Job Hunting Over 50

I am  54 years old.  I have a tendency to start many of my blog posts with this information.  Why?  To add context to whatever I’m passionate enough about to write at that moment.  I’m also an HR professional and I like to think I am progressive and strategic.  I’m fairly active on social media – though I cannot tell you what a Reddit is, or what Four Square does, I do post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and I pin a lot on Pinterest.  Likely, if you are a young, hip, tech-savvy reader, you know now why I lead with my age.  I’m most certainly behind the times.

But onward…in my use of social media, I try to be more than just a serial poster, creeper, or tweeter.  I try to connect with my connections, and be a friend or a network ally.  Not too long ago, a Facebook friend posted a melancholy post.  Ok, it was scary.  I don’t see his posts often, but for whatever reason, it came up on my feed.  Kismet, perhaps.  High school and college classmate, not a close get-together-for-lunch friend, but one I have always admired.  I commented, “Are you ok?”

Many others posted and one shared with us that he spoke with this man and he was indeed okay, though troubled by a recent job loss, and challenged to find a new position.  I was compelled to offer to assist – hey, I AM in HR, but perhaps there was something I could share to help this friend move forward.  We connected on LinkedIn, messaged one another and arranged a phone call.

We talked for a bit and he shared his frustrations with today’s job hunt and job market.  I’m paraphrasing as best as I can (I’m over 50, cut me some slack!), and here are a few of those frustrations:

Online applications.  My friend lamented that looking for a job is just “not like it used to be.” At some point, this displaced salesman could walk in with his resume to a company and talk to someone face-to-face.  Or at least send the resume in the mail and it would be reviewed.

  • “Why must I also upload my resume when I’ve spent lots of time typing in the information on the application?”
  • “Why do companies fail to take down postings after they are filled?”
  • “Why am I always asked for my salary expectations up front and early in the process?”
  • “Why do I never… Hear… Anything?”
  • “Why can’t I call someone to convince them I can do the job?”

All are great questions.  And for any of us in the age 50+ category,  they are reasonable questions.  So here’s how I answered them, with my HR hat on. And there are some follow-up tips for HR folks.


Why upload a resume AND complete an application? 

  1. The job application is generally a legal document. Hint: Don’t falsify, glorify, or otherwise embellish information on a job application, online or otherwise.
  2. Generally, an application calls for more information and detail than is supplied on a resume. We ask for employment information including salary, supervisor name and contact info.  Specific dates of employment, and education may not be included on a resume.  Hint: Be detailed when you complete an application.  Fill in all the blanks as best you can.
  3. A resume may be filled with inaccurate, inflated, or even false information.  Hint: Don’t do this.   Google Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson for more information.  Go back to #1 – the app is a legal document.
  4. Why upload one if you are completing the application? It depends on the company, culture, and HR department.  Some companies may not require that the resume be uploaded.

Tip for the HR Pros:  It might be good to communicate information on why an application is necessary on your careers page.  We are recruiting tech-savvy professionals, of all ages.  But not everyone understands why we require application, irrespective of generation.


Why do companies not take down postings once the positions are filled?

With my rose-colored glasses on, I would like to think the HR folks are just caught up in the administrative process once the position is filled.

Tip for HR: Be sure your recruiter or HR tech person does take down postings that are filled.  Does your system have an option to automatically send a notification to all applicants when that happens?  If so, turn it on.  Our brand is everything, and if we aren’t staying up-to-date on our own job openings, how can HR be seen as credible internally or externally? Same for your company.


Why am I always asked for my salary expectations up front and early in the process?

Likely, a savvy HR professional needs to know if you and the company are in the same salary ballpark.  If you are seeking a job that pays $100,000 in salary, and the position you applied for caps at $45,000, there is no value in taking your time or the company’s to continue the conversation.  Candidates should consider having a clear picture of what they must have in order to change jobs, and what they desire in salary.  Reframe such a question with a discussion phrased something like this, “That’s a great question.  I have a salary in mind, can you tell me what the minimum pay is, and what the midpoint of the pay range is?”  Then continue the conversation.

Tip for HR:  Are you posting salary ranges out there?  Perhaps at least posting a midpoint would be reasonable.  After all, your time is valuable, too. 


Why do I never… Hear… Anything?

I hope (rose-colored glasses are on) that you mean after you complete an application.  In today’s world, companies receive many more applications than in years past.  In our company of 400+ employees, all who work within one state, we receive about 4,000 applications per year.  (Frame of reference, in 2001 we received about 200 per year.) Of those 4,000, about 2,000 are considered “complete” and are reviewed by a ‘real’ human.  Our system sends an automatic response to anyone who completes the application 100%.

