Over 40 And Unemployed? Why Are You Overcompensating?


I work with people who are 45+ and looking for work, and I’ve seen a pattern in the “strategies” of the older and unemployed. To put it simply, older job seekers have been beaten up, treated unfairly, and are given soooo much (bad) advice that it’s hard to know what’s right, wrong, or even worth trying IF you can get an interview.

I have a one simple question I ask ALL of the older and unemployed people I coach: “Does it help you get hired or does it help you get eliminated?”

If you’re over 40 and unemployed, start asking yourself this question about everything you do in your job search. And remember, if what you are doing isn’t working, change it!

I want you to go to your next interview energized, confident, and prepared. I want you to get hired for a great job. So, I am going to give you the top three ways the older and unemployed overcompensate in interviews!

1. “I Have (Anything More Than 10 Years) Experience.”

I once coached a gentleman who told me he had 22 years experience three times within the first five minutes of being in my office. I explained that NO jobs advertise “Over 20 Years of Experience” required, and every time he said he has “22 years of experience,” he was reminding a hiring manager that he was older and probably more experienced than the manager he would be working for. Not to mention, 99% of jobs are advertising 3-8 years of experience. So, 22 years of experience helps you get eliminated – not hired!

We decided he would NEVER say those words again in an interview and would only focus on the 5-8 years of experience he had that matched the position he was applying for.

2. “I’ve Done It All.”

Nothing says, “Even though I’m new to your business, I’ll probably tell you how you can improve your systems and, oh yeah, I’ll be hard to train, too” more effectively than this statement. It’s like arriving at your interview in a yellow corvette with your top three buttons undone (we are talking about dudes here), a thick gold chain, and too much cologne.

Remember, you are not there to be the most qualified candidate; you are there to be the perfect candidate. And, the perfect candidates has the right experience, appears to be moldable and trainable.

3. “I Just Need A Job Because I Have Bills To Pay.”

Unfortunately, your personal experience doesn’t count in any of these categories. I have coached and talked to many older and unemployed people who were in need of a job. They had really heartbreaking circumstances. Things like needing to buy medication for sick children or just needing to pay rent. The advice I gave them was DON’T play the pity card. Yes, it will generate some compassion from a hiring manager, but it WON’T get you hired.

The truth is, hiring managers would love to help you if they could BUT they have to hire for experience, education, and fit, so focus on these and these only.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Corey Harlock

Corey Harlock, founder of Skills to Achieve, created the Fearless Job Seeker System to teach everyone what only a few job seekers know about how to get hired.


    • Hi Marc,

      Thanks for your comment. Have you tried our career coaching services over at our sister site, CareerHMO.com? It might be worth looking into!

      Happy holidays, and best of luck.


    Grumpy old so so’s. I’ll use your approach to get a message to you. Go out and start being positive and stop ramming your knowlwge down people’s throats and except that change is inevitable and what was the past does not always repeat. History never repeats but similar mistakes may occur, so your experience is only valuable if you share it in a positve way and except that there is more than one way to achieve the same result and the pleasant social one is the winner not the I told you so approach.

    I’m over forty and motivated by the young including any boss who will most likely be younger and maybe female and non-anglo . This is a good thing. Learn to get along and not cause unnecessry tension, with your negative know it all approach. You don’t know it all . There is always something new to learn even from a toddler or a younger boss.

    Always be willing to to learn. I aim to learn something y ew from any experience and value it. Even if it is a lesson from my daughter, cat or frinds toddler. Maturity doesn’t always make you right.

  2. 20+years experience=expect an argument every time you tell me to do something. I DO know it all, and I’ll be telling you what to do before it’s over, even though I’m not the manager.

    I’ve done it all: See: 20+ years experience

    I’ve got bills to pay: So do the rest of us. Why do you think we’re here? Question is, if we hire you, will you advance our enterprise, or end up sabotaging it, knowingly or otherwise, rendering US unable to pay our bills as a result?

