Six tips for getting a job if you’re over 50

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By Faarea Masud – Business reporter

Britain needs you.

That was the message from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last month when he urged people who have retired early to return to the workforce to help revive the economy.

Mr Hunt promised that for anyone looking to get back to work, the government would make it worth their while.

We await details of the measures, but in the meantime the BBC asked recruiters and charities for tips for anyone seeking to return to work.

1. Focus on ability, not age

Unfortunately ageism is still a problem, says James Reed, chief executive of recruitment firm Reed.

“Despite legislation to prevent age discrimination, older jobseekers can still face bias,” he admits.

He suggests shifting the focus away from your age and onto your ability wherever you can.

While you shouldn’t lie about your age, there’s no need to highlight it either,” he says.

“Consider streamlining your CV and taking out older experience that dates back more than 10 years, or omit dates in the section listing your education.”

Employers are allowed to ask for your date of birth, to see whether they are attracting a wide range of candidates, for example. But they should keep this separate from the application, says the charity Age UK.

2. Be open about any relevant health concerns

If health is the reason you left your last job, it can be tricky. But you don’t have to mention it at interview, unless it could affect your work in the future.

Petra Tagg, director at Manpower, says it’s up to you to decide how much information you share.

“There’s no need to disclose a history of illness if it won’t affect your ability to perform your duties,” she says.

However, she says be truthful about health concerns that may affect your ability to perform a job or if you may need time off.

Laura Reilly, director at Taurus HR, advises keeping the reasons for leaving previous employment relatively light and positive.

“Once an offer has been received, any disclosures can be made – including if reasonable adjustments need to be made for you,” she says.

Yvonne Smyth from recruitment firm Hays says that if you are asked to complete a workplace adjustment assessment or form, that is the time to disclose any health information you feel may have an impact on your work. But that is usually a little further along in the interview process.

3. Update your skills

Older workers can often face prejudicial questions around digital literacy and skills, James Reed says.

For that reason he says it’s worthwhile polishing skills in areas valued by employers.

He says things like using news alerts to keep up with developments in any given field can help you stand out from the crowd during the interview process.

Taking voluntary opportunities can also boost your skills as you effectively get on-the-job training in whatever technology is used, says Stuart Lewis, chief executive of Rest Less, a website that provides resources for jobs and volunteering for the over-50s.

He also advises making it clear in your application that you’re interested in new challenges and learning new skills.

4. Don’t be nervous about asking to work flexibly

Some older people find they don’t have the energy for full-time work, or have caring responsibilities or simply prefer to work part-time.

But you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for flexible work. In fact, employers may expect it.

Businesses are increasingly realising that offering flexible working helps retain older workers, according to Tracy Riddell, of the Centre for Ageing Better.

The Acas website has further guidance on flexible working requests here.

5. Reinvent yourself

James Reed says older jobseekers shouldn’t rule out gaining new professional qualifications. It can demonstrate to prospective employers your ability to adapt and learn new skills, or even be the start of a whole new career.

Apprenticeships, for instance, are not just for the young. Older workers and career-switchers can do them too.

And think about your “transferable skills”, says Clare McCartney from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

If you are a good communicator or have lots of leadership experience, for example, you could consider applying for jobs in different industries, she says.

The UK government has further advice on support for older workers here.

6. Don’t undersell yourself

Petra Tagg from Manpower says older workers should try to avoid falling into the trap of undervaluing themselves.

She says that often the advantage for older workers is the breadth of experience they bring.

“In circumstances where other, younger candidates may seem to have more to offer, reminding yourself of what makes you stand out from the crowd is a quick and effective way to build awareness and confidence in yourself and your own worth,” she says.

She says people can use a job description “to pull out all the things you can do, and give real examples, rather than focusing on those you don’t have experience in”.