Looking for a job when you're in your fifties or sixties brings with some unique challenges. On one hand, you have a lot of industry experience and know-how to bring to the role. On the other hand, some hiring managers may believe that mature candidates might struggle to work with a manager that’s younger than them, that they’d lack up-to-date skills, or that they’d be looking for too much money. That’s why it is crucial brush up on cover letter tips for older workers before you start applying for jobs.
While discriminating against older job seekers is illegal, a lot of older unemployed people believe their age prevents them from getting hired. However, by structuring your resume in a strategic way and addressing age issues when you build a cover letter, you can combat ageism and showcase the qualifications that are most relevant to the job that interests you.
It’s even more important to have a strong cover letter when you’re an older worker – you have a huge amount of experience, so you need to be able to pinpoint only specific achievements which are most relevant to the position you’re applying for. Let's review some of the most basic cover letter tips for older workers, starting now!
5 Basic Cover Letter Tips for Older Workers
1. Highlight your most relevant experience to convince the reader of your experience in the field.
2. Mention a few accomplishments in the cover letter and quantify them using data and numbers wherever possible.
3. Express some understanding of company’s current challenges and demonstrate that you have solutions.
4. Use the cover letter to communicate the personality traits and soft skills that your resume does not communicate.
5. Always conclude your cover letter by thanking the reader for their time.
Read on for 10 more cover letter tips for older workers, as well as cover letter examples for older workers, which will help you market yourself more effectively to employers. Being an older worker can be seen as a blessing or a curse.
Make your age work in your favor by using these simple, essential cover letter tips for older workers.
1. Address a specific individual
Whenever possible, try to find out the name of a hiring manager or a recruiter dealing with the position you’re interested in and address them directly instead of sending “To whom it may concern” application.
It would be ideal if you could find a suitable professional connection who could recommend you to the prospective employer. You could then start the letter with a reference to them - if you’ve chosen the connection wisely, you increase your chances of being invited to the interview.
2. Write a strong first paragraph
Ideally, start your cover letter with an accomplishment. For any given job there will be applications from a lot of similarly qualified candidates, so a great to stand out in your cover letter is to highlight something about yourself that will show your suitability for the job.
To convince a hiring manager that you're worth interviewing, remember to tailor your application to each job. Look at the essential and desirable qualifications on the job description and list your skills and experience, either in a bulleted list or in paragraph form. That way the recruiter or the hiring manager can immediately see that you’re qualified for the job.
3. Highlight a few highly relevant details
It’s essential you don’t summarize your entire resume but instead focus on experience relevant to the job at hand. Also, don’t ever lead with "decades of experience" or say you have 25 or 30 years of experience. It might signal to employers that you’re overqualified even if you’re exactly who they are looking to hire!
4. Illustrate how your qualifications fit the position
Emphasize your results and accomplishments. Make sure you list achievements that set you apart from other candidates. The more you can demonstrate how you’ve added value and how specifically you’ve made an impact, the better. This is one of the key cover letter tips for older workers.
It would also be beneficial to include language in your cover letter about flexibility and willingness to learn and emphasize that you’re a proven commodity, as well as highlight any knowledge of current technology that you have.
5. Relate yourself to the company
Hiring managers want to know what you can do for them, and if you’ll fit if you get hired.
Therefore, spend some time getting to know the company’s culture and dive deep into their blog and social media platforms to understand the brand’s style. Ideally, you’ll also want to demonstrate your connection to the company’s goals. Have you been following news on them for a while? Do you use their products? Do you have ideas for marketing strategies to increase their profitability? Anything to show you’re invested in the company will increase your chances of being invited to the interview.
6. Don’t include any negative information
Focus on why you’re a suitable candidate - don’t include any negative information about your current or previous employers or that you got fired, for example.
7. Keep it to a single page
Nobody wants to read a long cover letter. Three-quarters of a page is typically more than enough (unless you’re instructed otherwise) - short and snappy is more impactful than long paragraphs. This is one of the key cover letter tips for older workers!
8. Proofread… and then get a friend to proof it again
Make sure your cover letter has no spelling or grammar mistakes and that it is correctly formatted. Use a font that’s easy to read, such as Arial, Cambria, Calibri or Verdana. Font size should never be smaller than 10-points or larger than 12-points.
Choose shorter, succinct sentences over long-winded paragraphs. It might be a good idea to ask a younger colleague (ideally someone from the same industry!) to read your cover letter to make sure phrases you use don’t indicate that you’re a mature worker from a different generation.
9. End your cover letter on a high note
Something like “I’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you about how I can contribute.” will work well.
10. Skip the gimmicks
Make yourself stand out by the way you write and convey your credentials, and not through gimmicks like bright yellow paper or elaborate fonts.
Cover Letter Examples for Older Workers: Three Scenarios
Here are some cover letter examples for older workers. These are some of the situations older worker might need to explain when applying for work.
Cover letter example for older workers who took time off to nurse a family member:
“In the last two years, I stopped working to care for my mother who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was a difficult period, but I’ve made sure I’ve kept my skills up to date by participating in various networking events and online forums, as well as studying______.
Right now, I am available to return to work, and I believe my extensive experience in________ would be an asset to your team.”
Cover letter example for older workers who took time off to raise a family:
“After stepping away from my professional life to start a family, I am eager to return to workforce now that my children are older and more independent. I have kept my skills and connections current through attending industry events and through leadership roles in a couple of charitable organizations.”
Cover letter example for older workers who want to change careers:
“Even though my last role was a Senior Operations Director, at this point in my career, I want to apply my skills in a new field. My skills will transfer nicely, as I am focused, dedicated and have a track record of completing projects on time.”
Then name the specific skills that are relevant to the job, how you have applied them, the outcomes, and how they will benefit the prospective employer.
Cover letter examples for older workers who are overqualified:
Sometimes it is hard to find a job, no matter how qualified you may be. When that happens, often workers are willing to consider jobs for which they may be overqualified.
Employers don't like to hire people who are overqualified because they worry that the jobseeker will leave for a better opportunity down the road. However, as an older worker, you have a card you can play that perhaps a younger worker might not.
Telling an employer that you are seeking to ramp down your responsibilities in the later stages of your career can help explain why you'd consider a job that might be beneath your zenith in title or salary. Something simple, such as “At this stage of my life, I’m more interested in flexibility and work-life balance," can be a great way to explain why a very qualified person might be interested in taking a step down professionally.
For more information on cover letters, see our How to Write a Cover Letter guide and cover letter templates. (While you’re there, polish your resume skills by using our How to Write a Resume guide and resume templates).