EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

As you mature and become over qualified for just about everything, it is inevitable that you will be interviewed for a job (of limited income or responsibility) that you would like to have, but fear that you will be deemed too old or having previously earned too much money to be “happy” in. (If they were so concerned with you happiness, you would think they would understand how difficult it is to be unemployed.)

Age it has been said is in the mind. I know I don’t feel old, and perhaps I don’t look old. Still, I am old, or at least older than others might think. Even if the number is fairly obvious since I graduated in 1968 from college and would include that information on my resume, there are still those who in an interviewing situation might ask.

It is, of course, an illegal question. How a perfectly logical question got to be illegal is a story for another time and I don’t know anyway. That said, inquiring minds want to know. I would suggest telling them. If you feel self conscious about your age, you will make others think it is an issue. “I’m 97 and only need my oxygen tent to sleep” is one of many non-answers you can give. As I often say: Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. If you handle the question well, it won’t become an issue. Some of the wrong things to do include turning bright red in anger or flushing in embarrassment. That will only lead them to think it is a problem. Mention the fact that you sky dive with reluctance. Even if you were younger, that wouldn’t be a good thing.

The salary issue is the best one for a non-answer. When asked about your past compensation, keep telling them what your salary requirements are. To many people it sounds like the answer to their question, and if they accept it, let it go. If they keep beating you up to get it, instead of answering their question, ask them what the salary range is for the job. Once they tell you, let them know that you are comfortable at the higher end of that range. Again, that might end the discussion.

If it doesn’t, do the smart thing and just tell them, but keep it simple. If you had a compensation package with a lot of components, tell them your most recent base salary and the value of your bonus and other perks in a relevant year. Unlike a position where there is money to burn, don’t indicate the maximum you have ever earned. Saying that in some years it was only $10,000 and stopping is perfectly acceptable. Question asked. Question answered. You don’t have to give them your ENTIRE salary history from day one. (At your age, it would take too many pieces of paper anyway. And besides, who can remember? What I had for breakfast is hard enough to remember.)

Before you get yourself into a situation where you are being asked a question you would prefer not to answer, think what they might be. For every person there are different “elephants sitting in the room.” Know what they are before hand and practice an appropriate answer or non-answer.

If you allow yourself to get caught off guard, all hope is lost. Hopefully, this is a good non-answer to the question asked.

Regards, Matt

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