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Posted: February 26, 2013

Top 10 reasons Boomers aren’t getting hired

The only thing bigger than your ego is your salary demand

John Heckers

Is it age discrimination? While there certainly is some of that going on, there are many valid reasons why people 55 and older have a harder time getting employed. Here are 10 of them.

1). You're way too expensive. An insistence on a high salary is the main reason Boomers are staying unemployed. There are plenty of start-ups and smaller companies that would love to have your experience. Be open to sweat equity and smaller salaries. If your lifestyle is getting in the way, change your lifestyle now while you still can.

2). You're hopelessly behind the time technologically. Technology is driving most companies today, even the ones that aren't specifically tech centered. If you can't keep up with the technology, why should an employer want to hire you? Get up-to-date now. If you won't or can't - time to retire.

3). You've got a gigantic ego. I can't tell you how many people come into my office and tell me that they've got it handled. None of them do. Their egos are just too huge to accept help and get coached. Hey! That comes across to employers. If you think you're "the bomb," you're going to.

4). You're resentful of younger people. I hate to tell you this, but they're going to take over when you're gone, so you'd better get rid of your resentment and share your experience with them, while asking them to coach you where you're behind the times. Younger people can be very frustrating at times. But, I've got news for you. So can we.

5). You look like you've got one foot in the grave. Maybe you can't look 20 again, but you can look younger. If possible, dye your gray hair. Update your wardrobe, but don't try to dress like you're a 20 year old. Guys - the stubble beard that young people can carry off just makes you look like a bum. Women - no one needs to see a micro-mini on a grandma. Look as young as possible without looking absurd.

6). You act old. You walk slowly. You groan when you get out of a chair. Rather than giving you a job, you might find yourself with a ride to assisted living. Might I suggest that one of your best investments for the future is a gym membership with a personal trainer who specializes in working with middle-aged and older clients? A good trainer can make a world of difference, even if you have very real disabilities.

7). You're speaking in teen-age slang and it sounds absurd. Okay - you've got teens or young adults at home. But if I hear one more person my age use "awesome" with every other word, I think I'm going to "go postal" on them! Using young slang doesn't make you seem young. It makes you seem ridiculous. Please speak as an adult. And don't use the words "like" or "I mean" frequently either. (This is good advice even if you've just graduated from high school!)

8). You have outmoded attitudes about life and people. If you have bigotry against any race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc., would you please get out of the way for people who have come into the 21st Century? These disgusting attitudes have no place in the workplace whatsoever.

9). You won't do the work. I have heard many CTOs say that they won't or can't code. Ditto with other high-level people. They won't or can't do the basic work anymore. Someone in their mid-to-late 30's will. This is why they beat you out. Employers want people who can pitch in with sleeves rolled up. Be one.

10) You're enamored of large companies. Large companies don't want you. They want someone 20-something. They cost less and they're better able to be brainwashed. Smaller companies want you, but you'll have to be reasonable on salary, benefits and perks, and maybe even work for free for a short time (or eat what you kill). Smaller companies are where the future lies, not in the mega-corp dinosaurs. Look at small companies first, not as a last resort!

If you're too old to change and learn (and accept coaching, even from someone younger), you're too old to work. Change and grow, or retire or die. These are your only real choices in today's market.

