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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Things You Can/Can't Do About Age Bias (3)

3. Be at your best: This may sound a little silly, but look and be at your best. Splurge on a new interview outfit (even if that 30-year-old suit still fits). Be well groomed, maintain your personal fitness to the highest possible level, make sure your health or medical conditions are under control, be well rested, research the employer, and display your knowledge. These tasks should help keep you confident and poised. Try practicing for interviews with a friend or professional coach. Finally, put all concerns about your age and the threat of age bias out of your mind.

4. Be a continuous learner: Whether you are a candidate or an employee, always grow and learn. This is particularly important for your computer skills and knowledge. The abilities to use a computer, send e-mail, surf the Internet, and handle basic applications, such as word processing, are not optional anymore. Inability to make even basic use of a computer is a cause for rejection in all but a handful of jobs—many of which you wouldn’t want. Buy a computer, set up an Internet account, and take lessons. While you’re at it, get a mobile phone. PC skills and a cell phone are powerful ways to show you are technically savvy and not a dinosaur.

5. Seek employment and work in the right places: Many industries and employers value older workers. Search them out and apply there. If you’re already working for an age-friendly employer, do everything you can to stay with that organization. Meanwhile, here are a few places to start looking for companies who hire and affirm older workers:

- AARP National Employer Team: A list of major national employers who have committed to age-neutral practices.
- AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50: A list of employers recognized by AARP for their exceptional practices relating to the older workforce.
- Web Job-Posting Boards for Older Workers: There are numerous Web sites with job announcements focused on workers 50 and older. These include RetirementJobs.com, which evaluates employers and grants Age Friendly Certification to companies who welcome older candidates, RetiredBrains, Senior Job Bank, Jobs4.0, and Seniors for Hire.

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Bob Skladany is the Director of Research & Chief Career Counselor at RetirementJobs.com
Source: http://www.aarp.org/money/work/articles/what_you_can_do_about_age_bias.html

23 Post a Comment :

Anonymous said...

Good, useful post. Has anyone filed an age bias complaint? How did it go?

David Rosen said...

Thanks for an informative and useful post. It is clearly easier to make a case for age discrimination in cases of termination than it is in hiring, especially when a terminated worker is soon replaced by a much younger employee in essentially the same job. I suspect it's damn near impossible to make a solid case when it comes to hiring unless an employer tells an applicant he/she is too old for the job.

In my experience as a 65-year-old hiring manager and recent job applicant, what many candidates perceive as simple age discrimination is actually something much more complex and therefore difficult to overcome:

* Employers no longer place the same value on years of experience as they once did. The focus is on skills and recent achievements. In my opinion this is the number one reason that employers shy away applicants like me with 40-plus years of experience. This obstacle can only be overcome by finding an employer who understands the value of experience.

* While employers are looking for qualified employees, they are also mindful of cost. They assume (sometimes incorrectly) that an older candidate will demand higher pay than a younger one.

* Hiring managers are looking to hire people with specific skills, many of them technical. They assume (often incorrectly) that older applicants don't have these skills, and even if they do, they're just not as with it when it comes to social norms and media.

* Hiring managers may believe it makes more sense to hire a younger person with the potential to grow than an older person who has already peaked and is seen, rightly or wrongly, as having no future.

* I suspect, although I have no evidence to support this, that employers are eager to hold down the average age of their workforces in order to hold down the cost of group health insurance coverage.

*Younger hiring managers and others naturally favor hiring people like themselves. They may feel challenged or even threatened by more experience people who know more than they do.

Paul said...

Good article...but he didnt answer the question on what to say if you are asked "how old are you" and it would have been good to have a link to the law that he mentioned regarding age discrimination rights (ADEA).
I will look into it.

Anonymous said...

I chose to file a lawsuit because I was convinced I had been set up. I believed my dismissal was at least partially age-based and I was making more than they wanted to pay me. But after 15 years with the company, they were offering me no more than 3 weeks severance, which I felt was unfair and insulting.
Right or wrong, my decision to pursue legal action yielded a much more reasonable severance, but it had lasting consequences. I interviewed with someone shortly after the settlement for a freelance job. The interview was going very well, he seemed ready to hire me. He excused himself for a few minutes and must have called my last employer. When he came back into the room his demeanor was completely different. He looked ashen. He thanked me for coming in and bid me goodbye. It was clear that news of my lawsuit poisoned my chances. I've been afraid to interview since and tried to find a way to work for myself instead, which has not worked well either. I've been out of work for several years now and don't know how to get back in. I won the battle, but have lost the war.

Anonymous said...

Typical. You didn't answer the question that you posed.

Steven Collins said...

Anonymous,
My advice is to mitigate the problem as early in the interview as you can by way of an explanation. You could have one ready and only use it if asked, or you can make it part of your pitch. Had I made that call as the interviewer, I would likely have simply asked you about the situation and listened to your response. A slightly different but similar example: As a business owner, I will not hire a guy that has had multiple workmen’s comp complaints that would be stupid on my part. On the other hand, if someone was hurt on their last job and it did not impact the work they would do for me, I would look at that differently. If you were to explain to me why you left your last job, and what occurred, I would be able to judge if I might be faced with the same problem. Likely not, or we would not be interviewing in the first place. If I thought you would cost me more than I was willing to pay, I would just not hire you – it would have nothing to do with your previous situation.

