I know! You’re shocked that anyone as youthful and groovy as myself would be found on a website targeting old fogies. The truth is, I was looking for late-breaking news from AARP, Armenians Alarmed about Radicalized Poodles, and the stupid Internet took me to AARP, the American Association of Retired People.
Smooth move, Google.
However, once I was on the site, I was shocked to see that some of the fusty, dusty relics are not blissfully sitting in their Barcaloungers, enjoying can after can of gourmet cat food. Apparently, their Barcaloungers have been repossessed, and they can’t afford to buy cat food, so they’re looking for tips on how to look for a job.
To help the old dears survive in today’s highly competitive high-tech job market, AARP’s resident job expert, Kerry Hannon, recently published “7 Job Interview Questions You Should Never Ask.” The article is a follow-up to her previously published “10 Tough Interview Questions You Should Ask.” (I didn’t read it, but I can’t imagine any more than one question you should ask — “Really, you want to hire an old coot like me? Really?)
According to Hannon, the No. 1 question not to ask is “Does my age concern you?” The thinking here is that you don’t want to reinforce the possibility that the hiring manager is “seeing your expiration date, rather than your future potential.”
Since your expiration date is stamped quite clearly on your head, where your hair used to be, I’m not sure I agree that you should try to skirt the issue. Go ahead and ask if the fact that you’re ancient is a problem. Then, let the hiring manager assure you that their company is strongly opposed to any form of age-discrimination, and it’s a total coincidence that 99 percent of the employees are under 30. That issue resolved, you can ask if it matters that you’re not very bright; you get sick a lot; you are often cranky, and your greatest job satisfaction comes from pilfering your co-workers’ sandwiches from the coffee room fridge.
Chances are, most employers will not want to hire someone with these issues, but if you can find one that will, you’re golden!
Question No. 2, “Will I be working for someone younger than me?” is definitely a no-no you should know. Why bother to ask when the odds are that almost anyone you will be working for is going to be younger than you. But what happens when the interviewer poses the question to you? As Hannon writes, “if you are asked how you would feel about having a younger boss, talk about how it was a good experience.” I like this approach. Say something like, “Yup, I’ve dealt with plenty of young whippersnappers in my day. Them youngins can come up with some darn good ideas, long as they ain’t spending all their time with their telephony gizmos and playin’ that rock and roll music.”
Job hunters of every age should know better than to ask Question No. 3, “Can you tell me about your company’s benefits?” It suggests that you might actually want some. (I know. There are medical concerns when you’re over 50, but don’t let it get you scared. There’s not much that can’t be cured with a good asphidity poultice.)
Same with Question No. 4, “What training will be provided?” As Hannon rightly points out, “a lot of employers want self-starters.” No problem there. “Once I kick-start the old ticker,” you can assure your future employer. “I’m good for two, three hours, easy.”
If you ask Question No. 5, “Can I telecommute?” the potential employer might think you’re “interested in getting out of the office as much as possible.” This would certainly be the wrong impression. The office is warm and has indoor bathrooms. It’s so much better than living in a refrigerator box under the freeway.
No need to bother with Question No. 6, “How long will it take to get promoted?” They’ll be picking out your coffin long before anyone picks you out as executive material. But I do think it’s OK to ask Question No. 7, “Can I bring my dog to work?” If the answer is “no,” ask if you can bring your iguana. If the answer is still no, ask if you can bring your marmoset. I’d hang tough on this one, by the by. I don’t care how old you are. Any company that won’t let its employees bring their pet marmosets into the office is not a place you want to work.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.