Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: The sand traps of senior job hunting

If you are a retired senior like I am, and due to the economic meltdown find yourself looking for a job to supplement your income for reasons beyond your control, here are some of the sand traps you may have stumbled into:

• First is the possible shocker that most applications must now be filled out online. Don’t have a computer? Go to the library. If you have a computer and don’t have high-speed Internet, be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting for the next page to load. A good activity I found between pages was to write checks to pay the bills. It will add to your sense of purpose.

• On to job search sites: There are job postings to be found that proclaim “no experience necessary,” but that may mean no experience needed to fill out the application. Or, you may get a return e-mail saying your application has been received by the employer, but when you contact the employer yourself, you learn that they have never seen your application. All of that means the Web sites themselves are screening the applications.

• The above situations are common to all job seekers but here’s one exclusively for retired seniors: the assessment trap. Nowadays, besides drug testing and background checks, we have the dreaded assessment test. You can easily fail this test because there are questions which are intentionally (or not) biased against retirees like this: “In the last three years, what percentage of your work day included the use of computers?” Naturally, because you haven’t worked for five years, you have no honest choice but to answer “0 percent,” and right there you have probably made a fatal error. If you fail the assessment, you may be told you can’t apply again for three months.

• If you are looking for a part-time job, you cannot be choosy. If you don’t put “any time, any day” on your availability question, you will probably be passed over. Likewise, on questions about salary, don’t rate yourself into the rejected pile. Ask for a fair range. If you are offered a minimum or near-minimum wage, don’t let “but I’m worth more than that” get in your way. You probably are worth more, but can you get it?

There are a lot of unemployed people and a lot of businesses closing out there, but there are jobs. Diligence and perseverance are the keys to finding some work to generate income.

After you have gone the application route, your primary objective should be to get an interview. Don’t wait for them to call you, because as you can see, they might never call. However, if the hiring person gets to talk with you, you could get that interview and maybe that job. Good hunting! Jim Harlow is a retired associate professor from Palomar College in San Diego. In the previous nine months, he has had all of the aforementioned experiences and more.