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

Great article John! I am an image consultant in Denver and some of my best clients are baby boomers...they need help incorporating their personal style into their professional dress. #5 is right on. We are a visual society that judges and makes assumptions based on the visual evidence. Whether these are fair or unfair is not the point. The only thing we can control is what we put out there for investigation. #5 is relevant to all job seekers, not just baby boomers. Every detail from how you style your hair (outdated hair style=out dated ideas) to the condition of your shoes (worn out soles=unsuccessful) factors into each person's perception of you. With each impression we make we develop and create our brand. Companies want to hire people who fit into their culture, their brand. By Milena Joy on 2013 03 01
Great article John! I am an image consultant in Denver and some of my best clients are baby boomers...they need help incorporating their personal style into their professional dress. #5 is right on. We are a visual society that judges and makes assumptions based on the visual evidence. Whether these are fair or unfair is not the point. The only thing we can control is what we put out there for investigation. #5 is relevant to all job seekers, not just baby boomers. Every detail from how you style your hair (is it outdated?) to the condition of your shoes (polished or worn?) factors into each person's perception of you. With each impression we make we develop and create our brand. Companies want to hire people who fit into their culture, their brand. By Milena Joy on 2013 03 01
They also may be over weight and out of shape from leading a sedentary life style. An employer would feel they would using the healthcare system the company has to offer to treat them for all the illnesses associated with that lifestyle along with days off for those illnesses. One would think executive coaches would be setting the example of what a perfect candidate would look like. But they may be busy writing condescending articles about people in their age group. By Elizabeth on 2013 02 28
As a boomer, and an executive in transition, I find John Heckers' points in his article are spot on. Some generalizations, yes. But the point is the job market has changed dramatically. There is a plethora of great talent out there, competing for fewer and fewer jobs. Doing -anything- that could torpedo a job search is unwise. John Wray, it's clear this article has hit a nerve with you on a variety of levels. But I take issue with your comment that people who engage John Heckers (or other professionals like him) are "already in trouble." My decision to engage an executive career coach was to have an -edge- as I pursued new job opportunities. I find this reason to be true for other executives in transition who also enlist coaches. I'd enjoy knowing where the "real" Colorado is. From state labor statistics, each county in the state has hit historic high levels of reported unemployment -- the highest being Dolores County at 17.5% in 2010. The bulk of state has reported unemployment figures from 7.0% to 10% across most counties and population centers. By Tony Peccolo on 2011 05 22
In fact, after re reading your "comments" I find them hateful and arrogant. Re read your own comments and if you don't see condescension and arrogance then I don't know what to say. You don't have the credentials to make such statements By John Wray on 2011 05 22
John H, your article points are fine EXCEPT for 5,6,&9 which are not relevant. In fact, asserting such things is harmful to a job seeker and allows them to blame their "faults" on prejudice and conspiracies". very misleading imho By John Wray on 2011 05 22
I COMPLETELY agree with John. You are assuming that the employer doesn't care about truth, honesty etc. I know of NO employers like that. Perhaps you see the bad ones, but if they are "playing a game" they are long gone or soon to go. I check out an applicants story and talk to his references etc etc. If he's playing a game, I'll find out. It really IS kind of funny to talk about dyeing your hair when I'd be MUCH more likely to hire someone with grey hair. I think you are leading your readers far astray and hurting them not helping them. I really question your "bona-fides" to write such an article By John Wray on 2011 05 22
Getting a job is a game. You've got to get past the people who discriminate against those with gray hair. Now, you can be on your high horse and tell me I'm an ageist and everything else you want to say. But you're just plain being foolish. You can feed your ego or you can get employed. You cannot do both simultaneously. If you don't want to play the game, start your own business where you call the shots. Otherwise --- I hope you enjoy daytime TV, 'cause that's what's going to be occupying your time. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 22
Dye your hair?! Well, besides being utterly absurd, this is bigoted, and no different than being racist (those "despicable" things you speak of in this article.) Look: You dye your hair if you are vain, or for any of your own personal reasons for doing so. You don't dye your hair to get a job. Greying hair and temples inspire confidence; it's a mark of your maturity. Not your one-footness-in-the-grave. Ronald Reagan dyed his hair. Lesson learned. Looking cut and buff? well, that's a personal health issue. If this is "culture" and worse, *work* culture, then the "work" culture is insane. Meaning: unhealthy. Very unhealthy. All of these ruses are one thing only: Cheating, and lying. You are who you are. "Dumbing" down resumes is cheating. And 'catch up, or retire and die'? You have got to be kidding. That glibness may seem like "honesty," but I've got another one for you: "Grow up, or die." By John on 2011 05 22
I think that John said more about himself and business in his last comment than I've seen is quite sometime. The cynical approach to "businessmen" is hopelessly wrong, but totally predictable. I know few business owners who would be fooled by such fakery. Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy and impresses hirers more than phony rhetoric and fake smiles. Most business owners are honest and care about their employees and their welfare. Any owner who doesn't think this way doesn't last long. Your "approach" insinuates that owners AND people looking for work are stupid and unaware. I'm amazed at this sort of opinion By John Wray on 2011 05 15