So, I suggest you write out your story, condense it to a brief one - pretty much what you have in this note above. Practice telling it... own it - but don't make it the center piece of your job interviews; just a comfortable part of your history - like an old scar… I also suggest that if the overall experience of your past job was good - talk like it was... don't berate a 15 year "career job". Employers like a positive employee and if you are that kind of person, you are likely to interview well. The previous termination is unfortunate, your disagreement is understandable, and it is a bump in the road of life – an unfortunate cap to an otherwise great run. The two years of non-work may be more difficult to explain. I would do some quick self improvement training, and explain that I used the break to better myself, and to regroup, and to be able to start fresh into something new. If you walk into an interview with an "Oh woe is me" attitude, you may as well stay home in your pajamas.

As for Paul's answer, I would just tell them, I’m 52. Is there a hiring package that does not ask for your date of birth? I see no benefit in hiding it. I might answer this way: Q. Steven, may I ask how old you are? A. Sure, I'm 52, which brings up one of my questions; What types of physical activity will be involved in this job? Do you offer a gym membership in your benefits package - I like to work out a few times a week... Or; What is the average age of your employees? Do you foresee any issues that I might have just based on my age? If so, you might tell the employer how you would overcome the concern. You can come up with a few questions to apply to your situation. Essentially you have to be honest with yourself but not overly critical, you may have to shoot higher than you might think you can go and have the confidence to pull off not only the interview but the job itself. I would ask anyone this - If you are not going to be effective in a job because of your age, your looks, or your weight, or disability, do you really want that job to set yourself up for failure? At 52 and a bit overweight (for a SEAL), I would not audition (were I an actor) for a leading man role in a movie, but I might go for the second lead as his sidekick/wingman. Do a good honest self assessment, seek opinions from someone you respect who will be honest with you and if you are a round peg... go for the round holes... Also, and perhaps the most important, don't forget to pray for wisdom and guidance.

Steven Collins

Steven Collins said...

Anonymous,
My advice is to mitigate the problem as early in the interview as you can by way of an explanation. You could have one ready and only use it if asked, or you can make it part of your pitch. Had I made that call as the interviewer, I would likely have simply asked you about the situation and listened to your response. A slightly different but similar example: As a business owner, I will not hire a guy that has had multiple workmen’s comp complaints that would be stupid on my part. On the other hand, if someone was hurt on their last job and it did not impact the work they would do for me, I would look at that differently. If you were to explain to me why you left your last job, and what occurred, I would be able to judge if I might be faced with the same problem. Likely not, or we would not be interviewing in the first place. If I thought you would cost me more than I was willing to pay, I would just not hire you – it would have nothing to do with your previous situation.

So, I suggest you write out your story, condense it to a brief one - pretty much what you have in this note above. Practice telling it... own it - but don't make it the center piece of your job interviews; just a comfortable part of your history - like an old scar… I also suggest that if the overall experience of your past job was good - talk like it was... don't berate a 15 year "career job". Employers like a positive employee and if you are that kind of person, you are likely to interview well. The previous termination is unfortunate, your disagreement is understandable, and it is a bump in the road of life – an unfortunate cap to an otherwise great run. The two years of non-work may be more difficult to explain. I would do some quick self improvement training, and explain that I used the break to better myself, and to regroup, and to be able to start fresh into something new. If you walk into an interview with an "Oh woe is me" attitude, you may as well stay home in your pajamas.

As for Paul's answer, I would just tell them, I’m 52. Is there a hiring package that does not ask for your date of birth? I see no benefit in hiding it. I might answer this way: Q. Steven, may I ask how old you are? A. Sure, I'm 52, which brings up one of my questions; What types of physical activity will be involved in this job? Do you offer a gym membership in your benefits package - I like to work out a few times a week... Or; What is the average age of your employees? Do you foresee any issues that I might have just based on my age? If so, you might tell the employer how you would overcome the concern. You can come up with a few questions to apply to your situation. Essentially you have to be honest with yourself but not overly critical, you may have to shoot higher than you might think you can go and have the confidence to pull off not only the interview but the job itself. I would ask anyone this - If you are not going to be effective in a job because of your age, your looks, or your weight, or disability, do you really want that job to set yourself up for failure? At 52 and a bit overweight (for a SEAL), I would not audition (were I an actor) for a leading man role in a movie, but I might go for the second lead as his sidekick/wingman. Do a good honest self assessment, seek opinions from someone you respect who will be honest with you and if you are a round peg... go for the round holes... Also, and perhaps the most important, don't forget to pray for wisdom and guidance.

Steven Collins

MacBernac said...

