As a career strategist, I often come to the defense of older workers who experience ageism. However, I don’t talk enough about “reverse ageism” — in other words, how older job seekers treat younger interviewers during the process.
Some older job seekers have told me they have a hard time taking younger interviewers seriously. Their arrogance is clear as they talk about their interviewing experiences.
Let’s Reverse the Situation
When I talk about reverse ageism, this is the message I deliver to my clients: Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. How would you react if an older candidate looked at you with disdain, seeing you as inexperienced and beneath their level? You would probably feel that this candidate would not make for a great hire.
You’d worry that, if you were to hire the candidate, you’d have to prove yourself to be a qualified leader on a regular basis. Your every decision would be questioned. Any effort you made to correct the worker’s actions or reprimand them would be met with resistance. You would feel powerless.
You would finally reason that hiring this candidate would be the wrong decision.
The majority of older workers have a great deal of value to offer employers. They’re knowledgeable, and they possess life experience that younger workers do not. They want to work and are flexible with their schedules. They’re dependable, able to mentor others, and are great role models.
But all this goes out the window when an older job seeker thinks they’re all that or has a chip on their shoulder. These older workers are often convinced they’ll experience ageism at every interview. As a result, they lose the job before the interview even begins.
Susan Jepson, director of the National Senior Network, writes:
“Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection. Examine your beliefs and assumptions and work hard to be open and communicative with your interviewer, without prejudice of any kind.”
The person sitting across from you deserves as much respect as you do. Here are six things to keep in mind when interviewing with someone younger than yourself:
1. The Interviewer Earned Their Job
Whether they have less experience than you is irrelevant. Someone in the company determined they were the most capable to manage a group of people. (Yes, that decision could have been wrong, but that is beside the point.)
2. The Interviewer’s Job Is to Hire the Best Person
You are the best person, but if you show contempt or hint at your superiority, the interviewer won’t see your talent. They will only see your less-than-desirable attitude.
3. The Interviewer Might Fear You’re After Their Job
Put their fears to rest by not talking about how you eventually want to assume a position like theirs (or theirs specifically). Assure the interviewer that your goal is to do the best possible work at the position in question. Ultimately, you want to help the company succeed.
4. The Interviewer Will Appreciate Your Point of View
Once they are assured you’re not after their job, the younger interviewer may see you as a mentor. Younger workers like gaining the approval of their older colleagues. Take it from someone who supervised someone 20 years my senior: Her approval meant a lot to me.
5. The Interviewer Might Have Some Growing to Do
If you want to succeed, you’ll realize that people of all ages have some growing to do — including you. If you get hired, you can help your new boss through this process by building their self-esteem and confidence. It’s wonderful to watch someone grow under your tutelage.
6. Whether You Like It or Not, This Person Will Be Your Boss
What are your options right now? Enough said.
An organization that wants to succeed will hire a diverse workforce, which includes people of different races, religions, genders, ages, etc. Do your part to help the company succeed by accepting that younger employees have a great deal to offer. You want a chance to get hired, so give younger interviewers the chance to do their jobs.
A version of this article originally appeared on Things Career Related.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.