A recent Forbes article highlighted some real differences between workers of various ages in the way they approach a job. Some probably sound familiar: For example, more workers age 55+ favored face-to-face and phone communication than workers under 35. More workers age 25-34 believed you should be promoted every two or three years if you’re doing a good job. More workers over 55 arrive at work before 8 a.m.; more younger workers stay past 5 p.m. If these differences in communication and work style exist on the job, then they’ll also impact who gets the job. Here’s how to handle job interviews with a prospective boss who is younger than you are:
Tame the elephant in the room
A young CEO (he'd just turned 30) recently told me that he just assumes an older worker will have difficulty taking direction from him, which makes him uneasy about hiring people much older than himself. Your interviewer may not be like this CEO, so I don't suggest pointing to this elephant in the room. However, I would directly address the possible negative assumptions younger managers might have – that you won’t take their direction, that you’re set in your ways, or that you are not up-to-date. Talk about situations when you have successfully worked for a younger manager or at least with a generationally diverse team. Offer specific examples of how you have innovated during your career. Mention the strategies and even specific software or social media that you know (even if this is not a technology-focused job) so that there can be no negative assumptions about how you work
Focus on what got you the interview in the first place
Even in the worst-case scenario, where the younger boss has reservations about hiring someone with a lot of experience, you got your interview for a reason. Go back to the specific skills, expertise and experience that make you uniquely positioned to solve your boss’s problems. Remember to focus on what makes you unique, because you must be different and better than the other candidates. Focusing on the problems you can solve establishes a clear business case for hiring you. Everyone is self-interested, so demonstrating your value to an employer is a powerful way to endear yourself.
Use your interviewing skills
Develop rapport. Communicate clearly and concisely. Show genuine interest in the position, the company, the industry, and the interviewer. Share specific examples with quantified results. Follow up with an intelligent thank-you note that is personalized to the conversation, highlights the strengths that resonated during the interview, and expands on points you feel were short-changed. Stay front-of-mind during the whole hiring process by checking in periodically to share your insights, not just to ask about your process. And don’t stop looking at other opportunities! If you aren’t dependent on this one employer, you won’t risk showing signs of desperation.
Interviewing with a younger boss might feel different, but it doesn’t have to feel bad or end badly. By focusing on a solid job search strategy, good interview performance, and a fair counter-argument to common hesitations, you can still be the candidate of choice.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert with SixFigureStart®. She is a former recruiter in management consulting, financial services, media, technology, and pharma/ biotech.