How to Avoid The Age Barrier in Your Cover Letter
By Barbara Jaworski
Your first chance to impress a prospective employee is with your cover letter. The importance of a good cover letter can’t be understated because it serves multiple functions including:
- introducing you and make a good first impression to a potential employer.
- asking to be considered for an existing or future position in an organization, to obtain information or to request a meeting.
- summarizing and highlighting points on your resume.
- communicating your interest in and enthusiasm for the position and the organization.
- convincing the reader that you have something valuable and unique to contribute and that it is worth their time to interview you or meet with you.
Job seekers over 50 walk a fine line between communicating their extensive experience and giving away their age. While older workers are justifiably proud of their numerous skills, industry knowledge, and wisdom, the fact is that ageism is alive and well in today’s workplace. The misconceptions that mature employees are less energetic, less creative and more expensive still exist, which is unfortunate because they’re simply not true.
So how to walk that line? By following some simple do’s and don’ts.
Emphasize that you’re proven(in unspoken counterpoint to a younger worker who may be untested). Specify how that experience is related to the job for which you're applying - the more specific you are, the more relevant a candidate you'll be.
- Use keywords that indicate a youthful attitude. Use words like flexible, energetic, and willingness to learn.
- Emphasize your technical skills. You need to show you are as just as up-to-date with the latest technology as your younger counterparts.
- Polish your cover letter. Presentation matters. Make sure your cover letter is correctly formatted and well presented with space between lines and paragraphs. You don't want your cover letter to look or read as though it is old-fashioned.
- Avoid cumulative experience statements. Don’t write “My more than 25 years experience in sales would enable me to make a significant contribution to your organization." Stick to expressions such as "significant experience" or "extensive experience."
- Don’t rehash your entire working history. Keep cover letters short, concise and targeted to the position. It’s also important not to appear overqualified so, depending on the position, don’t oversell yourself.
- Don’t include salary information. Many employers view older, experienced workers as too expensive. If the job posting asks for your salary expectations, simply say you’re flexible. That way employers won't think of you as being overqualified and/or overpriced. You can negotiate salary after you’ve been offered the job.
Finally, while ageism can pose challenges for the older job seeker, there are many organizations out there that want, and need, the experience, wisdom, industry knowledge and contacts, problem-solving skills based on decades of experience, people skills and work ethic that workers over 50 possess. And those are the organizations you’re hoping to reach.
Barbara Jaworski is Canada’s leading expert on boomers, chief KAA-Boomer of the Workplace Institute and author of Rebel Retirement – A KAA-Boomer’s Guide to Creating and Living an Explosive Second Act. You can find out more at http://www.KAA-Boom.com