do the job on Day One (or at least after some basic training), they may decide that paying the extra amount they’d have to pony up to get you is balanced out by the fact that you will “hit the ground running.” This is especially true for positions that are critical to an organization.

*Be specific in your written materials and in interviews about how your skills match the duties this job would entail. Don’t presume that the hiring manager will connect the dots and see that your skills match what they’re seeking. Instead, prove it to them. In your cover letter, describe how your experience specifically lines up with what this job entails. In an interview, rather than discussing your years of experience and breadth of knowledge (which may trigger their “older, expensive worker” alarm), describe precisely some of the duties you’ve had in previous jobs that would make you a good fit for this one. Show, don’t tell.

*Show how you would be a good fit for the corporate culture. As this is often a big worry of organizations (especially if many members of the team are younger, and especially if you would be their colleague rather than their manager), it’s best to address it head-on. Without discussing your age or the relative youth of other team members, point out specific ways that you have proven to be a helpful colleague in the past, and perhaps the way you have mentored others. This may become a point in your favor if the hiring manager figures that with you they’re not only getting someone who can perform the job, but has “added value” in making the team or organization work more efficiently and cohesively.

*Don’t call attention to your age. If you make it an issue, you better believe they will as well. Don’t make jokes about younger colleagues “not getting” certain cultural references, even if the hiring manager is close to your age. (Someone older than 40, as am I, in a job interview with me fairly recently did this with the ‘ole “three-hour-tour” line from the theme song of the baby-boomer TV classic “Gilligan’s Island.” It came up in conversation, and they remarked how probably half the newsroom wouldn’t get the reference. It called attention to their age when that hadn’t been in the forefront of my mind during the job interview; they put it there. Why do that?) Obviously, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about being a “certain age,” but you certainly shouldn’t help to make it an issue in your job search.

*The following report, which came out last week, offers some food for thought — apparently what’s known as “middle-skill jobs” are losing their place in the employment market, and this became more pronounced during the recession. Here is an interesting piece on the report, from

Middle-skill jobs vanish

*And here are some leads to check out in this new month and work week:

* is looking for a Web editor in McLean to manage the site:

Principal Web Editor – McLean, VA is seeking a Principal Editor/Webmaster to manage the website on a daily basis with the goal of acquiring, maintaining, and growing a…
From Monster

*The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a Latino civil rights and advocacy group, has an opening in D.C. for a deputy director of legislative affairs:

Deputy Director, Legislative Affairs
National Council of La Raza – Washington, DC
team and coworkers with extensive expertise in communications, editing/production, media, fundraising… written and oral communication skills that can…
From National Council of La Raza

*The National  Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) is looking for a program manager in D.C. to support its governance team:
Program Manager: Governance
NDI – Washington, DC
members of donor organizations, funders, and policy makers; Excellent oral communications skills to effectively present information, respond to questions and…
From NDI

*The American Chemistry Council in Arlington has several openings, including this one for a director of online advocacy communications; could be worth pursuing for a transitioning journalist with an interest in the topic:

Director, Online Advocacy Communications
American Chemistry Council – Arlington, VA
Online Advocacy Communications is responsible for providing online strategic communications planning… teams, advocacy communications team, Director of… $110,000 a year

*Internews Network has an opening in D.C. for a vice president of Mideast and North Africa programs:

Vice President – Mid East, N Africa Programs
Internews Network – Washington, DC
planning, program management, development, communications and oversight of finance and administrative… globally, including communication with the public and…

*The German Marshall Fund (GMF) has an opening in D.C. for a publications manager:

The German Marshall Fund

Publications Manager
Location: Washington D.C.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) seeks a Publications Manager to serve the editing and publishing needs of a dynamic transatlantic organization. This position is based in Washington, DC.
GMF is a nonpartisan American public policy and grantmaking institution dedicated to promoting greater cooperation and understanding between North America and Europe.

