In Search of Lost Employment

[From a disused internet site for senior citizens,, a chapter from Job-Hunting for Octogenarians (and Up!). It is rumored this was the actual source material of the Robert DeNiro-Anne Hathaway hit, The Intern.]

Chapter 8: The Interview

The big day is fast approaching! Excited? You should be! Not only are you getting out of the house for something besides a doctor’s visit — there’s a good chance you’ll come back with a J-O-B.

Or are you anxious — even scared? Are you tempted to just avoid all the stress, cancel the interview, and go on as you have been, living on Social Security and whatever you can get at the can redemption center?

Last-minute butterflies are understandable. It’s tough having to look for work at this stage of your life, especially in a society that worships youth and treats every wrinkle or liver spot as a harbinger of death. But remember what we said in Chapter 2, “Elder Affirmations”:

1.) You have decades of experience to offer and some bright manager is going to realize he’d be crazy to pass it up.
2.) Age discrimination is against the law — human resources managers know it, and now you know it.

So brace up! Sure, maybe life dealt you a rotten hand — your spouse died, or your savings ran out, or your children moved away without telling you where, or your boss dumped you for some spry septuagenarian. You’re tough enough to take it; you’re the greatest generation. Now let’s plan your successful job interview together!

Grooming and Appearance

Take a bath. Has it been a while, owing to depression or an inability to get out of bed by yourself? Nobody likes a Dirty Old Man, or Woman. Give yourself a nice soak in the tub (or the shower, but keep your Life Alert handy). Afterward, apply moisturizer, unscented Gold Bond powder, and deodorant — but something up-to-the-minute, not Old Spice or anything the interviewer might associate with their grandparents. (TIP: Perfume or cologne are a bad idea — as one headhunter told us, “on a young person it just seems unprofessional, but with elders we assume it’s to cover up a smell.”)

Hair. Thinking of a dye job? It could make you look younger — or it could make you look like Zacherle. Don’t take a chance! If you’re worried about thinning white hair, consider (this is for the men of course) shaving your head. Look at Bruce Willis — bald as a coot since he was 25, and now people think it’s a “look”! If you go this route, have a professional do it so you won’t have to come to the interview with scabs.

Ladies: If you’re going to wear a wig, make sure it’s a good one, and check it for spiders before leaving the house.

TIP: Trim your ears. But be careful not to nick yourself, especially if you’re on Coumadin.

The Night Before

 Lay out your interview clothes, and put a note in a jacket pocket reminding you 1.) who you are and 2.) what you’re doing at this place.

Interview Day

Be early. You don’t want to exhaust yourself rushing; shortness of breath reads to employers as COPD or a stroke.

When you get there, use the bathroom immediately. You don’t want to deal with the “urge” in the middle of the interview. (TIP: If you dribble on yourself, splash a lot of water from the sink onto your pants to cover it up; then, take some paper towels back to the office and tell the interviewers they have a busted pipe.)

Meeting the interviewer. Give them a firm but friendly handshake. There’ll be some social chit-chat before you sit down for the interview proper. Remember, you’re the elder, so don’t gibber like a schoolgirl: short, decisive responses are best, e.g.: “Yes, very nice day.” “No, no trouble getting here.” “I’m certain it was this day and time, your secretary must have made a mistake,” etc.

Take this opportunity to gauge your interviewer’s speaking volume: If you’re having trouble hearing them, don’t plead deafness — say you were out late “clubbing” and your ears are still ringing. (Add verisimilitude by playfully hinting that you scored.)

The interview room. The sight of you laboriously lowering yourself into the chair may hurt your chances, so distract the interviewer’s attention — “Look, out the window, a gorilla!” — before you sit. Don’t moan, even if your knees hurt.

Fielding the questions. The key to acing the interview is confidence, and the key to confidence is preparation. (WARNING: DO NOT use a transmitter to have someone feed you answers to questions. For one thing, the earpiece looks like a hearing aid, which is a turn-off for employers; for another, last year one of our readers was wearing a transmitter when he did the busted-pipe trick, and electrocuted himself.)

Here are some questions you can expect, and some right and wrong ways to answer:

When they ask why you’re interested in the job:

Right: “I want to explore my potential as a [job descriptor] and make a difference in the lives of your customers and colleagues.”
Wrong: “It sure would be nice to eat regular meals again.”

When they ask about examples of times when you took a leadership role:

Right: “I served as team leader on a project that faced multiple challenges and a morale problem; I pulled everyone together and delivered the goods ahead of time and under budget. ”
Wrong: ”I was part of the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day.”

When they ask where you see yourself in five years:

Right: “I want to make a real difference in this job first, and also learn more about your company and its customers; but if all goes as I expect it will, I hope to move into management.”
Wrong: “I have a nice plot picked out at Forest Lawn.”

That’s it! Good luck, and remember: Age discrimination is against the law.

Next chapter: Filing an Age Discrimination Lawsuit.

Roy Edroso was born in a trunk, but he got out. Village Voice, Esquire, Salon when it was good, etc. Author, Morgue for Whores.