How to get past “Older workers need not apply”

July 30, 20154:55 pm685 views

Many older job seekers are facing trouble getting a job despite the fact that age discrimination is disallowed in Singapore. According to MOM, 49% of PMETs who lost their jobs were able to find a job within 6 months, and workers aged 40 and above took a longer time to find compared to younger ones.

And we are talking about this when our employment rate is hovering around a low 2%. Can you imagine how it would be if we are in another recession?

I had written extensively in my previous article “Employers, stop your Sweet Young Thing obsession” arguing why employers need to seriously look into the older workers talent pool. But in any employment situation, it takes two to come together to make things happen. So while employers review their internal policies and make it more grey-friendly, let’s look at what you (older job seekers) can do to increase your chances 10x.

  1. Let it go – from the industrial age to information age to knowledge age, the world has changed significantly. Fax machines are dying and everyone is receiving their emails on their smartphones. The way your old company/role operated no longer exists. The days of pension, business flights, loyalty over meritocracy are over. Let it go. Move on. Don’t even bring up the good old times as it gives people the vibes that you are stuck in the past and can be a deterrent to getting a job.
  2. Unrealistic salary expectations – remember mainframe computers? They cost a bomb and the same can be said for the people who managed them. To expect the same remuneration to maintain desktops or networks just doesn’t cut it. So unless you can justify it (by doing extensive research on websites such as Glassdoor and MOM survey), be realistic about what you are asking for. And do in based on the context of the job you are applying for, not the one you held before.
  3. Target skills-based jobs – I participated at a career fair and the queue at the Google booth was unbelievably long. Similar to the queue at Singapore Pools when the Chinese New Year Toto comes around, what do you think are your probability of getting it? Instead you should target industries that are not as competitive (in terms of applicants) and ideally an industry that Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) supports with specific WSQ training. You don’t see WDA peddling the investment banking function as the industry will automatically magnetize job seekers. The ones that WDA has be involve in are the ones that are sorely lacking supply of talents. In job search, the lesser the competition the better. You can also try career profiling at NTUC U PME Centres to look for suitable industries or applying for e2i’s Place-and-Train Programme (see below). And if you think these jobs are beneath you, refer to point 1.


  4. Target grey-friendly companies – There are many case studies by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) about age management. These are companies that have embraced the older workforce and hence your chance of getting a job there would be higher too. Another you could look at is Silver Spring, Singapore’s first social enterprise to champion the employment of experienced job seekers. They also have quite a few similar case studies that you might find beneficial. A unionized company may also be more open to retaining mature workers once they reach retirement age.
  5. Consider volunteer work (to fill in the gaps) – extended periods of unemployment are never viewed favourably regardless of reasons. Put a stop to it and start volunteering for roles that you could possibly leverage and position as a value-add in your future job applications. You can learn new skills, spend your time usefully and get to expand your network. You can start by visiting the charities that supports the same cause as you or browse through the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) website to find out more about volunteering.
  6. Start using a smartphone – This is the best way to present across as keeping up with times. Plus many companies no longer provide a company phone for business purposes. They mostly have Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies. That can’t be possible if you are still using Nokia feature phones.
  7. Join an association – One of the better ways to stay current is to be around people who have similar interests and are working in the industry.  Consider joining an association where you can learn and find the resources to help you advance in your career.  Who knows, you might even find a mentor or a job.
  8. Working for younger bosses – If you had reported to a younger boss before, list it down clearly. If not, emphasize that you are okay to work for a younger or less experienced supervisor. Hiring managers always have the perception that older workers would be unhappy working for someone a few years or even decades younger than them. It is important to prepare interview responses for such concerns.
  9. Hang in there – Long-term unemployment makes some older workers disheartened and depressed. I had seen my fair share of such job seekers. They appear frazzled and behave very snappy. Letting your job search frustration show is the quickest way to kill your chances. Venting it out on your prospective employer isn’t going to help turn the situation around. Peer support through NTUC’s Career Activation Programme may help you leave your regrets behind and move on.
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