How to Interview with Someone Younger Than You

by Sharon Elber

Interview with Someone Younger

You have landed a job interview for a position that makes the most of your skills, education, and experience. As you start to do your research in preparation for the interview, you realize that the interviewer is significantly younger than you. What now?

This article will explore some tips for making the most of this interview dynamic so that you can leave a memorable impression.

Mental Preparation

Obviously, if you are going to work well with your younger future boss, you will need to be able to respect them. Part of preparing for an interview with a younger person is to take the time to make sure you aren’t carrying any negative feelings such as resentment or concerns that a younger person can’t possibly be competent. If you don’t get right with the idea of working for someone younger, chances are, that is going to come through during the interview.

Don’t Draw Attention to the Age Difference

While knowing that the interviewer is younger can help you prepare for your interview, it isn’t a good idea to highlight your age difference. For example, making a comment that the hiring manager is doing quite well for his age may be well intentioned, but it can backfire by reminding them of the age gap, introducing awkwardness that doesn’t have to be a part of the process.

That being said, it is a good idea to prepare to answer, if asked, about how you feel working for someone younger than yourself. That way, you can be ready for this question in the event the hiring manager decides to be direct about your age difference during the interview.

Emphasize That You Are Current

Have you recently earned a new certification or taken online courses relevant to your work? Or, maybe you taught yourself how to use a new program that helped to streamline operations at your previous job. If so, make sure to get these facts on the table during your interview. They will help confront any unspoken concerns that you may not be up to date in a dynamic job sector.

Avoid Teacher Mode

Many of us can subconsciously go into “teacher mode” when talking about our work to younger people. This may be well intentioned, but it is likely to come off as condescending. Instead, assume your interviewer is just as knowledgeable about your field. Keep your tone in check to convey the information needed to answer the question, without treading into lesson territory.

Watch Out for the ‘Overqualified” Trap

If you have a great deal of work experience, it can be tempting to stray into qualifications that you have which go well beyond or are simply irrelevant to the job you are applying for. It is particularly important when you are interviewing with someone younger than you to keep the focus on your most relevant work experiences, keeping the conversation on your fit for the exact position you are interviewing for.

Prepare Some Examples

Most interviews include a few behavioral or situational questions that ask you to talk about a time when you handled a specific challenge at work in the past. In other cases, you may be asked to predict how you would react to a fictional scenario. In both cases, these types of questions help the hiring manager gain insight into your thought process, problem solving, and decision-making skills.

These types of questions are also a great opportunity to demonstrate your qualities as an employee. And, a perfect chance to assuage any concerns a younger boss might have about hiring older staff members. By preparing some examples in advance, you can make sure to emphasize the following qualities they may be looking for:

Ability to Learn from Others

If you get a chance, discussing a time when you learned from the knowledge of others can help to alleviate concerns that you might be a know-it-all. Choose examples that show you value the input of others and are able to adapt your own ideas in the context of new information.

Highlight Recent Experiences

Where possible, use your most recent experiences when coming up with examples of your past performance or job responsibilities during the interview. This has two benefits. First, it takes some focus off of your age difference by avoiding examples that would make that difference obvious, such as mentioning outdated technology.

The second benefit is that it allows you to highlight that you are currently right where you need to be in terms of the position you hope to fill. In other words, it helps to convey that you are “right on time” for the job at hand.

Willingness to Adapt

It is important to prepare an example of a time when you were able to adapt your workstyle to new conditions. For example, you may have quickly learned to use a new computerized system at your last job. These kinds of examples can help assuage an employer that may have concerns that you won’t be eager to try new things because of the often false assumption that older people are not as receptive to change as their younger counterparts.

Worried About Ageism?

Ageism, legally defined as the discrimination against people over 40 years old on the basis of age, is definitely something to be aware of during the job search. And, confronting ageism during the job search is something that you should consider as you prepare for your interview. However, don’t go into this vital stage of landing your next job expecting it, or you are likely to come off as defensive. It won’t make for a great first impression.

Remember that it is likely fairly obvious from your application materials that you are an older worker. The fact that the company is investing their time considering your candidacy with an interview means that they are taking you seriously. In fact, they may even be in need of a more experienced candidate in the position, making your age a potential asset. Try to put your concerns aside so that you can be fully present and put your best foot forward at the interview.

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