When you’re over age 50 and seeking a job, you’ll often encounter subtle—and not-so-subtle—age discrimination from potential employers. In fact, 65% of older workers say age is an obstacle to getting a job.
But why? Well, many employers fear that older workers will want a higher salary than younger employees or that they won’t stay in jobs where they make less than they’re used to. In addition, some employers think that older workers will be slow to adapt to new technologies and costly to train, even though studies have found that there’s no correlation between age and work performance.
If you’re on the job hunt, the best way to overcome these biases is to be prepared for them and do your best to combat judgments recruiters and potential employers may make about you based solely on your age.
You will be judged by how you look
Your appearance matters.The way you look and present yourself can help you get your dream job. Or it can cause you to miss out on job opportunities.
But that’s not fair, you might be thinking, I should be judged on my skills and experience! You definitely should, but the fact is we all make snap judgments based on appearance every day, especially employers. A CareerBuilder survey found that appearances not only affect your ability to get hired but can also affect your chances of getting a promotion.
That’s why it’s so important to have a quality, professional headshot on hand during your job search. After all, 41% of recruiters say that seeing a photo of a candidate impacts their first impression, and you want to make sure you come across as the perfect candidate for the job!
You need to have an online presence
One of the reasons employers are reluctant to hire older workers is that they fear they’re not comfortable with digital technology. A strong online presence can debunk this belief and prove that you’re capable of adapting and learning new skills.
In the last decade, most of the hiring process has moved online, which means you’ll need to be more active on social media, especially LinkedIn. A LinkedIn profile without a photo is an immediate turnoff for recruiters and potential employers, as it suggests you have something to hide, so make sure you complete your profile with both a profile image and a cover photo.
You’ll also want to use your headshot anywhere you have a digital presence, from blog posts or articles you’ve guest-written on other people’s websites to your own professional website or portfolio. Even your email account will need an image, and a quality headshot is the perfect way to convey that you’re trustworthy and professional.
And you need to make a good first impression online
You may have the best smile and firmest handshake, but these days a potential employer is most likely to first see you online. In fact, 96% of recruiters use social media to find candidates, and they often scan profiles quickly, usually less than 10 seconds. Of that brief time, 20% is used to evaluate photos.
Most employers expect younger workers to have an edge online, so having an impressive LinkedIn profile can put you ahead and cause recruiters to sit up and take notice. Make sure your profile photo is high-quality, instead of a casual photo taken by a family member or friend.
The right headshot should convey friendliness, approachability, professionalism, and confidence. That may seem like a lot to capture in just one image, but that’s where a professional photographer can help! They know how to pose you, how to create the best lighting, and how to edit your photos to create the perfect images for your job search.
You have to show that you know your stuff
As an older job seeker, you have something younger workers just don’t have—a wealth of experience and knowledge. While you may not have as much digital experience, it’s important to include on your resume skills that are useful in any work environment, like communication and managerial experience.
Highlight your years of work experience on your LinkedIn profile so potential employees can clearly see that you know what you’re doing and would be a valuable addition to their team. And be creative! Think about the many things you’ve learned in your career and how those skills can translate to the positions for which you’re applying.
To complete your LinkedIn profile, choose a quality headshot that shows you looking professional, approachable, and trustworthy. Remember that, no matter how unfair it is, you will be judged on your appearance, and an impressive headshot can be that strong first impression you need to capture an employer’s interest.
So…what makes a good headshot?
A professional photographer can help you with posing, lighting, and even wardrobe, but here are a few tips to help you get the perfect photos for your career:
- Make eye contact—Look toward the camera but focus beyond it to help create an impression of directness and approachability.
- Smile—Research has shown that a smile helps create a more likeable impression.
- Dress like you would for a job interview—That means no wrinkled or casual clothes. Look crisp and sharp. And check out our wardrobe guide for more information on what to wear.
- Keep your headshot current—Don’t rely on the same photo for a decade. Instead, update your photo every couple years.
Professional headshots can put you ahead and help you advance your career, making sure you get exactly where you want to go.