If you have hired people in your own prior positions, you might understand why a hiring manager would be reluctant to bring someone in who could be restless soon after starting the position or perceive the daily responsibilities as beneath them. Your challenge as a job seeker is to convince the hiring manager that you have a true commitment to filling the role as it is advertised and then as described during the interview. The good news about job hunting within higher education is that maturity really is valued as is longevity in prior positions. The key, however, is to market yourself as someone with a genuine interest in not only working inside an academic institution but also for the hiring unit in question. I never believe someone should “dumb-down” their resume. You should, however, avoid highlighting those accomplishments that do not directly relate to the open position. It is preferable to have concrete examples of responsibilities you have had that directly relate to the open job---even if they were further back in your career history. There is also a misconception that the older candidate would be less adept with technology. If you feel this concern is somewhat well founded then try to take relevant courses to get up to speed and then reflect those skills on the resume under your Professional Summary section.
Related concerns from an employer could about salary. As a recruiter, I find it annoying to have a candidate withhold prior salary information. Some candidates actually refuse to share for fear of being rejected based on past salaries having been much higher than that of the open job. I would much prefer someone be honest and indicate that at this point in their career compensation is not their prime motivator but that job satisfaction is. Of course, this needs to be a true fact. In higher education there is little if any flexibility around salary due to our grade structure. Be cautious also about overemphasizing work-life balance. It is somewhat of a misconception that academia if hugely different from the corporate world in this regard.Presuming you are indeed genuinely interested in the content of the job in question, the best approach is to convey sincere enthusiasm and back that up with why you are so enthusiastic. Your energy level during the interview is a reflection of how you would perform on the job.
A lot has been written about dress for the “older candidate” but I would avoid going too far with youthful attire. I think what is most important is to dress in a manner that reflects who you are now while not necessarily portraying yourself as who you “were” in a prior high paying job. There is great likelihood your interviewer(s) will be younger than you so you need to convey willingness to learn from them in order to perform on the job. An interviewer could easily be threatened by someone who has many more years of experience than they have so your challenge is to communicate flexibility and eagerness to contribute. If faculty are involved in the interview process, they are apt to be more open to a mature candidate with substantive years of experience. In summary, you should do some self-assessment about your motivation for seeking the position in question. You have a much greater chance of landing the job if you really are motivated by the day to day responsibilities and the environment and not by simply wanting “A Job.”
Contributed by By Paula Goodman, Director of Recruitment / HR Client Services-CUHR at Columbia University