29 Apr The Best Ways to Tackle Age Discrimination on the Job Search
Tired of hearing at interviews that you’re “overqualified” or you “might get bored in this role with your experience?” If this sounds familiar, it’s possible—conscious or not—you might be facing age discrimination in your job search. Job seekers in their fifties and over face ageism, but it can also occur when you are in your late thirties and forties—you know, all you “seasoned” professionals with more experience and usually higher earning potential.
Ageism has become more apparent in a quickly evolving, millennial-dominated workforce—35% to be exact. Meanwhile, millions of baby boomers are retiring every year, a number that’s catapulted since the recent economic crash spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Real talk: age discrimination is illegal in the United States. Employers are prohibited from treating applicants forty years old and over differently than their younger counterparts. Unfortunately, even though it isn’t legal that doesn’t mean ageism doesn’t play a role in the workplace.
While it isn’t right, and there’s no way to guarantee you won’t face ageism on your job hunt, there are ways to work on counteracting it. Here are four ways to keep the focus on your professional chops and why you’re perfect for the job:
Give your resume a trim.
Cap your resume at one page (or two for executive positions). And, you don’t have to include every position you’ve had out of college. Instead, list the relevant roles that align with the goals for the position(s) you’re applying for—highlight the experience that will make your experience pop.
Make sure your resume is clean and easy to read in a nice size 12 Sans Serif font face. Keep the focus on bulleting your achievements rather than dedicating paragraphs to comprehensive work responsibilities for each role. Avoid outdated executive summaries stating your job search goals. Be sure to add your Twitter and LinkedIn presence on your resume, (once both are ready to go).
Also, add a section on the technologies you’re fluent in, beyond just the basics. Think project management tools, CRMs, automation software, Google Analytics certification, etc.
Make sure you add all your education and any special certifications you’ve earned—ditch the graduation dates.
Navigate potential misperceptions upfront.
Let’s face it, it can be awkward interviewing for a position with a hiring manager more than ten or twenty years younger than you are. It can also be intimidating for a younger manager to consider applicants with two or even three times their experience. Make sure they understand that you want the position you’re applying for, and not theirs. The best way to make this clear from the start, specifically if you’re taking a step back from a more senior role, is to open up about why you want this job. Explain how the position you’re seeking at their organization fits into your long-term career plan.
Maybe you’re wanting a less demanding role right now, or you want to get back to being involved in the day-to-day project work instead of supervising them. Or, you’d rather focus on your craft than spending the bulk of your workdays managing employees.
Give good Zoom.
While more and more work, and interviews, are going virtual, it’s important to show that you’re connected-workplace compatible. That starts with looking and sounding confident and professional. That means the right lighting, (ring lights included), webcam, background, and communications style.
This blog gives some great tips on leveling up your Zoom game, including recommendations for the best lighting, webcams, and mics. And remember, get comfortable talking on video. Use your hands, smile, nod when you’re listening to others on the interview, and be authentic.
Finally, if you aren’t sure what to wear, check their company website to see how their team members and executives present themselves. If you’re worried about overdressing on camera then try to nail your favorite business casual look.
That could be a button-down shirt with or without a tie, sans blazer. Or a comfy sweater or statement necklace instead of a blazer.
Don’t date yourself.
During interviews and preliminary interviews, sharing relevant experience is great, but you don’t have to put a date on it. Great example: if your interviewer asks you if you’ve used Salesforce (even if it’s been ten years) tell them you have at (insert the previous employer). Avoid quantifying your experience in exact years, instead describe it in decades. For example “you’ll see that I have over two decades of experience in these areas to support your team” instead of “I have 26 years of experience that applies to this role”.
Build your online brand.
Make sure you have a clear, professional headshot and a personal brand online—from Twitter to LinkedIn, to a blog or portfolio site. Make sure you can be found online, and what employers do discover is current, refreshing, and reflective of your skills and experience, and hey, a sense of humor doesn’t hurt!
Scan this quick hit list to make sure you are covering the basics:
- Your LinkedIn headline, header graphic, headshot, position, and summary are all engaging and up to date.
- Your Twitter account—if you have one—has been actively used recently, tweeting articles or best practices that tie back to your talents.
- Your blog or portfolio site is current and shares recent writing and work.
- Your Zoom/Teams virtual background is ready to go. Here are some freebies to peruse.
- If you’re in marketing, make sure you’re versed on the latest platforms and their impact on the industry, for example, ClubHouse.
Ageism happens in the workplace.
Remember, age discrimination happens. It can be very nuanced and hard to pin down. If you leave an interview feeling strange then there’s probably a reason for it. Remember you don’t want to work for the type of employer that would discriminate against applicants based on age or any other protected class. There are thousands of studies focused on how diversity supports a more collaborative and productive workplace.
We can help.
At Staffing Strong, we understand some of the challenging and sometimes unreasonable obstacles job seekers face. When you feel like the odds are stacking up against you, it’s good to have a recruiter to offer coaching and support. Don’t go it alone. Submit your resume and connect with us.
Meet the Author
Evelyn Vega is the Founder and President at Staffing Strong and the Past President of the Phoenix American Marketing Association. Since 1999, she’s made her career about supporting her clients in building meaningful careers and partnering with businesses in finding quality hires. In her free time, Evelyn sits on various advisory boards and enjoys practicing on her drum set!