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Interviewing and negotiating

Prepare in advance to stay flexible and focused during the interview.

The job interview

How you come across in an interview reveals your attitude. To many employers, your attitude is just as important as your job skills when making an employment decision. Visit Interview tips to help prepare. Additional tips for older workers:

  • Can you articulate your accomplishments of the previous several years clearly and without jargon? Prepare one or two stories about how you were able to master a new skill or task to solve an employer’s problem. Interviewers prefer stories over a laundry list of facts.
  • Maintain the respectful formality of a job interview. Even if interviewing with colleagues, avoid sharing personal life details and stay away from gossip about people in your industry.
  • Focus on how you can add value. Avoid coming across as someone who has “been there, done that”; do not start sentences with “when I was your age...” or “this is how we used to do that...”
  • It is illegal for an interviewer to ask your age, except for jobs that require disclosure, such as an airline pilot. If you are asked your age, it’s appropriate to ask about how your age would affect your ability to do the job.

Approaching wages and benefits

The reality is that although you may have 30 years of experience, you may not be paid more than a less experienced, younger candidate.

  • Study all offers closely. Look at the employment status (contract or regular employee), pay, health benefits, secondary benefits (disability and/or life insurance), paid time off, retirement savings plans, work schedule, and potential for growth. Ask for this information in writing.
  • If you like the job, take it. If you have concerns, talk with the employer or recruiter. If the salary appears too low, ask if the employer will consider a counterproposal. If so, request a minimum of a 10 percent bump due to your expertise. Keep in mind that the employer has the right to say no.
  • Negotiating for higher hourly wages is possible in the skilled trades, personal services, administrative and clerical areas, but basic benefits are unlikely to be changed. You can also ask for schedule flexibility and more training.
  • Professional, salaried positions often offer a higher salary, deferred compensation, incentive pay, stock options, and other benefits. For these jobs, insist on a written employment agreement. Senior professional and upper management jobs have the greatest negotiating opportunity on every aspect of employment.
  • Health coverage is a particular concern for many older workers. If an employer does not provide health benefits, Medicare is available to people age 65 or older and to some disabled people younger than 65. Medicare's eligibility tool can tell you whether you qualify. Medicaid also provides health coverage for low income individuals. Finally, if laid off, COBRA allows workers and their families to continue their health coverage after employment ends by paying the premium themselves. Healthcare.gov offers in-depth information.