  3. Oh another point to the author of this useless article. When companies restructure every now and then you know the older ones are the first to get laid of, you are an idiot.

  4. The author has no clue. Any idiot reading my CV can add up that I am over 40, There is no bending the truth or sugar coating, I have been doing this 14 years and that counts as experience. Fact is age discrimination is all over the place. In the UK you have to provide your birth date and that is it. You will never get a phone call. To the author, get real, once over 40 it is over.

  5. I was involved in a mass layoff at my job in 2009. I had the attitude as many others ” Why me?” But, then I accepted and moved on. I started a temp job and it was ok because it was a way to get out of the house and earn a pay check. After being in the mortgage industry for a number of years you just keep on going like nothing is going to happen to you . Sitting home after a month or two was driving me crazy. I needed to have some place to go and something to do. I started looking at my life different like I was a failure. Then I got another temp position at a company. Everything was great and then they told me that help was needed in another department . I was excited because possibly this could lead to a permanent position. The person they had training me was an older women. She was cool at first then her true colors came out. Long story short I was laid off again. I started looking at my life as to say what now! I’m thinking about going back to school for Pharmacy Tech. I like to help people and the health care field is expanding .

    • Age discrimination most certainly does exist! Any interview I have had, the employers look at 17 years of working for the same company as bad news even though I have had many jobs within the company. Employers add up the years of working and see 24 years and then cringe! They look at the cost of hiring an older person and length of remaining working time the individual has left to work and a big “red X” is marked. I see both sides of the coin but I am on the wrong side!,

  6. Sorry, but the articale is just another talking.
    Reality is that is not about resume,interview.. It is about your age, the age of a hiring manager and a type of roles you are apllying for.
    A majority of managers would not hire a an older person. It is just uncompfortable to manage them.
    Also if you are a middle manager companies usually have unspoken rules not to hire older then necessary people because of promotion rules.
    Companies are not looking for rock stars but a good memeber of family. I don’r think you would love to have a brother the age of your farther.
    The only chance, in my view, the older folks can be hired is when the company or hiring manager really needs to solve problems he can not live with anymore. In this case the manager may forget about the age and look at your skills, experience and abilty to fix things. But unfortunately it does not happen often

    • Leo is making an absolute great point here. Having worked all over the world, in various capacities for various public companies, I must say that the example that Leo comments on is close to an “unwritten” reality. Not to say that in general while interviewing with a more junior “by age” person, often either they would tend to try to learn something critical to their immediate needs, trying to acquire years of experience, in a snapshot to fix issues, or at times feel threatened, and for sure will stop the process after the conversation. I have recently been exposed to a layoff (~1000 people.) Let’s do the math, 1000 worker for most probably very senior and experienced people. Let’s say that there is an upfront cost avoidance of 30,000.00 $US/Y per employee, when time comes to rehire for these roles “because it is one of the only way a company can really grow fast on most occasion” with less senior experienced worker “therefore cheaper and more subjective to work long unpaid overtime hours, inclusive to weekend”, the outcome of this exercise would transpire as a 30 US$ million dollars cost avoidance. That is an easy recommendation from a Corporate Finance perspective. Now coupled with a rehiring effort, let’s say 50% US based and 50% offshore at strategic low cost location, then you can easily add another 30 US$ million dollars cost avoidance, now reaching over 60 US$ million saving – Little by little damaging the overall US’ economy. Problems of the current US unemployment situation are quite serious….

      • Hi,
        The problem is that if you even want to work for much less they won’t hire you.
        You just no longer exist for hiring managers, too old 45+
        And in most cases the interests of managers and the company quite differ. Managers want to keep their jobs first and foremost

  7. Thank you for the advise. I’m hearing, focus on THEIR experience needs, don’t brag, focus on what they want. I’m 39, keep myself healthy, and still searching for a new job. Any tips out there are appreciated. Thanks.

