3 Tips to Get Around Ageism in Your Job Search

John Krautzel
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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 Never state that your methods of performing certain tasks are outdated or that you haven't worked with a certain tool in many years.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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    EEOC and Labor Law allows employers to ask prospective employees their birthdays, age, gender, year graduated from High School and this is all legal. The only question that CANNOT be asked and one DOES NOT have to answer is, "Do you now or ever had a disability?" I was always under the impression those previous questions could not be asked until I


    Oops! My computer got the best of me! As I was commenting, nonexistent work ethics and a sense of entitlement are apparent in this age group. In the two years I've worked in this store, I've only taken time off for medical reasons and vacation. I work less than 30 hrs/week, and I'm always seeking extra shifts. After job interviews, which are few and far between, I'm often told the company is seeking to go in another direction. What a lame excuse! Never mind I've earned a Masters' degree, have 35 years of knowledge and experience, and am a quick learner, oftentimes, being self-taught. I've even applied for federal positions but to no avail. I have a 10 point preference, but that has not helped. What I've ascertained is even the federal government doesn't play by the rules. Someone has already been selected for a given position, but the agency has to go through the formalities to meet requirements. Age discrimination is alive and well in the government!


    I've discovered being a disabled Hispanic female veteran won't open doors for me. I was laid off 5.5 years ago because my position was eliminated. I currently work part-time in retail. I'm the oldest employee with various experience. I learned management skills as a naval officer upon graduating from a top 25 university. Yes, I'm no slouch! I observe my co-workers, who for the most part, are in their 20s. Work ethics and a sense of entitle

  • William Holwig
    William Holwig

    Good advice providing you can even get an interview. Other comments were spot on that software and google searches make hiding the age impossible. Highschool graduation date instantly gives that away and software not responding unless it's answered is the clandestine way of getting the information which would otherwise be illegal to ask of a job seeker. I have impecable credentials with degrees in Management, engineering and law along with successfully having managed billions of dollars in construction industry projects and after two years of constant searching it is impossible to get a reasonable job. I have exhausted all contacts, past employers, friends and any others to attempt to get rehired and at 65 with as much energy as I had when I was 40, I stll can't get even an interview. I had to leave the country and worked in Dubai, Kuwait, Jamaica and Saudi Arabia but finding work back here in the US is impossible. Excuses like "your overqualified" come up often with what I can only describe as totally ignorant HR so called professionals. I have never met anyone who knows too much about the construction industry! I see people of my age and younger with less education and overwhelmingly less experience and success on projects in positions of President, CEO and VP but once your out of a job you can't get back in to executive group. I can't afford to give up and can't get hired!

  • Daniel Fallon
    Daniel Fallon

    By the way, a recruiter also told me after one interview that I was brought in because of such great credentials, but he knew the hiring manager only wanted to hire a woman. I told him why I was invited in if they knew this before the interview and he said my credentials were just so good he thought it might change her mind. Sexism is alive and well as well

  • Daniel Fallon
    Daniel Fallon

    I recently saw an advertisement by a law firm that sought a young attorney....wonder if that gets them around ageism or nails them to it?? Pretty dumb regardsless

  • karen f.
    karen f.

    Prejudice is NOT this easily over come. Ageism is illegal. Would you right such an article for people of a different religion or race? None of this will work if they are employing ageism. In fact you are likely to be just screened out.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Wow -thanks for all of the comments. Yes ageism is alive and well. We see it every day. But you know, we don't really hear about it all that much in the news. When we went through the big economic downturn about 10 year ago, there were countless news segments on ageism. They would bring in a group of "older" workers to talk about their process in finding a job, etc. I remember thinking - oh no - that will be me in 10 years! And now, here we are. @Michelle G is totally right. You can do a quick search for your name and you will be able to find yourself as well as see your age. No way around that. The old saying "it's not what you know but who you know that matters" can be very true here. Get out there and use your network. Contact former employers and even former co-workers. Use sites like LinkedIn to your benefit. Does it matter about your photo? Probably not. Employers are not going to be fooled by us only including the past 10 years on our resume. You have to wonder where that advice really came from, don't you? I think it's due to technological advances. Companies want you to have current up-to-date skills. So if you had worked at Company A for 20 years, you probably don't have the skills that they are looking for. @Renee B I have to agree that companies don't realize the value that we have to offer to a company. Value that can't be seen on a resume. @Brian Cook it's always been a youth driven and operated society. WE were the youth. Now we are older and there is new youth coming behind us. It's just that, when we were the youth, we didn't stop and think about that gray-haired old geezer that just lost his job to us because the company wanted to infuse some life into their organization and wanted to have new ideas and concepts. So they hired us. See how it goes? The difference now is that we have social media. We have comment sections like this. That old gray-haired man didn't have this and could only go home and cry about the loss and then try to find another position. It's a full circle of life. I know that doesn't answer the question about how we get around ageism. All we can do is keep trying. Talk to that temp agency every few days. Rattle that recruiters cage by calling or emailing often. Keep on top of them to do their jobs so that you can find a job. Even if it's temporary; even if it's a contract position. At least it's a job and can help us get some of our self-esteem back.