B.J. -- So far as dedication to an industry goes...yeah, you kind of have to play the game. If you're talking with a health care company, you've ALWAYS yearned to be in health care. If you're talking to an O&G company, you LOVE oil wells, and so on. Most employers would be perfectly happy if their employees had no life except work, work, work, and absolutely would kill to work in their company. This is made even more pointed by the economy where employers can't hire as many people as they might like to. So...put on the mask. Play the games. Learn to play politics very well. Just don't sell your least not cheaply. Nicholas --- thanks for the support. I see these folks all the time, too. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 15
I work with these people! You've hit the nail on the head. Well done! By Nicholas Molodyko on 2011 05 15
I think you hit the problem with your "conclusions" within your comments. You seemed to form your "opinion" from a jaded data pool. The people who "come to you" are already in trouble and you've excluded, perhaps, the large majority of the working force that already know what you wrote. You article is good for those who don't get it (a minority imho) and that's the way it should be taken. As I mentioned before, out here in the "real" Colorado, I don't see what you see in metro areas. By John Wray on 2011 05 14
Thanks, all, for your comments. Mike, you can best find out about small companies by attending a venture club meeting, as many small companies are looking for funding. Then, make sure you keep up your networking. Sorry that some of you think I'm "bashing Boomers" or being negative. The reality is, I see these things every day with the people I counsel and who call me and come to my office. Like all my articles, if the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn't, don't take it personally. BUT, if you're an older worker and having a hard time getting employed, well, maybe it is time to stop being stubborn and try on the shoe. And, yes, I write to help, not to discourage. But I'm not going to blow smoke and say things that are just encouraging when there is a real challenge. If you want that...probably my column is not the best read for you. I think there truly ARE Generations. And, yes, I'm familiar with Gen Jones, and use the concept. I think there are borad realities in each time in history that people grow up. If you think I'm enamored of the Millennials....well, you haven't been reading my Millennial articles. Each generation has its own blockages and problems in the workforce. One is not better than the other, necessarily. Each Generation is useful for some job, and useless for another. Thanks for the comments! By John Heckers on 2011 05 13
The concept of generations is for marketers only. What about the Joneses Generation? See, most people have never even heard of the Joneses, but again, the marketers of the world have decided to carve out another niche they can sell product/services to. Guess what folks, we are humans of different ages and experiences trying to survive; period. All ages bring different abilities to the table. When I’m hiring, I hire because you add value to my bottom line. If you are young and you think you deserve a handout, I don’t hire you. If you are old and you understand the value of customer empathy, I hire you. It’s really that simple. To be honest, I can’t think of a job that mandates a young person over an older one, and vise-versa, other than war (the older ones are smart enough to send the young) and the Olympics (who of us boomers want to run around in circles). I will have to call FAIL on this article. By George Barckley on 2011 05 13
I have always worked for smaller, entrepreneurial firms as I have always felt frustrated when working for larger slow moving bureaucratic firms. Still, even with smaller firms, I find that longevity (and industry specific) issue coming up, even with some smaller firms I have interviewed with. I try to emphasize my accomplishments vs. length of stay but it seems like it's always "something....." I have worked in several industries in communications and to me, it doesn't matter to me what the industry is -- communications is communications. Employers want to see a "dedication" to THEIR industry. Advice? Pretend I am interested in THEIR industry specifically more than others? By BJean on 2011 05 13
I found your article "Top 10 Reasons Why Boomers are not getting hired" right on in many aspects but not very encouraging. Is the intent of your article to bash or to help? I wasn't sure. It's helpful to be straight with people but not to be so harsh that you only discourage rather than encourage. The bottom line is that we live in a country that values youth and places less value on experience and age, unlike other countries such as Japan that highly respect seniors. This is the number 1 challenge for boomers. As far as being "hopelessly behind the times technologically," I found that funny actually! It is true that many of us boomers can run circles around the younger set whose fastest typing speed is 30 wpm and have no idea how to compose an effective business letter. Recent colleges are graduating students without even the very basic skill of a proper command of the English language or knowing how to dress for an interview. I should know -- I have three teenagers who look at me quizzically if I use more sophisticated words in a conversation. It isn't "age" per se that's the issue. It's the mindset and energy of the INDIVIDUAL who is applying for the job. Your article, as some employers also wrongly assumes the younger set is faster, smarter, and better. This is simply not the case and, in fact, oftentimes opposite of reality. Wonder why there is so much employee turnover these days? When searching for jobs, I have found the same jobs posted over and over. The competence level as far as problem solving is just not there -- yet employers continue to overlook more experience. They stubbornly resist hiring higher level employees, believing they are better off paying "entry level" and having (costly) high turnover. By Babette on 2011 05 13
