How to Avoid Looking Too Young at a Job Interview
I’m a writer.
Well, duh, Meagan, clearly because you’re a blogger.
And as a writer, my goal for myself is to land a job where I get to write. So I have begun meticulously applying to several jobs in hopes of landing some form of a writing gig, whether it’s a technical writing job or a content creator. I’ve so far have had three job interviews, with this last interview being for a position in which I would have written newsletters and blog posts for a non profit organization. You read that correctly: would have. I was ecstatic to have gotten the phone call setting up my interview time. But lo and behold, it ended up being the worst interview I’ve ever been to.
Picture this: I’m a 23 year old woman, a fairly recent college graduate, with one year of professional experience. I’m 5’3” and weigh 117 lbs. (That’s right for those of you who keep up with us; I have lost weight.) I have innocent looking eyes and have a very flat chest.
In short, I am a tiny person and look very young.
In fact, I look so young that as I walked into cake shop to order my wedding cake for my destination wedding, the cake maker asked if I was there to buy a quinceñera cake.
If you don’t know, a quinceñera is the sweet sixteen equivalent in Hispanic cultures for 15 year old girls.
Hopefully in my future this will be a positive to me, but for the time being it sucks royally, especially when it comes to job interviews.
My resume looks great. My writing and grammar skills are implemented on this site. Interviewers are excited to speak to me over the phone because of my blogging and creative writing background, their voices all too eager to schedule an interview with me.
And then I arrive for the interview.
And the tone shifts.
And the air stands still.
No longer are they excited like they were on the phone and there’s a clear change in their posture. Slouched shoulders. A smile that fades. It’s almost as if I can hear their thoughts, “Oh great. I’m interviewing a teenager.”
And this leads me to the reason I am writing this very blog post: a week ago, I had the worst and most disappointing interview of my life.
I walked in confidently, sporting my go to interview outfit. I knew I was qualified to handle the work as this was a basic clerical position with simple technical writing needed every now and then. I entered the small, one room office and greeted my interviewer. Her posture changed as I described above and she smiled half heartedly and said, “I’ll be with you in a moment.”
During the interview, she asked me four questions. 1. Tell me about yourself. 2. What are your strengths? 3. What are your weaknesses? 4. Why do you want this job?
In front of her was a piece of paper that had my name written on the top. The whole time as I spoke to her, answering her typical interview questions, I watched as she sat at her desk, hands clasped, her pen untouched. The entire interview, she did not write one single thing down about me.
She told me on the phone to bring references, but while I was interviewing, she didn’t take them.
And the final nail in my this interview is going nowhere coffin, the interview itself lasted a whopping 11 minutes.
That’s right folks. 11 minutes. Every other interview I’ve been to, lasted at least 30.
Hell, my drive to the office was three times longer than the interview.
Suffice to say, I was fuming. I knew that I wasn’t getting hired because she had already found someone and was just giving me the interview out of obligation because she told me she started interviews that same day and was interviewing all the way through the week.
I didn’t get the job because I look too young and incapable.
This was such a hit to my self esteem that I took upon myself researching ways to appear older and prevent the presumptions of being incapable, inexperienced, and therefore, undesirable.
So first of all, why aren’t young people hired often?
Simply put, it’s because many people don’t respect those who look younger than themselves. Young people are seen as being easily taken advantage of, being inexperienced, and easily being ignored. It’s especially hard for those blessed with a baby face to land a managerial position because no one wants to work for someone who looks like a teenager.
A lot of times, it’s insecurity on their part as they don’t want to be bossed around by a teenaged looking adult. And employers are aware of this and may even have this ageism bias themselves. They don’t want to hire someone who others are not going to respect. Whether the interviewer is aware of their bias or not is a different story.
So your (and my) goal is to look more respectable and capable. But of course you probably already know that.
So, what are physical changes we can make to appear older?
Dressing in conservative clothing with dark colors paired with a conservative haircut can help. Ladies, consider a professional ponytail or bun as opposed to leaving it down. Again for the women, wearing makeup can mature your face as long as you know how to apply makeup. Posture changes such as, sitting straight and making eye contact can help build your confidence (even if it’s fake!) during the interview as well as build the interviewer’s confidence in you.
Be firm when you speak; don’t necessarily be aggressive, but don’t shy away from how awesome you are. I mean, that’s what the interview is about: to address just how awesome you are.
These changes are easy, but oftentimes do not alter the appearance of your age by much.
So what’s the best way to combat looking too young?
Talk about it during the interview. Recognize that it is real and express how you combat the premature judgments people make about you because of your youthful appearance. Be specific and give examples just like you would for all the other interview questions. Doing so can, in a way, shock the interviewer into realizing that they’ve made this notion about you and (hopefully) put that notion aside.
Personally, I sneak it in during the dreaded weakness question.
“I believe my biggest weakness is my subpar verbal skills. This, coupled with my personality traits of being quiet and calm as well as appearing to be much younger than I am, I often am judged with being too inexperienced and incapable of handling the workload. To combat this, I’ve taken speech classes and was in theater to improve my speaking abilities and to give my voice a bit more confidence as well as improve posture and other nonverbal communication.”
What it really comes down to is confidence. Puff your chest out like the king or queen of the jungle you are because if you think you’re anything less, then the interviewer will think so too.
Have suggestions or interview tips? Want to tell me your interview stories? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ll see you guys next Wednesday!