  8. I have realy struggled with this lay off. I have been told that my age is a large factor and I hate to think that may be correct. Hmph… I might resemble number one so; thanks. And I will be mindful of the other two.

  9. I’m over 40 but until this year, I’ve always worked in media. I didn’t give 40 much thought. Several of my friends and colleagues have turned 40 in the last decade, including myself. However, being forced into a non-media job (temporarily, please), I now understand why people over 40 seem old, maybe over 45. There is another econimic casualty across the hall from me and all I keep hearing is “I have over 25 years experience.” I think we are the same age (early 40s) but this person has been in the same field since HS while I went to college and have worked in several different aspects of my (former *sniff*) field. I don’t have 10 years experience in anything other than working. I just assumed that this person was at least 50 until I really started talking to them. Regardless of 40 or 50 or 60, the one thing that strikes me is how not-tech savvy most people outside the media are. People need to keep their skills updated to not come off as “over 40 (or 50 or 60)”

  10. Great advice – especially item # 1: “I Have (Anything More Than 10 Years) Experience.” I’ve often thought about my 17 years HR experience; whether to include that # or not on my resume and letters to employers. More times than not, I have looked at what the employer is seeking, and simply listed my years of experience accordingly.

  11. Finally, advice that makes sense! If i see one more comment about Networking and beating up every one ive ever know to get back to work im going to barf!!! I dont know what the solution is but in this economy it seems to be more of a popularity contest of sorts. Employers can sit and wait and keep fully qualified applicants on the hook. I have had a number of interviews which is good. Then i go to linked in only to be flabbergasted by who the employer selected. Often the selection has been someone with considerably less experience who wont compete for position with the hiring manager! I was a military spouse and have even been turned away as i had job changes (always progressive moves) with in major corporations. How can that be a bad thing? Its not. What i will do is ensure in my next position, that my recruiiting staff does their due diligence in evaluating applicants. And they are knowledgable enough to know that if recruiting for someonein HR that has experience in a manufacturing environment, or any other industry, that they have a clue about the companies the applicant has worked. I was recently turned down for a VPHR as i was told exactly that, i did not have exp in manufacturing. Last i heard, lockheed martin and boeing are the largest manufacturers of aircraft. Thank you for the opportunity to vent….

    • Oh Gypsy Wind, I could kiss you! ( I won’t, I promise. ha) You hit the nail on the head with so many points. I’m so over all of the conflicting advice. And if I hear one more thing about networking, etc etc I swear I’ll scream. I agree, its a popularity contest. I had one person flat out tell me that because of my experience I would be too much competition for him and therefore wouldn’t be pushed to the next interview step. SERIOUSLY??????????? This, along with the complete ineptitude of recruiters and HR people have left me feeling less than positive. No one gets back to you when they say they will if they do it all, calls and emails aren’t returned, etc. It’s completely unprofessional, rude and bad business. I’m so sick of it!

    • I’ve been told “well you hopped around quite a bit” a few times. Well, I did hop 4 times between 2005 and 2012, at the same company. The only reason I am not there is there were lay offs and restructuring. “Hopping” was encouraged at that company.

      • Number7, I can’t believe they said that to you. It would be different if it were different companies but it was the same company. Most companies do want for people to always be improving and that will a lot of times mean moving onto other positions within the company.

    • Gypsywind, I completely agree about the networking. I’ve had a lot of help from many people that I’ve known and have met in the 5 yrs I’ve been unemployed. The networking doesn’t really work much for me and I’ve never been a Ms. Popularity at any moment in my life.

  12. Hey there,

    I’ve tried anything, made my CV be reviewed by at least 4 professionals but still unemployed. I’m 57 years old, 100% physically fit, in my life I’ve never been sick, am well experienced, 2 years ago went back to technical school for updating,I’m a Offshore Safety Officer but I’m struggling to get a job, seems impossible and I’ve heard that it was my age, sad, really sad.

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