3 Tips to Get Around Ageism in Your Job Search

John Krautzel
Posted by in Career Advice

Ageism may be illegal, but that doesn't mean older workers don't suffer from age-based prejudice during a job search. Although you can't change your age, there are a few things you can do to fight employer ageism. Here are three tips to make yourself an attractive hire at any stage in life.

1. Don't Focus on Your Age

As an older worker, it's best not to mention your age during the interview. Instead, focus on your skills and accomplishments, bringing up examples of times when you've successfully delivered results. You can also put a positive spin on your age without mentioning it directly by briefly discussing the good qualities that come with age, such as maturity and experience.

Avoid making any statements that draw attention to your age. For example, instead of mentioning years and dates when talking about past jobs, just mention the employer names. Never state that your methods of performing certain tasks are outdated or that you haven't worked with a certain tool in many years.

2. Predict Possible Concerns

Even when age itself isn't an issue, older workers tend to provoke certain objections in potential employers. Employers may question your required salary given your years in the workforce or your willingness to work for a higher-risk startup as opposed to a stable employer. They may also wonder why an older worker with years of experience isn't applying for a management role.

Before the interview, place yourself in the employer's shoes, and brainstorm possible objections. Make a list of the objections you come up with, and address any of these concerns early in the interview if they apply to your situation. If the interviewer asks you to say a bit about yourself, use this opportunity to provide explanations and calm any valid worries.

3. Mesh With the Company's Values and Culture

Older workers shouldn't try to act or speak like their younger potential coworkers, but they should be able to blend in and mesh with the office culture. Study the organization's core values before the interview, and align yourself with these values without directly mentioning them during interview. For example, if one core value is customer focus, discuss a situation when you went above and beyond for a customer.

If possible, find an opportunity to speak with a current employee before the interview to get a feel for the office culture. Find parallels between your personal work style and the office culture, and mention them during interview. For instance, mention that you're happy to see that the workplace is a collaborative environment because you've always performed well in teams. If the office culture is vastly different from your previous work environment but you're flexible and open to make changes, let the interviewer know.

Employer ageism may put older workers up against unfair odds, but there's still plenty of hope. By focusing on your skills and accomplishments, predicting employer concerns and aligning with the company culture, you can increase your chances of scoring the job.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  • Jennie F.
    Jennie F.

    Great to know I have all the best basics covered😀

  • b. j. mathews m.
    b. j. mathews m.

    Thank you

  • Cathy Sanchez
    Cathy Sanchez

    The experiences of life are the best thing that prove you not only on your academic education. It makes you a better employee and human. Someone with values and who knows how to deal with daily issues.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Elizabeth H. thanks for your comment. I did a quick search and came up with a few. I searched for mental health recruiter midwest and got a few bites. Give that a try. Check out LinkedIn, too. Recruiters are out there - just have to find the one that fits your particular needs. Also do a search for temp agencies that deal in mental health in your area. Between the recruiter and the temp agency, you should be able to find something. All the best.

  • Elizabeth H.
    Elizabeth H.

    I read this article and thought " if only" I have tried most of the things suggested, removed all the dates, redeveloped my resume, redesign my cover letter for each job; so that it is specifically tailored. I'm to the point where I'm thinking about dyeing my beautiful silver threaded hair; because no matter how beautiful I believe it is and has been since my 30's in my 50's it's like waving a flag about my age when I walk into the interview. No matter how relevant I may be, or how competent I am, the manager can get past the badge of maturity waving from my shoulders.. I hear others talking about finding a recruiter. How does one go about finding someone who specializes in the mental health field? I live in a fairly small town in the central Midwest & have tried to Google it but didn't have much luck. So, I would greatly appreciate any resources, suggestions or recommendations.

  • Ed S.
    Ed S.

    I feel younger = cheaper and they go for that. I've been working contract (temp) for many years and seen many younger people get hired. The worst was training my replacement who got the job. Funny thing is I moved on to another contract with another company and he got hired at this company a year later. He is also a person of color. Neither of which I can change about myself (color or age).

  • Karl Reuning
    Karl Reuning

    Everyone wants to provide people seeking employment advise on how to treat potential employers and or hiring team members. I am amused and amazed the amount of data collected and monitored

  • Jeanna  D.
    Jeanna D.

    thank you

  • Laurie H.
    Laurie H.

    Looking forward in expanding my customer service relations.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Oluwatoyin I. thanks for your comment. Have you been searching for 5 years on your own? Have you considered finding a recruiter who specializes in environment type jobs? Is there maybe a professional organization for your chosen career? Check out ofEnvironmentalProfessionals">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AssociationofEnvironmentalProfessionals. I realize it's from wikipedia but it should help to steer you in the right direction. Have you taken the opportunity to use the career services department from your college? Check with them regarding positions. Also have then take a look at your resume. If your resume isn't getting any attention - after 5 years of using i t - maybe it's time for a new resume! Don't just assume that it's your age. All the best.

  • Oluwatoyin I.
    Oluwatoyin I.

    I am 50 years old, I master degree in Environment and Intergrated Development since 2010, I search for job for five years with no sucess,then l quit. My conclusion was that age is the main issue, or what do you think?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Sally J thanks for your comment. Frustrating I know. This is a cycle. When you were a millennial (even though we didn't use that term), you didn't stop to think about the older workers who got turned away while you walked away with a new job. It's just cycles that we go through during our careers/work life. Try going for a temporary position and see if you can't turn it into something permanent. Or maybe, by taking a temp position, you may discover a whole new field. If temp isn't working, try finding a recruiter in your area who will have your best interest at heart and will find you a new position. Don't forget to check out the website for your state's unemployment as they post jobs there, too. And make sure that you are attending all job fairs in your area, too. Wishing you all the best.