If you were interviewed, I hope the HR professionals at minimum provided an electronic response if another candidate was selected for the position or if you did not make the next set of interviews.

Tip for HR: Employment brand is everything.  Want to be remembered?  Be sure to send a follow up letter, even if it is a rejection follow up.  And if time allows and a candidate calls, can you/do you/should you give feedback on where they could improve next time? What if you found them to be a great cultural fit, but not right for this position?  Following up with a personal phone call to ask a candidate to keep your company in mind for future opportunities – how cool is that?   Imagine the brand recognition you could have if you can do this in an empathetic, professional manner?


Why can’t I call someone to convince them I am right for the job?

Candidate, beware. This may result in your being seen as overly assertive, aggressive, or needy.  Generally speaking, in larger companies, the hiring manager works with HR (rose-colored glasses on here) and between them have experience in hiring and selection.  You may, indeed, be the right candidate, and depending on the job, assertiveness can be a good thing.  Desperation will not be seen as good.  An option:  follow up with a thank you call, email, or handwritten note.  Ask for future consideration and reiterate why you would be a great choice for a role in that company.  Send the HR person a thank you as well.  In today’s world, you will be remembered.

And candidates also be aware that HR may be a credible business partner to the hiring manager.  Trashing HR or following up with “did I intimidate your HR person?”  Or “Did I scare HR?” will not win you any champions the next time you apply.

Job candidates, you must be tech-savvy in this day and age.  At a minimum, you should know how to use a computer and be able to complete an electronic application.  Seek out assistance if you are rusty.  Many libraries and WorkOne offices have classes and folks ready to help.

Apply for many jobs.  The more applications you complete, the higher your chance for being contacted for an interview.  And prepare for your interview  – this is key to moving forward in the hiring process.

Tip for HR: Be open-minded and listen to the candidate.  Be professional and honest with any feedback you provide.  We tend to provide little or no feedback because of the litigious society in which we live.  How can we walk that tightrope best in recruiting?


Finally, my HR peeps, remember to show class and character in hiring.  Your brand is important and you are often the first glimpse into your company that an applicant or job candidate has.  Review your systems on occasion and have an outside, objective person complete an application in your system and give you feedback.  Was it hard? Easy? Time-consuming?  Did it ask for same information multiple times?  Did they get an automatic reply?

HR, be open to all ages, all generations – yes, I know we are sensitive to this.  Walk in the job applicant’s shoes. My Facebook friend’s questions are legitimate questions.  If he’s asking them and feeling them, I’m guessing there are many others out there in the same position.


About the Author:  Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution.  She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University.  She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization.  She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job.   She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn.  She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.


About the Author

Dorothy Douglass


Micole Kaye

Great article, Dorothy. I can imagine your friend’s struggle and admiring you for taking the initiative in sharing your experience with him. What a great way to kick off the holiday spirit. I particularly appreciate your note about HR Recruiters asking for outside feedback on the application process. Often, internal folks get so caught up on internal aspect they lose sight of the candidate experience. Thank you for sharing this story. Happy Holidays.


These are great questions although I have no idea what they have to do with being over or under 50.

Nonetheless I am writing (and seething) about the utterly lame reasons for filling out an application and submitting a resume. This is just inane and time consuming.

Just now I broke my resume into 1000 little pieces. First this takes a lot of time; and it isn’t fair to ask candidates to spend hours applying at this stage of the game especiallyI as it is likely they will never hear from the employer anyway. If I spend the time, so should they. (By the way, no excuse that you get a lot of applications. Everything is automated. The very least an employer can do is send an automated email. Period )

Further, of course, everyone just copies and pastes the info from their resume into the application so I doubt it adds more detail (except useless stuff like the street address of a company or the name of supervisor you have not talked into 5 years) or makes a resume more accurate.

While I am sure some people try to hide things or stretch the truth in a resume, an application tries to make everyone fit in a prescribed manner. Sorry, but my life (especially in my field where there is a lot of freelancing) rarely matches up with the application. In the latest, they kept asking if my salary was yearly monthly or weekly. But it was none of those. (As a freelancer, it was per project.) My degree (which is slightly unusual) rarely appears in drop down menus. If I pick another similar degree, it is a lie. If I leave it blank, I don’t credit for it.

Sorry, I have yet to hear a good reason for asking applicants to do this much this early in the process.

Dorothy Douglass

Joe – You make some good points. Every ATS (applicant tracking system) out there is different, and likely hasn’t caught up with your reality of being a project-based freelancer.


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