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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

May 20, 2018

“You’re too old!” –  How to address this objection in a job interview.

Julie Q. Brush

In today’s society and professional world, the “ism” is still alive and kicking. And Ageism is no exception.

With breakthroughs in Western medicine and the increased use of Eastern Medicine, plastic surgeons, better diets and exercise, people are living longer and looking better as they age. 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, 60 is the new 50 and so on… And it’s true. People are feeling better and looking more fabulous than ever.  In addition, people are spending more and saving less. Consequently, professionals are remaining active in the workplace longer. And this includes lawyers.

For many “seasoned” lawyers (those in their late 40’s to mid 60’s), a new worry occupies their plates: Am I too old to be marketable? How can I compete in a market that seems to be so focused on twenty and thirty-somethings? These seasoned lawyers are healthy, feel great and look great too. There is still plenty of gas in the tank. And with their wealth of knowledge and experience, they have a lot to offer many employers. But not every employer sees it that way.  Below are a few common objections employers will have in an interview setting…and the sample responses you can use as a model for your own response if you find yourself in this dynamic:

Objection: You are overqualified for the role & I think you will get bored.

Response #1:“I’m fascinated by this company/firm because it’s on the cutting edge of innovation, which never bores me. In every role, there are new things to learn and ways to maximize value for the company. That is an evolving process, which I find challenging and engaging. This role is interesting because it requires a strong corporate background and is highly collaborative with other functions. I also like the detailed aspect of the role because I like to roll up my sleeves and stay connected with the legal issues. I do possess impressive experience and am an expert on the corporate side. And in my opinion, you need an expert in order to gain confidence and credibility with the executives and legal team.”

Response #2:“I understand why you might view it that way. While I do possess a deep level of experience, I do not view myself as overqualified, but rather someone who will bring added expertise and greater depth to the team. I love what I do. And people who love what they do, don’t get bored. So all of my positions have been rewarding. I’m also fine with the compensation range so the value you’d receive from me will exceed anyone with less experience.”

Objection:  You are too expensive.

Response:“My main interest is being paid fairly as it relates to this position. Money is not my primary driver. It takes a back seat to the role itself, the company/firm, the culture and the overall fit. I’m also not a malcontent about money. I won’t constantly be pushing for more. I’ve worked in other companies/firms and know how compensation works. I’m aware of the compensation range for this role and I think it’s a fair range. So this is really a non-issue.”

Objection: This position requires you to roll up your sleeves. You seem like you would prefer a larger management role.

Response:“I think it’s vital to be in the trenches if you want to stay connected at a more granular level. In my current role, a big part of what I do involves not only drafting and negotiating, but also handling administrative matters. If something needs to get done, I do it. There is a management aspect to my current position, which is something I prefer to minimize more on a day-to-day basis. This is why this position is so appealing to me.”

Objection: This is a very fast-paced environment. I’m not sure there is a fit.

Response:“In every position I’ve worked regardless of the size of the company/firm, I’ve had to attend to matters quickly. Whether servicing internal clients or external clients, service is service. And in order to provide the best service, you need to move quickly and be nimble. You also have a lot of energy and a strong work ethic. These are areas in which I have always excelled. In my current role, things change quickly and I’m constantly reprioritizing. This is great experience that I would bring to this role. What were the specific concerns you had about my ability to work in a fast-paced culture?”

This is just a sampling of objections, but they are the most common. There are many ways to skin a response, but if you dissect the ones above you will see common approaches. I recommend that you use these approaches to create responses that are tailored for you. There are no guarantees no matter how persuasive you are – and some roles truly aren’t a fit whether you’re 15 years past law school or 25. But if you don’t at least give it your best shot, what you can guarantee is that an employer’s perception will become reality and your candidacy will not survive.

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