Work & Purpose

How I Landed A Great Job In 5 Months After Age 50

My secret for interviewing well: mastering the four 'R's

(This article appeared previously on AOLJobs.com)

I cringe whenever I hear pundits telling audiences that unemployment after 50 is a career death sentence.

It may be harder to land a job after 50, but there is hope and opportunity. After being out of work for five months, I landed a senior-level job with decent pay and hope my success can bring hope to others surrounded by prevailing negativity.

The key in getting and succeeding at interviews was proving that, regardless of age, I had mastered the four "R"s. I showed that I was Responsible, had demonstrated Resilience, was still Relevant and knew (business) 'Rithmetic. And if that weren't enough, I had to show how I was different. Here's a guide to the four "R"s:

This is the easiest "R" for older workers, but it's approached in a new manner by today's interviewers.

Behavioral interviewing is more the norm than years ago with hiring managers asking situational questions and looking for the potential employee's response in handling co-workers, supervisors and direct reports.

In one interview I was asked how I'd handle a difficult client — a question that I didn't nail, and I was not invited back for the second round of interviewing.

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This trait also comes up a lot in the behavioral interviewing process, with recruiters frequently asking how you handled a failure or dealt with an underperforming employee. In one screening, I was asked to describe a nightmare marketing situation.

I was so taken aback, I initially laughed and stated the key to great marketing is avoiding nightmares! Then, I answered by saying, "I can tell you how I dealt with projects that did not meet expectations at key milestones."

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My answer demonstrated good project management, planning and communication skills as well as the need to manage expectations with employees and senior management. In that situation, I passed the screening and became the top candidate for the open post, until I was asked the next question in the final round with the CEO.
The CEO wanted to know why he should hire me over every other candidate. This question was repeated in almost every subsequent interview. Sometimes the question was phrased, "Why are you right for this position over others?"

When first asked this question, I was uncomfortable answering. Then, I realized the question was simply: "What makes you special?"

In the job I finally landed, I had the answer cold, and it wasn't a generic answer. It was specific to that job. I had conducted a study that no one else in the area could have done and I was the only one who could bring that experience to the job.

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This is the hardest arena for older workers. The assumption by many hiring managers is that the older employee is stuck in old ways of working and thinking.

I countered this with a strong profile on LinkedIn, a broad presence on Twitter and other social networks and a deep digital footprint with a dynamic web site, portfolio and involvement with new online endeavors.

I invested time, energy and dollars in hiring help to build a digital portfolio and update my web site. The delegation was a key time-saver, allowing me to concentrate on job postings and timely cover letters. In addition, I volunteered for the digital committee of a well-known marketing organization, got re-certified in digital marketing, took online classes and led various online marketing groups.

All of that got me to the final round between me and one other top candidate. The difference in getting the offer became 'Rithmetic, or my ability to apply metrics to prove progress in project management.

Of all the interviews I had, age was only an issue in one — a digital company predominated by Millennials. In all other interviews, age wasn't an issue. The ability to be relevant was. 

Rhona Bronson is an AOLJobs.com contributor. She has spent more than 30 years in marketing and communications positions with well-known consumer product and media brands. After being laid off as a Senior VP of Marketing in 2009, she started a marketing and consulting company in North Jersey. She later led a marketing group for a regional newspaper in South Jersey. Laid off again in 2013, Bronson conducted a focused job search resulting in her newest position as Director of Marketing for the Delaware River and Bay Authority.

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