Six Interview Questions That Terrorize Older Workers – Part 1 of 2

You aren’t ready to retire right now…maybe in a decade or so. But the employer with whom you are interviewing seems concerned that you are past your prime, given the difficult questions just posed to you.

Experienced Workers vs. Mature (Older) Workers

If you’ve spent more than fifteen years in the workforce you’re considered an experienced worker. Those experienced workers over 40 years of are often termed mature workers. Most experienced workers can expect to be asked deeper and more complex questions, since there may be an unstated concern that you are on the downside of your career. Following is a selection of more difficult questions experienced workers should be prepared to answer. It is important that you understand what the employer’s concern is (which may or may not be stated) so that you can best answer the question.

It is equally important to put the response into your own words and keep your answer conversational in order to avoid sounding like it is a rehearsed answer. And you’ll also need to prepare for the follow-up questions your interviewer might then ask.

Terror Question #1: Are You Overqualified for the Job?

  • How the question might be phrased: “You seem quite qualified – in fact, overqualified – for this position. Why should I consider you for something beneath your experience?”
  • Why they are asking this question: They are concerned that you’ll stay only until you find a job more worthy of your background.
  • Your strategy for answering this question: Show how hiring you could benefit them: “You’re right, I bring a tremendous track record to this position…and that will be to your benefit, getting someone like me who can elevate the position. I’m interested because I see a great fit and future for me in this organization.”

Terror Question #2: Why are you looking for a change after XX years?

  • How the question might be phrased: “Let’s see…you’ve been in your current role for 11 years. Why would you want to change now?”
  • Why they are asking this question: Because you stayed in one position for so long they may think you stagnated because of any of these reasons: 1) you’ve reached the upper limit of your ability, 2) you are paid too much, or 3) you are inflexible and have been managed into a dead-end role.
  • Your strategy for answering this question: Use your answer to show your loyalty to an employer and how you’ve added value each year: “You’re right, I love my job and my current employer, and that keeps me charged up every single day. My job is full of challenges, such as {name some}. So each year I have produced exceptional results. For example, for each of the past three years I… {cite examples of your results}”

Terror Question #3: Can you work for a boss who is younger or less experienced than you?

  • How the question might be phrased: “This position reports to one of our up-and-coming managers, who is still learning. How do you feel about working for someone who has less experience (or is younger) than you?”
  • Why they are asking this question: They are concerned that you would not be able to work under someone younger or less experienced than you, and you might eventually butt heads with them and be difficult to manage.
  • Your strategy for answering this question: Demonstrate that you are in a permanent green and growing state and that you expect to learn. “I love working for up-and-comers because they can always teach me things I don’t know. Conversely I may be able to benefit them from the areas in which I’m strong. So I see this as a win-win, not a negative.”

In part 2 of this post we’ll explore three additional difficult questions interviewers ask that can trip up a mature worker.

Bottom Line

Understand the reasons behind why an interviewer is asking you a difficult question and have a suitable strategy to elevate your candidacy with a great answer.

This article is taken from my new book, Get a Better Job Faster™, now available on in two editions, one for college students and recent grads, and one for experienced professionals and skilled workers. Each all-new edition explains more than 3,000 job search and career launch best practices.

I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, , please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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