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7 Interview Tips for When the Boss Is Younger than You

by THEA kelley | January 13, 2023

How do you ace a job interview with a boss who’s younger than you? If you’re interviewing for a job and you’re over 50 . . . or 40 . . . there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in this situation. Here’s how to make a great impression–including how to answer the “How do you feel about having a boss that is younger than you” interview question–and get the job.

  1. Start with rapport.

Rapport – that comfortable feeling that you’re “on the same wavelength” – is crucial in any interview, especially when you and the interviewer belong to different generations.

How can you kickstart that rapport? One easy way is by subtly mirroring the interviewer’s body language and energy level. Gracious small talk is also essential. Ask a safe question like “How’s your day going so far?” and sincerely, actively listen to the answer.

  1. Respect their expertise.

Listening is crucial throughout any interview, but especially with a younger manager, who may worry about whether you will respect their viewpoints, skills and authority. Listen actively, never interrupt, and ask good questions to show you’re interested in their perspective.

Realize that it’s easier to show respect if you actually feel it. Research the boss and see what you can find to respect and admire.

  1. Don’t go into “teacher” mode.

You do need to show you have ideas and know-how, but keep it brief – no long-winded lectures. If you offer a suggestion, phrase it very tactfully, using language like “One thing you might want to test is…”

  1. Don’t call attention to age differences.

When you’re interviewing with someone younger, avoid comments like “I guess this dates me, but…” or references to “younger people like yourself.” Going out of your way to point out your age – or worse, the interviewer’s – will distract from what’s relevant. Worse, it can easily come across as patronizing, regardless of your intentions.

  1. Talk about recent experience.

What you’ve done in the last five years is more interesting than old experience, especially to a younger interviewer. But if you must mention an important accomplishment that happened many years ago, don’t mention the year unless it’s necessary.

  1. Be prepared to answer the question “How do you feel about having a boss that is younger than you?”

Of course you’ll say you welcome it, but make sure you sound whole-hearted about it. Saying “It’s fine if they have the qualifications” sounds like you’re already questioning their abilities. A statement like this is more positive: “Age isn’t a factor; if someone is my manager I’m going to respect that and follow their direction.” You might also mention the statistic I refer to in the next paragraph.

  1. Realize that you’ll very likely enjoy working with a younger boss. Surveys have shown that a majority of workers over 50 now work for bosses younger than them, and that most of them are happy with it. Keep an open mind.

Bonus Tips: Be prepared to address the perception that you may be overqualified.  And while we’re talking about interviewing with people younger than you, you may want to read my post, “How to Interview with Potential Direct Reports.”

Interviewing with a younger boss doesn’t need to be awkward. Following the tips above can help you put yourself and the interviewer at ease. Then you’re both free to focus on the experience and value you can bring to the job.

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  1. Great post, Thea. As we get younger, thinner, and more beautiful, we find ourselves being interviewed by those who are clearly younger than we are –and think we’re old! I especially like the subtle mirroring technique–it really works (when not overdone)!

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