Work & Career: Interview Younger: It’s the New Thing!

According to Ladders, an online job site with jobs in the $100,000-plus bracket, whether you like it or not “”interviewing younger” is the new catchphrase — bosses can use that magic “R” word as a blank check to fire almost anyone for any reason. And pay attention, over-40s: The wounded economy is an especially perfect opportunity for higher-ups to fire those senior workers whose high wages and big egos have outlasted their welcome.”

More than that, for those who are looking for work, the site recommends doing anything you can to convey that you are employable – meaning, not some old guy who is stuck in his ways, especially not when there’s a younger version of you with lower salary expectations nipping at your heels.

For one sales executive at a Toronto-based online company, her recent face lift was as much about keeping her job as it was about keeping the lines at bay. Having a bit of work done was an extra boost of confidence, and part of her simply not wanting to look like the Baby Boomer she is.

“As a boomer, coming up in the workforce was a good thing, because we were the dominant force shaping the world – but now boomers are retiring and I’m now a part of a group that can be considered has-beens,” she says, asking to be referred to simply as “Laura”. “I didn’t want to be considered part of that glut that is moving out. So, if I can have more ambiguous looks, where it isn’t obvious that I’m in my 50’s, that’s great.”

Cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists agree that the downturn in the economy, ironically, is great for business.

“This is the third major economic downturn we’ve faced since we’ve been in business, and I call it the Botox index,” says Dr. Stephen Mulholland, a surgeon based in Toronto’s posh Yorkville area. He calls it a version of the “lipstick index”, where in tough times women buy lipstick to put a little lift in their day. “In uncertain times people want to feel good, and feel good about looking in the mirror. Maybe they’re not buying that vacation property, and are spending money instead on treatment. For a lot of people, having nice skin, or a bit of Botox isn’t a luxury anymore.”

Dr. Michelle Copeland, New York based cosmetic surgeon and author of The Beautiful Skin Workout (St. Martin’s Press) agrees that the economy is having an unexpected upside for business.

“One sure thing to invest in is yourself and especially with older people having to go back in the job market, looking better has never been more important,” says Copeland. “People are opting to get something done rather than spend money on another sweater or fixing up the house or taking a vacation. Also because of the uncertainty of so many investments, investing in yourself is more of a sure thing — might as well use your money now rather than have it evaporate with stocks and the banks.”

While many workers would agree that good looks and a polished appearance go a long way toward success in the workplace, youthfulness is something slightly different, a magic ingredient critical to demonstrating you know what you’re doing in an ever-changing marketplace.

According to Ladders, it’s a matter of vocabulary, body language, and appearance. “Otherwise, there’s someone else waiting in the wings with quicker computer skills and contemporary pop-culture knowledge who will be all too happy to fill your shoes,” according to Stephen Viscusi, author of Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out On Top at Work (HarperCollins).

–Tracy Nesdoly