Job cuts, mobbing, employer-side dismissal? There can be many reasons why you (have to) change your job once again when you are over 50. Whether involuntarily or because you are looking for a new challenge and feel too young to be stuck in the same job without prospects: applying for a job when you are over 50 is anything but unusual – but a real challenge. Because the prejudices against "older" applicants are great and the jobs are scarce, depending on the industry. We tell you how it still works with our application tips.
The generation 50plus wants to work!
Today’s 50-plus generation has many names: Best Ager, Silver Ager, Golden Ager, Generation Gold, Third Ager or Mid-Ager. Call it what you like. The fact is: Best Agers want to work. Nowadays, anyone who loses their job at over 50 – for whatever reason – will get to hear:
"You are much too old for a new job anyway."
"At that age, you don’t stand a chance on the job market anymore."
"Just take an early retirement!"
The problem is that only very few people can afford to retire early and, above all, they don’t want to. After all, the Gold Generation is hard-working, upright and disciplined. Simply put your feet up and enjoy your "twilight years? For most of you, this sounds more like a nightmare of boredom than a relaxing vacation. The life expectancy of our western society is constantly increasing and more and more people are fit up to a ripe old age – and therefore also fit for work.
So whether you are 50-plus or even of retirement age, you still want or need to work: Do not listen to the sayings of your social environment. At 50+, you are by no means too old to change jobs or get back into your profession. More and more mothers are also opting for a second career once the kids are out of the house and the nest is empty. Applying for a job at 50+ is absolutely not an impossibility. At least not if you follow these tips. As you get older, you still have a lot to offer an employer – just different things than young professionals or the digital natives of the young Generation Y.
Prejudices, problems& Co
If you are 50+ and receive a layoff notice or decide to change jobs yourself, you will be confronted with numerous prejudices. They are too expensive, not up to date with the latest developments, overburdened with digitalization and too inflexible. There is no shortage of cliches when it comes to older job seekers – and unfortunately no shortage of obstacles either. In fact, many 50+ applicants face numerous challenges in addition to the prejudice:
- You may not have applied for a job in ten, 20 or even 30 years.
- The application process as well as the requirements for an application have changed fundamentally since then.
- This already starts with the job advertisements: These have changed not only in their style, but also in their "place". Many companies now publish their job advertisements exclusively digitally, in job portals, social networks or on the company homepage.
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- Many companies rely on digital or online applications.
- Between job application blogs, you-tube applications& Co it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.
- The application documents as well as the application picture must be modern and must never look "old-fashioned.
- The requirement in terms of professionalism and self-marketing of a job seeker has increased significantly in recent years.
- The application documents must therefore not only be typed with difficulty, but for a convincing design, adept knowledge of InDesign, Word& Co required – or helpful friends, children, acquaintances…
- In many job advertisements, applicants are now asked to name concrete salary expectations. It is clear that a candidate over 50 will be well above the expectations of an entry-level employee here. For one or the other personnel manager reason enough to put the application directly into the shredder.
The application process can also be particularly tricky for you if your age is possibly already noticeable in one or the other small health problem. Good, if these do not (yet) have a negative effect on your work performance and you can cover them up without any problems. Bad, if not!
Equal Treatment Act? No way! One in four managers has prejudices
In Germany large pieces are given to the general equal treatment law. Here it already says in the introductory lines:
"§ 1 The goal of the law is to prevent discrimination on the basis of race
or because of ethnic origin, gender, religion or ideology,
a disability, age or sexual identity
to prevent or eliminate."
An older job seeker must therefore be given the same opportunities by companies as younger competitors. Sounds good, this theory or? Unfortunately, things are different in practice, as the Cologne Institute of the German Economy (IW) found in a survey of over 1.350 managers and recruiters found out:
According to the study, one in four decision-makers in Germany has prejudices against older employees, which can also have a negative impact on the job application process.
You are convinced: Older employees are less efficient and can’t keep up with the modern work pace (anymore). They are also less willing to perform, i.e. motivated, since they are "soon to retire" anyway. 27 percent of those surveyed believe that employees over 50 are no longer interested in continuing their education and are therefore less imaginative, creative and committed than their younger colleagues. And the last prejudice has even burned itself into almost half of the heads of decision-makers: 44 percent believe that older employees are sick more often as well as longer – and would like to extend their sick leave once over the necessary period of time.
"Even in the age of equality
certain small differences will not be eliminated."
