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 Never state that your methods of performing certain tasks are outdated or that you haven't worked with a certain tool in many years.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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  • Avelino (Bill) d.
    Avelino (Bill) d.

    If the interviewer has an obsession, there is nothing that can be done to salvage the situation.

  • Avelino (Bill) d.
    Avelino (Bill) d.

    Things went well with First 4 interviews I had with managers went well. The 5th interview was with the manager who conducted phone interview....he was obsessed with my age of 61...I steered the conversation away from age and 4 times he returned to age....I never got a rejection, I got an email from him stating that they decided to stop looking....(which I learned afterwards was a lie)

  • Avelino (Bill) d.
    Avelino (Bill) d.

    Things went well with First 4 interviews I had with managers went well. The 5th interview was with the manager who conducted phone interview....he was obsessed with my age of 61...I steered the conversation away from age and 4 times he returned to age....I never got a rejection, I got an email from him stating that they decided to stop looking....(which I learned afterwards was a lie)

  • Avelino (Bill) d.
    Avelino (Bill) d.

    What do you do when the interviewer on the phone starts with "Let's have a blunt discussion about your age?" When I got an in person interview I thought that maybe I addressed his concerns. Things went well with the first 4 mangers I dint

  • Max Musso, BSME, LSSGB
    Max Musso, BSME, LSSGB

    I know I have been a victim of ageism....I also know that the new software used to screen employees is crap and is is rigged to scan out older workers...I have been told so by many people in the know....The ATS software would screen out JESUS CHRIST if he was applying for a job as a pastor at a church and he would be told that he was not the right "FIT" for the job.....

  • Valerie Parker
    Valerie Parker

    Wish this worked for Nurses. Everyone has a vague idea of how old I am because my license has the year I received it.

  • Steven Burrows
    Steven Burrows

    As an addendum to my previous post, I also include this experience. My futile job search last summer was also my introduction to the world of applicant tracking software (ATS). I have more than a casual knowledge of software development since I have had to code programs to pursue my chemistry research. While I have no proof of this hypothesis, it seems reasonable to me that the creators of ATS programs are well-aware that their customers (HR people) are not interested in hiring older (more than 35 years old) workers, for whatever reasons. These software developers can write their programs to be biased against that age demographic, and sell a compiled application that the end-user can use to claim total ignorance of screening out older workers from an applicant pool. Since the ATS program is copyrighted and or patented, the program's internal mechanisms can be concealed from the HR worker - customer and the applicants as a proprietary 'trade secret'. The developer wins (he/she sells an expensive application) and the HR recruiter wins (ageism with plausible deniability). The loser, in the end, is the applicant that was filtered out by the 'mysterious workings' of ATS programs.

  • Steven Burrows
    Steven Burrows

    Articles like this one usually get my attention but I am extremely skeptical about their value. When I got laid off from a job as an analytical chemist in 2002, at age 42, I decided that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. The decision was easy, given that there were no similar jobs in my geographical region (southwestern VA) and my wife and I could not leave owing to her job and our aging parents. The university I wanted to go to was extremely skeptical of my interest, so I had to work as a wage employee technician for four years while re-taking undergraduate math and chemistry courses to convince them that I was capable of doing graduate level chemistry work. Now, in 2017 I have earned a M.Sc. and performed all of my doctoral work, except for writing the dissertation. Now that my part-time teaching stint for the Spring term is over, I am free to do my remaining writing and defense preparation/practice, but I am also now unemployed. Maybe I will get another part-time teaching slot in the Fall, but maybe I won't. All of this is making extremely difficult for me to motivate myself to do my work. I got my first taste of ageism last summer when I was trying to find work and getting the robot-calls from recruiters that absolutely insisted that my high school graduation date had to be disclosed to them, in spite of my holding both an undergraduate and recent graduate degree in my field. Whenever I hear a pundit or politician make some quip about a perceived shortage of scientists in this country, I wish that I could grab them by the collar and shout in their faces that I am a scientist, ready to work hard and make a contribution. Sadly, the perennial claim of a shortage of STEM workers here is really just an excuse to petition the federal government for more H1B visas to import cheaper, disposable foreign workers. Now it doesn't seem to matter much whether I finish the Ph.D. or not; my outcome seems foreordained.

  • Julie Pruitt
    Julie Pruitt

    I also would like to mention that I had achieved my "dream" salary at one point in my career. I thought that my "goal" salary is what would make me feel secure, at peace and happy. But, it seems everything has a price. I had an inept, lazy and cheating manager (given the position as a political favor) and the organization had become corrupt. All the liars and cheaters were promoted while the true loyal workers were taken advantage of. I walked away. It was a lesson for me: money isn't the highest goal to seek with a job (or with anything for that matter). Once I resigned (I gave my two weeks notice and did everything by the book) and took another job, I found peace. I saw this saying recently and I find it very appropriate in the job market: "If something costs you your peace, it's not worth it."

  • Julie Pruitt
    Julie Pruitt

    I don't know about all of the IRS campuses, but at the Austin IRS campus where I work, they hire people no matter what. I have never seen true diversity as I see it at the Austin IRS. I see people that look to be in their eighties (I know there are people in their 70s, because they have told their ages). I know there are people of all ages, colors, disabilities and lifestyles. I see people in wheelchairs, with walkers, long hair (men), Downs Syndrome, piercings, tattoos, beards, suits and ties, everything. Unless you have a strong financial or accounting background, you probably won't start at the salary that you were making before. But, there are many opportunities for advancement if you are ambitious about seeking them.

