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John James talks to workingwise.co.uk about his experiences of job hunting during Covid and a recruitment expert’s advice to lie about his age and experience.
John James* was made redundant in June 2019 from his job as a construction manager in the fast-moving consumer goods sector. His role involved putting up buildings and installing equipment in the tissue making industry
He got a good redundancy payment and was thinking of taking some time out. However, he was approached by people he had worked with before offering him contract work so he set up his own company. He was getting a good lot of work in before Covid hit and his original five-year plan was “blown out of the water”. He had to stop the job he was working on in early 2020 and didn’t work for the first 10 weeks after the first lockdown. Since then he has been offered work here and there, but he has had four gaps of more than eight weeks with nothing to do.
John, who is 55, did not qualify for any support during the pandemic, but he had a good cushion to help him through. “I have been financially fortunate, but for how much longer? I cannot afford to work the same way as I have for the last 12 months for another year,” he says. It was for that reason that he decided to look for a job.
About a year ago a recruitment consultant got in touch and persuaded him to do a cv review. He was told that there were too many details on his cv that revealed his age and to only tell recruiters his age if they asked because employers would want someone who had at least 20 years to go until their retirement. “I was told to take the first 12 years of my employment history, including my qualifications, off my cv,” says John. Asked how that made him feel, he says “disappointed”.
He did, however, get more interviews as a result, including some out of his sector, but he didn’t get the jobs and thinks his age is a factor. Although John has a degree and many externally recognised construction and safety qualifications, he also has many in-house qualifications which are not externally recognised. So during the pandemic he took some project management courses to gain more qualifications.
Recently he has picked up some part-time self employed work to take him up to Christmas and he has four months of full-time contractor work next year, but he is still looking for greater security and says many of the jobs on offer are on considerably less money. “Employers seem to want someone with 20 years’ experience but for the pay of a person with two years’ experience,” he says.
*not his real name