  • SALLY J.
    SALLY J.

    Thanks for posting this. As a Boomer, I have been dismayed by not even getting a second glance jobs I know I am qualified for and would do as well as a millennial. My outlook and energy is youthful and i have tried to stay current in my style. Does experience and maturity count for nothing these days? I just returned from Scotland where the work force is much more balanced in age division and wonder why American Millennials have such disregard for us boomers? It's making life pretty hard to stay here.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Barbara S we hear this all of the time from the more senior job seekers. I agree that the best thing to do is to use an agency/recruiter. They know what the company culture is and whether, as an older employee, you would or would not fit in. They will also present you to the company first so that, if they are not interested, you would probably never even know you were presented. It is rough out there for older job seekers. @Maria-Dolores it sounds like you are using a temporary agency. Have you tried to find a recruiter who specializes in Administration? That might be your best bet. They can present you to the company instead of you having to try to submit a resume and hope for the best. The nice thing about recruiters is that they don't get a commission until they fill a position so they will work harder just to get the position filled. It's sad but those little boxes asking what year you graduated, etc. are probably not going to go away. The rule of thumb today is to only include the past 10 years on your resume. You can leave the graduation dates blank if you wish and then can discuss them with the recruiter when asked. We are what we are. We are senior job seekers and, as such, have to learn how the game is played in today's millennial work world!

  • Maria-Dolores R.
    Maria-Dolores R.

    I must add I am asked my ID number and just with the number they know my age. They also know it because I started working in 1981. Should I re-do my CV and don't specify the years? One of the first questions is: " and Maria..how old are you?.. I was told that the best bilingual secretaries were the one who just left school because they had it "fresh" :) this coming from a 20year old dumb girl. I am Argentine, my native language is Spanish, I am Bilingual in English. cheers,

  • Maria-Dolores R.
    Maria-Dolores R.

    My first interview is not with the company but with the seeking agency, and they won't consider you if you are past the time limit the company has chosen, and normally not more than 50 or 55 so at 61 I am not even considered. I have spent 4 years sending CV's and I only get to the 1st interview with the consultant. I have even been told, "you are not even 50 and I have to send what the company is asking". I am really depressed because I do not know how to overcome this. Bosses are now in their 40s and I was told they don't want mothers. I don't even look like a mother and less like 60 but the number is what they first see.

  • Barb S.
    Barb S.

    The reason we are discriminated against for our age is the fact that we must always list the date of graduation or college degree. This date should not be required on the application and should only be addressed when the employer is ready to give a job offer. Employers are not following the laws regarding age discrimination. I, no doubt, have been rejected on every job I have applied to or interviewed for (applied to over 500 jobs) because of my age or the fact that I am "over-qualified". I do not have trouble handling the interview, once I get to the interview. I look much younger than my age, so an employer would not suspect my age during an interview if he/she did not already have my date of graduation or college degree on the application. My biggest problem is that I seldom ever get chosen for an interview. The dozens of internet job sites have only made the situation worse. I believe it is better for older workers to go to specific employment agencies where they can narrow down the number of applicants. I am tired of competing against 1,000 to 2,000 other applicants.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Michael S it is true that companies are "supposed to" meet certain guidelines when it comes to their employees such as so many in this age bracket and so many from this ethnic background. I wonder if it still holds true today. I am proud to say that Nexxt does have a great mixture of employees along all age brackets. So I know that companies can do it. The main issue, in my humble opinion, has to do with the salary. Even though you may be willing to take a lower salary, if they don't ask for it, they don't know that. So they just assume, based upon your background and experience that they couldn't afford you so they move on. Let them know that you are willing to accept less, if that is the case. @Linda H that's the best way to go into this adventure - with energy and a willingness to work and to learn. They think that because we are older that we can't or don't want to learn new things. Or that we would be unteachable due to our age. Let them know it's not true. Tell them in the cover letter that you are willing to accept less if it means that you can get into the company and learn more or learn something new. Going through agencies is a great way to get that foot in the door. Try it. I, too, have had great jobs that I found through a recruiter. So don't be afraid to try it. The worst that can happen is that you will be in the same spot that you are today. So no harm, no foul. Try it. You may be happy with the results.

  • Linda H.
    Linda H.

    I am well over 50 but I still get jobs. I just taylor my coversheet to highlight my skills as they relate to the job. Also I'm not afraid to go through a staffing company because many of those temp jobs can turn into a permanent job once you get there. If I do get an interview of course they can see how old I am but I project an energy and a willingness to work and learn as much as I can.

  • Kenneth W.
    Kenneth W.

    I was just in an interview where multiple interviewers tried to discuss age (I'm over 55). I got the impression that even though I am a good fit for the job they may let age be the determining factor.

  • Michael S.
    Michael S.

    Quoters, quotes, and quotes. Companies interviews older follkes 50 +

  • sheila e.
    sheila e.

    so sad younger folks do not know what I know with my background and people hiring are fools.

  • Rhonda S.
    Rhonda S.

    I truly understand what everyone is saying. I hold three degrees and still cannot locate work. It does get frustrating. I just pray about my situation.

  • Rick DeTavernier
    Rick DeTavernier

    I'm 50 but fell younger

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Michael M. thanks for your comment. I have to say I am surprised that a company would fly you in for an interview without first knowing everything they can find out about you. Needless to say, they would have already done a background check and would know your age. In today's world, a company is not going to spend precious dollars flying potential candidates to their location without this. I am thinking that it might be something else. Do they do a complete interview? Walk you around and introduce you? Or do they just say thanks - you can go ahead and fly home now? Do they cover your expenses? I am struggling here to figure out why a company would go this distance only to turn you away? Anyone else have this experience? If so, please comment here.

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