Starting your own business is a great idea IF you're really willing to work. I've got a great 82 year old business for sale but I find so far, that may potential buyers balk when they find out how much work it takes. By John Wray on 2011 05 13
Hi John! Thank you for the constructive criticism of us baby boomers - I think you're spot on. I would love to use your services but unfortunately, I live in Michigan. I have 2 questions for you: - How do you know if you're not up to speed in terms of technology? Is there a resource or checklist that would help? - I feel that helping start up companies for sweat equity is a form of community service and a great way to give back. How do we find small, start up companies that could use our services? Thanks again for the article - it was really helpful. Regards, Mike Karol By Michael Karol on 2011 05 12
Interesting article, however, I am a Boomer and as I see it, you have two choices. You can complain, keep banging your head against the wall by sending out hundreds of resumes, or, you can hire yourself. Start your own business. If you won't hire yourself, why should someone else? By Victoria Girdziunas on 2011 05 12
John -- I'm going to call you ASAP!!! I am, indeed, in Denver!! By Deborah on 2011 05 04
Deborah -- if you're in the Denver Metro area, you can come in and see me and we'll do a diagnosis on what might be going wrong. Call my wife and practice associate, Nicole Heckers at 303.480.5484, let her know that you and I contacted one another through CoBizMag, and set up an appointment. If you're NOT in the Denver Metro area, I can speak with you the phone, although it won't be as effective as seeing you in person. My phone number is 720.581.4301. Understand that these columns are the "medical column" in a magazine. I have about 750 words to discuss a complex subject. Everything I say doesn't apply to all people. That is why I am more than happy to meet individually with any CoBizMag readers of my column who are in the Colorado Front Range, for an hour at no charge, to do individual "diagnosis" of career issues. Just call and we'll see if we can at least pinpoint the problem and start on the way to solving it. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 04
Really great post. However, I've done all of the above and I'm STILL not getting hired. I worked in the wireless industry 10 years ago before all of these mobile apps took off, and know a lot more about technology than many people half my age. It's condescending to think that technology adoption and proficiency is age-related. As with everything else, look at the individual, not their age. I get along great with people of all ages and backgrounds; I'm tech savvy; I'm a seasoned pro at what I do; I'm willing to take a salary cut; I have a lot of experience to offer; I'm willing to fade out my ego; I dye my hair; I work out (in fact, I'm in much better shape than people half my age; I'll work for a smaller company -- I still can't get hired!! So? Now what? By Deborah on 2011 05 04
Thanks Patricia. Are you the Patricia Powell who is the Diversity Consultant at Hummons Consulting, LLC? If so, I just sent you an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Great work you're doing there. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 05 01
Excellent article. Keeping current with technology, understanding new business trends, having excellent communication skills, focusing on contributions you can make to a company first rather than what they can do for you, working well with all types of people, understanding the client's needs are all prerequisites to getting hired. I retired from a career that involved teaching, training, hiring at a community college as department chair and have had to re-educate many of these, 2nd career, folks who have the issues you mention in your article particularly including the beliefs of their own entitlement - a real barrier to moving forward and found too commonly from those who came to us from large corporations. Those who overcame the "entitlement" problem did very well and those who did not usually did not succeed. By Patricia Powell on 2011 05 01
Great article, I think it somewhat applies to 40 somethings too. I'd add must be able to touch type, I'm right at the divide. You would be surprised how many people 45+ cannot touch type. It hurts them as Executive Assistants are no longer mandatory. By Michael Si on 2011 04 29
Thanks, Debbie. I just have one favor to ask you. Would you mind emailing me ( and telling me how you got the smiley faces in one of these posts? By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 28
Great article! As a boomer and former HR Manager for a large corporation for many years, John, I can attest to what you're saying, albeit you say it more bluntly than most HR Managers. Even though I'm out of HR now and have my own health and wellness business, I love to connect people and help them with tips/resume reviews, etc. I have found that most, but not all, boomers who have been without a traditional job for more than six months are mired in the very things you point out. Their attitude of entitlement and/or "woe is me I got laid off" shows through IF they get to the interview stage. Many sit at home day after day chasing after online openings without getting out and networking and developing relationships and new skills. Lifelong learning and connecting is key. By Debbie Garr on 2011 04 28
Good article. Many of these "boomers" have 401k's that they could use to buy a going business which is a lot easier than a pure start up. Generally the owner will help train the buyer. By John Wray on 2011 04 26
Thanks Stacy. Invite me on LinkedIn! By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 26
Great article! Most of my clients who are exploring entrepreneurship are in career transition and they are experiencing exactly what Mr. Heckers writes in this article. The world has changed--to get re-employed, you must change with it or explore other options. By Stacy Swift on 2011 04 26
I should probably make clear (due to a couple of emails I've gotten) that what I am saying applies to many of the Boomers I see who AREN'T getting hired. Those who ARE getting hired display the opposite traits of this article. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 26
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