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Recruiters' Tips for Screening the Résumés Of Older Applicants

Learn how to read between the lines and ask the right questions


Use terminology as a litmus test. This candidate "gets it," says Steve Harrison, chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison, a career management company in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. The executive summary and body of the résumé includes terminology that contemporizes this 61-year-old candidate. He was not stuck in neutral. His skills and experiences evolved with the changes in his industry.

Here are some examples of why this candidate's résumé popped with potential:

  • He uses the words "human capital" instead of "personnel."
  • He uses the word "talent" instead of "employees."
  • He addresses current hot topics in human resources like succession planning, reporting to the CEO, dealing with acquisitions, organizational efficiency and that he developed a global mind-set by managing regional human resource departments in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Glean more information when a résumé isn't enough. The right follow-up questions can help you zero in on an applicant's résumé omissions. Harrison suggests that interviewers ask the following questions to smoke out whether mature candidates have developed new skills and adapted to changing times:

  • What investment have you made in your professional career development that your employer did not pay for?
  • What new skills are you currently learning? (The first two questions come from The Manager's Book of Questions: 751 Great Interview Questions for Hiring the Best Person, by John Kador)
  • What major themes are in the lives of key executives? What keeps them up at night?
  • When talking about leadership competencies, what comes to mind? Ask the same questions regarding innovation and corporate social responsibility.

"It's not about [candidates] dyeing their hair and coming in with nose rings," explains Harrison, adding that this candidate landed a dream job for human resource professionals of any age. "It's about are they recasting themselves to live mentally and psychically in the mind of a contemporary worker."

In general, to ensure that you're not overlooking qualified applicants, mine your candidates' breadth of experiences and skills more closely. Doing so can help you land top-notch employees you may have otherwise overlooked.

As a hiring employer you may want to take a look at AARP’s program Life Reimagined for Work; it is the first talent exchange dedicated to helping companies find experienced workers and to helping experienced professionals connect to more satisfying careers. AARP is working with LinkedIn as the bridge to help bring together experienced workers, peers, employers and world-of-work experts, to help job seekers navigate the new reality of using social media to find employment. And consider signing the Work Reimagined Pledge, indicating that your company recruits across all age groups and values experienced workers.

Also, to learn about organizations that have been recognized for their policies and procedures valued by older workers, visit to see the winners of the 2013 Best Employers Over 50 Award.

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