Best times" are ahead for the best agers
But there is light at the end of the tunnel: The labor market is currently changing at a rapid pace, which is also having a positive impact on how applicants over 50 are handled. There are three main reasons for this:
- The demographic change ensures that fewer and fewer younger job seekers are moving up the ranks and that the shortage of skilled workers expected in the near future is already making itself felt in some industries. For you as an applicant 50plus, this means less "young competition" with which you have to compete in the application process. In fact, 40 percent of the German population is already over the age of 50. Tendency increasing.
- The shortage of skilled workers has also rising salaries as a result, even in the case of young employees or those just starting out in their careers. The argument "older employees are too expensive" is therefore no longer tenable in the long run, which puts you in a better negotiating position.
- Lastly, as life expectancy increases, so does the Health condition of the Best Agers. Most of them are still able to perform at the age of 50 and are not easily outdone by younger employees. Old? You may be 80 or 90, but you’re not 50 yet! This is also supported by the current figures of the labor market researchers: About 70 percent of the 55- to 59-year-olds are still in employment and even among the 60- to 64-year-olds it is still 41 percent (Source: Spiegel).
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These changes mean that German companies, too, are slowly but surely having to rethink and learn to appreciate the benefits of diversity. According to Jobware, "mixed-age" teams can already be found in 56 percent of companies, in which the experience of older employees is deliberately mixed with the know-how of the next generation.
Keyword "experience": The undeniable advantage of Gold Agers
Experience should be our keyword at this point. It is the biggest argument for an applicant 50plus. Lack of work experience is repeatedly criticized among the young "Generation Y". For this reason, many graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to enter the workforce and are already derisively referred to as the "internship generation".
But experience is by no means the only advantage an older job seeker has over his or her younger competitors; there are also
- more sense of responsibility
- many years of experience and broad know-how in your field of expertise
- high productivity due to routine
- better knowledge of human nature
- soft skills optimized over the years
- fewer distractions in their private lives (births, buying a house&) etc.)
- higher stress resistance in case of problems or time pressure
- larger network that can benefit the employer
- Better flexibility with regard to vacation times or place of residence (no small children o.a.)
- more composure
- experience in dealing with conflicts
- more precise ideas of personal goals, wishes and needs, but also limits
- Better emotional stability
- more pronounced sense of responsibility
- less fickleness and therefore higher loyalty to the employer
- traditional values such as discipline, diligence and reliability
customers appreciate older employees
Fortunately, employers are also learning to appreciate these benefits more and more, and are gradually reverting to diversity in their companies – i.e. a healthy mix of older and younger employees, men and women, different cultures, personalities, etc. A Swiss study found out: Personnel managers value above all with applicants over 50 their life experience, their know-how by constant advanced and further training as well as their special, technical and industry knowledge (source: Jobware).
"It’s not the age that’s the problem, but our attitude to it."
(Marcus Tullius Cicero)
In addition, prejudices also prevail in everyday working life, and so problems can arise when an older employee has to accept a young manager or a young consultant has to advise an aged customer. In fact, customers often demand older contacts, as they consider them more competent, experienced and credible.
Employees over 50 therefore have a lot to offer and, thanks to demographic developments, an increasing shortage of skilled workers and the growing relevance of the diversity approach in German companies, they can look forward to better and better job opportunities. But only if they know how to avoid the typical mistakes older applicants make…
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Typical mistakes in job applications
The fact that many job seekers over 50 have problems finding a new position may – but need not – be due to some of the following typical mistakes made by many Best Agers:
- Too high and rigid salary expectations
- insecure appearance, justification for age or even "begging"
- exclusive focus on hard skills
- lack of motivation in job interview
- appearing "old" in job applications or job interviews
- too long resumes without a recognizable red thread (keyword: prioritization)
If you avoid these mistakes in your application with 50plus and consider the tips from the following checklist, you currently have the best chances on the job market even as an older job seeker. How well, of course, always depends on your individual qualifications and the industry in which you work. Nevertheless: With this step-by-step guide, you are definitely heading in the right direction!
Checklist: Step by step to the perfect application 50plus
Application 50+ in general – What is the best way to apply:
1. Focus on continuous training and further education to keep your know-how up to date.
2. By all means, remain willing to learn and motivated, and radiate this in the application process as well.
3. Remain honest and authentic, but try to present yourself as "young" as possible. The "older" you appear, the poorer your chances of being hired. This already starts with the application picture, the spelling or the design in your application.