• Editing and producing print and electronic materials, including policy briefs, policy papers, the annual report, and other publications.
• Working with and editing (AP style preferred) the work of GMF staff and affiliates, including many non-native English speakers.
• Using layout software (Adobe InDesign preferred) to design and publish short pieces.
• Working with an outside vendor to design and publish long pieces.
• Managing a complex set of publication schedules that take into account various deadlines from GMF’s programs and projects.
• Managing and editing print materials for major GMF conferences and projects, including Halifax Forum, Brussels Forum, and Transatlantic Trends.
• Developing and managing relationships with media outlets and policy organizations for placement and publicity of GMF printed materials.
• Serving as part of a communications team, with additional duties as warranted, including event management, media relations, social media, drafting of press releases and media advisories, website updating.
• Participating in communications team effort on major international conferences.
• Liaising with other departments to share information throughout the organization, and to ensure quality and consistency of external communications.

This is not an entry-level position. Strong candidates will have a Bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 3 years of experience working in an editing and production capacity. He/she will have experience working on printed products, including excellent writing and editing skills, significant layout experience, excellent organization and deadline-management skills, experience managing vendors, a sense of design, and an eagle eye for detail. He/she will have knowledge of print and broadcast media, ability to work independently within a team environment, and excellent computer skills. Some travel, including internationally, is required.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States offers a stimulating work environment, competitive salary, and an excellent benefit package. To be considered for this position, please forward cover letter, current resume, and a 1-2 page writing sample to Please reference job title in the subject line.

To send by mail:
Human Resources Department
The German Marshall Fund of the United States
1744 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Only candidates who have been selected for an interview will be notified.

*The Washington Business Journal has an opening at its office in Rosslyn for a news and feature editor:

The Washington Business Journal
News and Feature Editor
Location: Rosslyn, VA

Are you an idea person? Can you multitask? Can you spot a trend a months away? We need you at the Washington Business Journal, the region’s No. 1 source for local business news. We’re looking for a senior-level news and feature editor to help our editing team plan coverage, work with reporters and edit copy. You must be a great writer, content editor, motivator and teacher. You must love business journalism. You must hate jargon. One minute you may be editing a breaking news story for the web, the next a long-form feature story. It’s a fast-paced job with little room for error. We are a close-knit newsroom in in Rosslyn, and we offer a great salary and benefits package. Send a cover letter and resume to Managing Editor Elizabeth Drachman,

*And last but not least today, has a contract opening for a freelance managing editor who can work from anywhere:

Freelance Managing Editor

Location: N/A seeks a Freelance Managing Editor to oversee the development of original web content in the area of homeownership.

Specifically, the Editor should have knowledge of finance, insurance, and taxes in relationship to homeownership. Applicants can be based anywhere in continental U.S.



Experience managing freelancers/writers; editing content for voice, tone, point of view, and clarity a must. The ideal candidate will have written, edited, and/or programmed content for a finance-oriented web site or publication and/or home-oriented web site or publication. S/he will have experience researching topics and producing original content and analysis that is engaging, authoritative, and thorough. S/he will have a passion for web communities and understand the differences between print and web content. S/he will be familiar with editing content for a variety of web formats, including quizzes, slideshows, checklists, video scripts, Q&As, etc.


•     Substantive editing of freelance content for voice, tone, clarity and point of view

•     Fact checking hard data against sources provided by writers

•     Editing for keywords and a controlled vocabulary

•     Keeping site content manager in the workflow for macro-level edits

•     Keeping editorial calendar up to date

•     Providing regular updates to site content manager

•     Auditing and reporting QA on a regular basis, alerting content manager of problems

•     Recruiting and managing freelancers

•     Developing ideas and documenting components of content down to the granular level

•     Assigning content to freelancers and monitoring progress

•     Applying metadata according to site’s guidelines

•     Entering content into content management system

•     Meeting deadlines

•     Working with the Content Manager and other editor(s) to accomplish business goals


•     Multi-tasking

•     Self-directed

•     Organized

•     Deadline oriented

•     Able to provide clear direction

•     Detail-oriented


•     Basic computer skills, Word, Excel, email systems, etc.

•     Understanding of what makes for a good user experience on the web

•     Familiarity with developing content in formats other than straight text or features

•     Experience working in content management systems

•     Knowledge and understanding of general web applications. Must be an avid web user.

•     Familiarity with Search Engine Optimization techniques

•     Superior editing skills

•     Researching skills

•     Management experience

•     Knowledge of AP Style


Ability to work 25 hours or more a week


Please submit resumes, clips, and a cover letter along with rate expectations to

Happy hunting!



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What new (and old) grads should know about job hunting What successful job hunters have in common

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