  • Renee B.
    Renee B.

    By the way I am just 60

  • Renee B.
    Renee B.

    I keep trying - have good interviews. Employers don't seem to value the older - more experienced - more mature And reliable. I am at a loss for what to do next. Even applied in Retail - no experience - ha it sucks

  • Michelle G.
    Michelle G.

    You can dance around 'ageism' as much as you like. The fact is, if you type your name and location into a Google Search, your name will fill a page of hits that include your AGE in the link. Companies can find out exactly how old you are with no trouble at all. Try it.

  • Denise O.
    Denise O.

    I am 61 and lost my job of 42 years to downsizing in the USA. The hardest part about my job search was branding myself and completing my resume to my liking. I am getting interviews and my story is similar to what I am reading from all of you. I recently interviewed with two very different companies where young people with about 4 years experience are currently employed. Both companies are looking for experience even if it is just short term. I should have answers this week. Even though I am enthusiastic during the interviews and make to a second interview, I am unable to close the deal. I always drive away thinking of things I should or should not have said. My plan is to just keep trying, and practicing.

  • Iris G.
    Iris G.

    In my professional life the reason older person is rejected is because the employers are aware that you can't be manipulated and therefore their power trip is over.

  • Brian Cook
    Brian Cook

    One of the problems is that we have a youth driven and operated society. The pop culture has always been youth-centric, but you always had an older generation who didn't try to be young. The WW2 generation didn't try to be cool and hip, but a lot of the younger boomers are trying to hang on to the glory days.

  • Linda W.
    Linda W.

    Very interesting. I am a Patient Care Technician and I decided to get a degree in Health Administration in 2009. Graduated in 2012 and couldn't get a job for nothing. I work for a very well known cancer organization in Philadelphia which offer their employees tuition reimbursement if we attend the universities that they offer. This program was for personal development, job advancement, change of career, etc. whatever fits the individual needs. In my case, I wanted a change in career. I'm 50 and I've not yet to find a job in the health Administration field at an entry level and I know my age has a great deal to do with it. I'm more so angry because I believed in the organization i work for 7+ years thinking that a change was there for me somewhere. Instead the only change I got is a $60,000 debt to pay back.

  • Brad B.
    Brad B.

    "it's best not to mention your age during the interview" Are you thinking that they can't SEE you?

  • David T.
    David T.

    Having been recently laid off I have completed countless online applications and one video interview. The online applications require dates for your positions or you cannot move forward with the application. They also require dates for your education. In addition several potential employers require you to state your salary and bonus compensation for you past positions. All of this is before the first face to face interview which doesn't happen due to age discrimination. This is a ticking time bomb for Americans right on the heels of the great recession where many of us dipped into our retirement funds to pay for our children's ridiculously expensive college costs all the while with frail and aging parents. Best to all who have to go through this, i'm right there with you.

  • Elida O.
    Elida O.

    Your advice is good BUT it doesn't work.

  • Elida O.
    Elida O.

    Your advice is good BUT it doesn't work!I went for 3 full time employment interviews. ALL three HR Directors liked me very much and were VERY interested in hiring me

  • Donald M.
    Donald M.

    Heavy construction always asks for3 to 5yrs. experience minimum. Guess 40 + and the ability to out work people 1/2 your age is not a qualification.

  • David Oldham
    David Oldham

    Ageism is very real and quite disgusting as in any discrimination. The problem is those who are guilty of participating in the practice rarely get a taste of it themselves.

  • Kelly C.
    Kelly C.

    I am fighting ageism, sexism, and a gap of more than 6 months in working in my field - MEE specializing in field applications and sales engineering. More than 15 years unemployed in the US. I don't think they even looked at the 2 years I worked in Australia when I returned. Finally got a recruiter to admit last week that her client only wanted "recent experience". I recently removed my photo from LinkedIn since I have a gender neutral name. Doubt it will make a damned bit of difference.


    As someone stated earlier, the information above might work if you can get the interview. Currently I am working temp doing data input...I had FOUR interviews for the position and the last interviewer gave me a number puzzle I had to figure out to see how my brain worked. WTF. For a data entry position?! Anyway I got the job, which pays little and lasts two months. My BA is in Graphic Design...talk about an industry that only hires the young,

  • David Herman
    David Herman

    I am in my 50's.What worries me is that I will probably live another 30 years or even longer. How are we supposed to support ourselves if an employer or contractor won't hire us for a position, job?

  • Michael Nichols
    Michael Nichols

    I have friends that are executives with several companies that tell me they will interview you but they won't hire you if you are over 35. Education and experience don't seem to matter in today's job market. It's still a "who" not "what" you know process. Most industries don't seem to want a permanent work force . It's cheaper to hire people on for 6 months lay them off and hire new workers. No insurance ,no benefits - disposable workers.

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