  • James F.
    James F.

    All of these nicely written and seemingly logical articles don't change the prejudiced minds of most recruiters. They might make a reader feel good and hopeful for a few euphoric moments.....and, then, back to the real world.

  • Richard Waugh
    Richard Waugh

    I feel everyone's pain. I am a contractor with many years experience to bring to the table. I walk into an interview and you can see it in their eyes...To old.

  • George W.
    George W.

    Mr. Krautzel, what a utopian post. Obviously, obviously you haven't had to deal with this situation personally, and as noted by the responses, others have. Our unemployment Dept of Labor statistics are so BS because of too many youngers aren't smart enough to realize that when you file a pre-employment application on-line, or with staffing agency, with or without resume attachment, that through a little addition and subtraction using 2017 as a baseline, applicant age is simple within 5 years. And the result gets rounded up and you are deemed older than what they, their company Culture, Values, Mission Statement, etc. are looking for or interact with, regardless of what you can bring to their organization. There are millions of us, who fell off the unemployed radar when our benefits expired, and while Trump kept hammering on that during the campaign, the DOL statistics continue to remain as bogus now as they were during Obama, with no sign of change to the calculation to even try to represent our numbers. There are millions of us 50+ who were pulling down descent incomes, many 6 figures, who are now working 2-3 part time hourly jobs and netting about what we made in our early 20's.

  • Vincent C.
    Vincent C.

    Not to long ago I had an interview, with a 30 something interviewer that started chuckling out of nowhere. I asked what was so funny and he said : "You remind me of my father". Needless to say, I didn't get the job. I had a couple other interviews and it was obvious that as soon as we met, they were much younger and I wasn't getting the job.

  • Cheryl C.
    Cheryl C.

    This was helpful!

  • Helene O.
    Helene O.

    When online applications require dates, it is easy for the company to know your age before you walk in the door.


    You can not get past the applicant Tracking System which asks for year of graduation, Drivers License number(which has age) and a myriad of other illegal questions. Tell me how to get past that, then I might actually get an interview in person.

  • Kenneth T.
    Kenneth T.

    Here's my two cents, how can you prove that a previous employers HR is violation of the age related laws or just EEOC laws? Especially when they call about you instead of having email proof. Also, let's say you try to prove it with legal action, good luck trying to get a job anywhere after that.

  • Keith Hogan
    Keith Hogan

    From my experience in state government, I know the importance of diversity to them. To show their attention to affirmative action goals, they show résumés of several qualified persons they by-passed in order to select a qualified affirmative action candidate. They need your résumé for this reason.

  • JOHN C.
    JOHN C.

    Mattie L. from comments below ...you are incorrect, it is ILLEGAL for employers to ask DOB, which is asking for age essentially, on a pre-employment application basis. Sorry, you are mistaken. I'm a former EEO / AAP Mgr. for a defense contractor in the Rocky Mountain region. You need to read the laws again or speak to a Labor Attorney.

  • Elizabeth V.
    Elizabeth V.

    Just before taking ten years of experience on my resume off so I could land an interview, a Federal employee told the contractor program manager that he didn't want to meet me because he could tell from my resume that I was some b** in my early 50's. I felt intense shame and grief until I realized that my age wasn't my fault or something to be ashamed of. Now, five years later, I just got told by a new Federal employee PM that hasn't worked with me that he wants someone on his technical team with, "...more recent college experience."

  • Elizabeth V.
    Elizabeth V.

    As a contractor, I was told to eliminate the first 10 years of post-graduate experience because it made me sound too old. I was offended, but did it and I got the next contract.


    Had a face to face. Soon as they saw me they said job was filled.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for all of the great comments. It's not bad enough that we have to fight ageism and now sexism! @Daniel Fallon so sorry you went through that. It's something that I have fought all of my life, too. I agree that it shouldn't matter our sex, age or nationality but sadly it does. @William Holwig - all I can say is WOW! Sounds like you have done everything that you can to find a new position. Have you totally exhausted your connections/contacts? Maybe you can find new ones! As it's always been - sometimes it's not what you know but who you know. @Lydia Wood so sorry to hear what you are going through. I am guessing that you have exhausted your contacts through the government? Yeah - sometimes being a disabled veteran doesn't help you to open the doors in the government - in spite of that 10 point preference. I, also, am a disabled vet with 20 years of military service and a master's degree. Didn't open doors for me, either. Try, if you can, to find a recruiter who specializes in your occupation. Try going through one of the Veteran's only sites - or the local Vet Center. And don't forget to network. If you have exhausted that, look for new people. I think that the jobs are there. It's just a matter of changing that company's perspectives. They all want to get away with hiring cheap labor... cheap being a relative term. They want to bring in fresh talent but the sad part is that there's no one to really teach them since the older talent is being pushed out. But, as I have said many time, this is really not new. This is a cycle that our country has gone through - forever. The only difference is that now we are the ones being pushed through the door to allow room for the younger folks to come in. Hate to use the term but this is the circle of life. All we can do is continue searching for and applying to jobs. Networking and going to job fairs. And keeping the faith that a new position is just right around the corner.


    called and then read the laws about two months ago.

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