Whoever said, “Life begins at 40,” clearly wasn’t looking for a job in medical sales. In fact, for medical sales job seekers, something else altogether seems to begin at 40; the sad reality of age discrimination.
Of course, it’s not something anyone likes to think about – the idea that your age could harm your job prospects – but a candidate can only be told they’re “overqualified” so many times before they start to suspect something else is going on. And a quick look at the abundance of job postings that specify “2-5 years of experience” suggests that there is indeed an underlying ageism issue.
The federal government attempts to address the issue in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). According to this law, people over 40 are a protected class, meaning it’s illegal to discriminate against a candidate because he or she is over 40, but this law doesn’t prevent hiring managers from believing that a younger candidate is a better fit for the job; it just means they can’t come right out and say it.
Most companies seek active, competitive, and quick-thinking individuals for sales positions, and right or wrong, hiring managers typically associate these traits with younger candidates. They may view older candidates as less flexible, less tech savvy and more entitled to a big paycheck.
Due to this perception, many older job candidates feel unwelcomed in today’s job market. They can feel discriminated against and often have difficulty landing new opportunities. According to a Dallas News Article from 2013, Americans 55 and older tend to remain out of work roughly twice as long as candidates in their 20’s.
But do these stereotypes carry any weight? Are they justified? And what can experienced salespeople do to combat them?
Older candidates looking to re-enter the job search need to know what they’re up against. Like it or not, hiring managers hold a number or perceptions that can work against the seasoned pro.
Senior candidates may be perceived as being tough to manage, in that they’ll bristle at the idea of taking orders from a younger manager. There’s also the stereotype that they are resistant to change, and particularly wary of integrating technology into their workflow. They may be perceived to lack the energy and ambition often found in younger candidates who are hungry to prove themselves. And, perhaps most importantly, a lengthy resume featuring a number of years of experience often means one thing in in the mind of a hiring manager – more substantial demands in terms of salary, perks, and work-life balance.
These prejudices can be incredibly frustrating for candidates with high levels of skill and a lot of relevant experience. It can be hard for them to process why they’re being passed over, leaving them scrambling to be proactive. They may respond by applying to more and more jobs which may or may not be an appropriate fit. Suddenly they may appear desperate, which certainly isn’t helping their cause. But what, if anything, can?
How Older Candidates Can Overcome
The truth of the matter is that experienced candidates have a lot to offer medical sales companies. (But of course, we don’t have to tell you that!)
Your years of experience make you an invaluable resource to not only the company, but to your peers. You’ve also had the opportunity to build your knowledge base and grow your skill set over the course of your career. And no one can put a price tag on the network of contacts and professional connections you’ve built over the years.
But we have to face the world we live in today. And in order to overcome age bias, you’ll have to employ specific strategies. Here are a few things you can do:
Adjust your resume. Keep it under two pages if at all possible, and avoid listing positions over 10 years old. You don’t want to raise any red flags to potential employers that signify you may not be up to date with the current market.
Focus on career highlights. Make it a priority to de-emphasize your years of experience as a selling point. Rather, focus on the tangible results you’ve achieved in previous roles; a slight, but important, distinction.
Display a willingness to learn. Add anything to your candidate materials that paints you as an active and skilled learner. Have you earned and advanced degree? Obtained additional certifications? Have a serious hobby? List it!
Get social. What better way to prove you’re not technology averse than by setting up social media profiles? Make sure you’re staying active on Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly, LinkedIn. A smart, professional presence on these platforms will go a long way toward boosting your credentials.
Burst the salary bubble. Some candidates find a proactive approach to salary is best. Let the employer know that you understand the average salary of the position in question, and that you’re more than willing (and capable) to earn your commission with hard work and performance.
Dress the part. No, we’re not suggesting you head over to Forever 21 to shop for your interview attire, but you should make smart choices about how your present yourself. Showing up in a suit from the eighties tells your interviewer that you’re not all that concerned about keeping up with the changing times – and that’s definitely not the message you want to send.
Finding Your Next Opportunity
In an ideal world, age wouldn’t be a factor in the hiring process. Candidates would be evaluated based on their experience, skills, and achievements – not their age, appearance, and salary requirements.
But that’s not the case.
The best way to approach this unfortunate problem is to present yourself professionally in a way the defies stereotypes. Show companies that you bring energy, ambition, and creativity to your job, along with your sizeable network and years of experience.
And if a medical sales company chooses to pass on you because of the length of your resume, it’s their loss.
If you’re an industry veteran looking for your next career move, join MedReps.com and gain access to the number one resource for medical sales professionals today.