3 Tips to Combat Age Discrimination in a Job Search

Toby Haberkorn, co-author of Best Job Search Tips for Age 60-Plus: A Practical Work Options Resource for Baby Boomers, recognizes that “age discrimination is alive and well in the workplace and society.”

Fortunately, there are routes to bypass this job search minefield. As with any job search, it’s the job seeker’s responsibility to demonstrate that her qualifications are an excellent match for the position. Baby Boomers must also address some unspoken but ever-present concerns that the hiring manager may hold.

“The chances of the interviewer being young enough to be your child is really high,” Haberkorn says. Be prepared for this scenario, so that you don’t fall into the trap of expressing comments that confirm the interviewer’s ageism assumptions.

Here’s what Haberkorn has heard applicants say (and what you should definitely NOT say):

  • Are you old enough to be doing this job?
  • Of course, I can work with these kids.
  • Tell me about your medical benefits.
  • I’m having a senior moment.

These comments are fine for sharing with your friends, but not during an interview. Do not speak these or similar thoughts out loud if you want a job offer.

Elevate your professional image

“What is your electronic appearance?” Haberkorn asks.

  • Is your email professional and easy to remember? Does it show that you’re current with technology? She cautions against using something like suzysgrandma@xxx as your email address. Just use your name and a well-regarded, current email platform.
  • Since a potential employer will check your online image, it’s important that you know what will show up in their research. Start by Googling yourself and dig deeply – go beyond the first page of search results. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimized so that it shows up as one of the first items when someone searches for you on Google. If you need to do some scrubbing to your online image, whether it’s because you’ve been erroneously associated with negative posts or you made some mistakes, research and select an online reputation management provider such as Reputation911, InternetReputation, or use CDI’s Find a Career Pro feature to identify an image consultant.

What does your cell phone’s outgoing message sound like? I admit that I used to have my daughter singing a song on my outgoing voicemail message. Now, it’s just short and to the point. Not as fun, but more effective in representing the professional image that I want to convey.

Present a youthful attitude

Does your appearance need updating? Haberkorn recommends addressing some key areas:

  • Wear stylish, up-to-date clothing
  • Pay attention to your accessories, including your glasses
  • Consider whether you would benefit by dying your hair or whitening your teeth.
  • Do what you can to make sure you’re physically fit and energetic.

Haberkorn points out that hiring managers may have stereotypes in their heads that you’ll have to work to overcome. It’s not fair. It can be daunting, but you have to deal with this reality.

Demonstrate the ability to fit into a younger workplace

The person interviewing you may view you as old and think of you in one of two ways:

  1. You’re the Baby Boomer on the investment firms’ television advertisement who can afford to play golf all day so why are you looking for a job? or
  2. You’re slow, inflexible, unfamiliar with technology and cannot keep pace with the younger workforce.

Knowing that you’re working with these constraints doesn’t make it easy, says Haberkorn, but it can be helpful to apply strategy in combating these beliefs.  Suggestions for overcoming these biases include:

  • Be up-to-date in your field, project a youthful attitude and demonstrate by examples that you have the energy to manage the workload.
  • Remember most employees are significantly younger than you. Be ready to speak about your accomplishments and positive experiences working with younger employees, both as colleagues and as your manager.
  • Talk about how your work invigorates and energizes you. There’s no need to put on a show, but draw inspiration from where it naturally surfaces for you and put your spotlight there, particularly during the “tell me about yourself” phase of an interview.
  • Mention apps and other technology tools that you use and enjoy. (I once got a job because I recommended a password vault to the person who interviewed me.)
  • Don’t berate texting and other technology leaps. I whine every time Facebook updates its user interface (“Why can’t I find anything?”), but I confine my rants to a few trusted friends.

Take heart, Haberkorn urges. “The good news is that in every hiring situation, the interviewer wants you to be the right candidate because they want to finish this particular search quickly and move on to their next priority.  So, from that perspective, it’s positive.”

3 thoughts on “3 Tips to Combat Age Discrimination in a Job Search”

  1. These tips are great, but they assume the older worker has already managed to score an interview. I’ve been advised by a career coach to list only the past 10 years of my work experience on my resume to at least get my (old) foot in the door, but that would eliminate some of my most impressive work. It’s tough to know how to even get over that first hurdle in the process.

  2. I am having1st interviews but no seconds and no offers. I is becoming daunting. I have done the things you mentioned such as colouring hair. My clothes are up to date. Help

  3. Great article on such an important topic, Maggie. So often one finds the “same old” type of blog articles but you tackled a truly difficult career and resume topic!

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