4. Be sure to align your application with the job advertisement. So write individual documents for each company with a recognizable red thread. Mass applications or prefabricated phrases are quickly seen through and sorted out by recruiters.
5. Do not discuss your age – neither in the cover letter nor in the interview. According to the General Equal Treatment Act, this may not be a decision criterion anyway. Therefore, never see your age as a weakness!
6. Instead, credibly convey your experience and qualifications and try to provide credible evidence for each point, for example through work references, further training, stays abroad, promotions o.a.
7. Use your network: Two-thirds of all vacant positions in Germany are filled under the table and never advertised publicly. Maybe a professional opportunity will arise through your contacts?
8. Actively approach companies and also rely on speculative applications: In which company could you best contribute? What position and activity would be suitable and what advantages would you bring to the company?? Find out who the appropriate contact person is and just dare to be a little more brash and confident in your approach to the application process for once as well.
9. Be present at trade fairs, congresses or recruiting events. You may even be able to score points here as a speaker with your specialist know-how and position yourself as an expert.
10. If you haven’t already done so, make yourself fit for the digital world. This is not only an important argument in your application, but also essential for the application process. Finally, many companies now rely on online job portals or digital application forms directly via the career site.
11. You can make a particularly positive impression if you set up professional profiles in professional social networks such as Xing or Linkedin, or even start an applicant blog.
Cover letter application 50plus:
12. Signal experience and self-confidence as well as motivation and willingness to learn.
13. Cite appropriate training and continuing education from the recent past to dispel prejudices regarding outdated expertise.
14. If requested, state your salary expectations. If you are still in employment, these should by no means be a step backwards from current earnings. If not, find the right balance: Don’t scare them off with excessive demands, but don’t sell yourself short either!
Application older workers – the resume:
15. Be sure to use an up-to-date, modern and appealing application picture in which you appear self-confident, healthy and "young".
16. Use an antichronological order of your professional stages, so that the most recent and thus also most relevant experiences are at the beginning.
17. Set highlights that match the design, such as colored underpainting, paragraphs or bold font, to prioritize particularly relevant points.
18. Also, in your resume, once again focus on your willingness to learn and clearly list the relevant (!) Further education and training at.
19. Reduce yourself to two, at the very most three pages for your resume.
20. Therefore, deliberately leave out irrelevant stations. This is also your optimal chance to cover up any gaps in your resume.
How to convince applicants over 50 in a job interview:
21. Radiate self-confidence and composure, yet a willingness to learn and motivation.
22. Choose a youthful, but of course appropriate outfit. For example, opt for a dark blue suit with a plain white shirt instead of the checkered model from the 80s. Or, if you’re a woman, go for a pair of black cloth pants with a chic blouse instead of the dusted-off costume with shoulder pads.
23. Speak according to the motto: "The further an event lies in the past, the shorter your explanations"! No one is interested with over 50 still for your Abitur certificate. Focus on your recent experience and successes.
24. If you have shortened your resume due to lack of space, be prepared to be followed up more closely if there are gaps. So lay out an answer, but don’t ramble, keep it short and sweet. After all, you have omitted this station not without reason, but because it is only slightly relevant to the advertised position.
25. Counter confidently when confronted with prejudice based on your age. One or the other personnel manager may want to lure you out of your reserve deliberately. Remain calm but self-confident and do not fall into justifications. How about instead: "Do I have health problems?? Please excuse me, I didn’t know that was a must for the advertised position" – confident with a twinkle in your eye.
26. Signal a certain flexibility regarding your salary expectations, but set yourself a lower limit and remain firm in this regard. The best way to do this is to be able to justify them in a comprehensible way.
27. Don’t be put off by unauthorized questions and come up with quick-witted answers as soon as the interviewer should critically question your age or state of health. You can find practical tips on this under "Unacceptable questions in job interviews – Do lies really have short legs??"
Application 50plus: sample cover letter and resume
As mentioned earlier, as an applicant over 50, you don’t really have to write a different application than your 30- or 40-year-old peers. You just need to get rid of outdated application mechanisms, images, phrases& Say goodbye to Co and go for a modern application with a recognizable thread. You can find relevant tips and practical patterns as inspiration in our articles:
We’re keeping our fingers crossed that you’ll score points with your 50+ application and that you’ll soon find a new job even as a Best Ager. Thanks to the changes in the job market described above, you can look forward to a rosy future and a new challenge as well as the best opportunities for management positions.