Handling Midlife Career Interview Questions

Handling Midlife Career Interview Questions

Interviewing is tough - especially when competition to land that coveted position is extremely high. While age related questions and comments may come up in an interview, there are ways to handle them and redirect them and (confidently and politely) confront their concerns.  Sometimes their statements encourage an interviewee to divulge more information.  Here are a few examples:

"You seem overqualified for this position."

Their main concerns?

  • Get bored easily
  • Might be too expensive
  • Might learn the job and leave soon after

How to address the statement:

Talking about learning in different capacities including from others is key. “I love being able to excel at what I’m doing, whatever the position and I see this job as a challenge - and that’s when I thrive.  While it’s true I have experience in this area, I’ve also been able to propose innovative ideas that were well received by my last employer.  Also, I’m at a point in my career where mentoring and learning from others is really important to me, and I see many ways to do that in this role and environment.”


"It depends on where you are in life."

It’s open ended but can be tricky.  While it’s tempting to overshare, don’t do it.

I recall one time I went to a staffing firm in Portland and this question was asked.  I said way too much.  And guess what?  I never heard back from them.  Bottom line, they are probing for more information about your life and possible distractions or life events.  When you stay on track and redirect the question, it helps to be more prepared. Their main concerns?

  • They may be hinting at retirement questions
  • Might want to learn if you have kids living at home or in college
  • They might want to learn about another life event (divorced, caretaking concerns)


How to address the statement:

Make sure you illustrate your curiosity and enthusiasm regarding whatever it is you’re working towards professionally.  Showing proof of this in a casual way can look something like the following, “It’s funny.  Many people believe that at a certain time of life, it’s time to slow down.  It’s actually the opposite for me.  Right now I’m learning as much as I can about UI/UX. I’ve loved being a graphic designer and want to expand my knowledge beyond digital media.  I’m also learning more about human behavior as it relates to the customer journey.  I’ve created two different models in figma for a friend’s company focusing on X. I actually have the examples on my phone, would you like to see them?”


"We’re concerned that you’re not a cultural fit."

Their main concerns?

  • Unable to take direction from a younger manager
  • Believe you won’t be able to relate to people on the team about cultural (pop culture) things and the latest tech
  • It’s not going to work to “hire Mom” or “hire Dad”


How to address the question:

Discuss how you worked in a multi-generational workplace and how everyone mentored each other.  Site examples of this and how it helped make your team more productive and consistently exceeded business goals.  Here’s an example, “Oh that’s interesting.  I’ve found there are different definitions of ‘cultural fit’ from companies I’ve been speaking with - can you explain what you mean?  If you’re talking about being older than others on the team, that is no problem.  I’ve worked for managers who were both younger and older than myself.”  


"We use updated technology and change it constantly.  Can you use it?"

Their main concerns?

  • Unwilling to learn new technology
  • Outdated and slower than younger job candidates


How to address the question:

Show that you embrace change.  One hiring manager I know used to state in a rapid fire sort of way all the technology they use at the company and watch the older candidates' reactions.  If they squirmed or looked at all uncomfortable, that was a sign to her not to move forward.  Here’s an example of how to respond, “I’m very comfortable using new technology. What specific technology are you asking about?” Then illustrate it by using an example of something you accomplished recently and were continually learning in a previous job.  And if you don’t know a particular tool or program, it’s better to be honest about it.  Talking about learning things quickly is a bonus as well.  For example, “I’m not familiar with that production tool, but I can certainly learn it.  I’ve learned how to use 10 new tech tools in the past few months.”

Having stories and quick examples ready of working on a multigenerational team, of learning and embracing new technology and being genuinely curious will go far in the interview process.


Reviewed & Recommended:

Tips on asking them questions:

Top 14 Best Questions To Ask In An Interview (These Are Powerful)

Job Interview Tips for Older Job Seekers


Need help with basic interview questions?  Here is a YouTube channel for additional help. And here is a great site that focuses on How to Answer Interview Questions About Being Out of Work.