Companies who offer health insurance benefits are reluctant to hire age 50+ workers due to the high cost of insurance premiums. I'm 59, highly skilled in administrative and executive support and general office, yet all I can find is temp jobs, whose insurance is very, very limited, or jobs where the company is small enough to not be required to offer health insurance. I can't win. I guess I have to try to stay healthy. I can't afford insurance. There's no way to prove that age does not impact hiring practices, particularly when it comes to a company's concern over its bottom line.

Anonymous said...

All discrimination is bad discrimination. All people who discriminate are bad people. No exceptions! Our legal system must be made to reflect this by including harsh penalties including felony classification for discrimination with commensurate jail terms for any act of discrimination against anybody by anybody, regardless of excuses claimed by the offender. The request for and acquisition of personal information which can be used to discriminate against a candidate during the selection process must be banned with felony classification attached to such offenses. Retaliation against candidates for any act used to void discriminatory behavior, including lying about age, race etcetera must be banned. It is OK for a candidate to lie about age, race etcetera to defeat discrimination in any organization with the exception of bona fide qualification. The burden of proof must fall on the discriminator to prove necessity for the discrimination, otherwise the discriminator is wrong and the candidate is correct. Again, all discrimination is bad and all people who discriminate are bad people.

lynn said...

Anonymous,

Not all discrimination is bad - it depends on the basis used. To discriminate is to perceive a difference between one thing or person and another, and in this kind of situation, to act upon it. Discriminating on the basis of qualifications for a job is a good thing. I'd be concerned if hiring authorities did NOT discriminate that way.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a young looking 57 year old and recently was called by a recruiter for a job in which I went through the 2nd interview, but was not hired. Initally, when the recruiter called me after looking at my resume, I was asked how old I was, I felt akward in responding to the question and was told that it's ok and I did not have to answer the question, that he was only trying to recruit the right demographic group to work at the company. I was then convinced that this is the reason that I have not been able to find work in the IT field after finishing my Bachelors Degree and have 20 years in the industry. The recruiter might as well have asked me what race or religion I was. I checked with the EEOC and will be filing a complaint and getting a attorney. I have many good years left and have a lot of experience to offer an employer, unfortunately it's all about how low can you go in salary and do you fit our demographic group.

Anonymous said...

I worked in the hospitality industry for years. Employers often need to ask this question of each applicant to determine if they are legally able to serve alcohol and/or work in a bar. While the question is meant to be used for younger, teenage applicants, it is often utilized to gage an applicant's age as well.

When asked this question, I have always jokingly responded that I am old enough to drive a car, serve alcohol as a bartender and not have a curfew. It lightens the mood and sometimes has the effect of making the person skip that particular question as that's as far as they can really go with it.

D7ana said...

I don't understand why an employer has to ask an applicant what his/her age is. If they get a birth certificate or the birth year information is submitted some other way, why bother?

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I like your comment SuOakes, and I agree with you that there is age discrimation that play when you are out there competing with hundred of young new graduates. The best shot I think is to dress conservative!

Aissatou

Anonymous said...

I really think you need to check your facts! It is illegal for a company to ask ANY question that is irrelevant to the job being interviewed for. It is commentaries like yours that keep employers in trouble!

Lee Levitan said...

But what is the answer to the question posed at the beginning of the article: If asked your age, what is your recommended response?

Anonymous said...

How do you expect the employers to not be biased when there are a lot of biases built into your article points of advice? For example advising the interviewee to buy a new suit for the interview rather than use the 30 year old suit has a built in stereotype as does the advise to keep up on new trends and ideas. I get the "overqualified=you are too old" rejection all the time in spite of the fact that my hair style, health, ability to work 12 hours per day and keeping up with the latest trends could beat any 35 year old's who has to leave work early and occupy his/her personal time driving kids to soccer games or help with homework. The stereotyping a fact of life and your advice only reinforces that the author thinks those stereotypes are in fact true.

VelvetVoice said...

I just got a job in Purchasing at a hospital. I used every single trick there was, I am fifty and long term unemployed. It was scary every step of the way. I changed my resume send half to imply that my computer apps work was projects rather than jobs. I took off all the years, and put my degrees on the first page. I have been working for a startup company for the experience, and indicated internship. You would think I was thirty looking at the resume. When the age question came up, indirectly, I did buy a new suit, I dye my hair, have a young style, lift weights, and am very enthusiastic. I joked that people expect people my age to come in with a walker and talk about their illnesses. They are usually surprised to know how old I am. I also indicate that I am a continuous learner, and how soon can I start taking courses? Send a handwritten note to everyone you come into contact with. Try to relate personally to everyone. Good luck, it is possible to overcome age bias.

Meryl said...

While it may fly in the face of what you know about the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and on top of that be outright rude, the question itself is legal states author Author Bob Skladany.

I beg to differ. Please check your facts.

In California The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits harassment and discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex (gender), sexual orientation,marital status, national origin (including language use restrictions), ancestry, mental and physical disability, medical condition (cancer/genetic characteristics), age (40 and above), pregnancy, denial of medical and family care leave, or pregnancy disability leave (Government Code sections 12940,12945, 12945.2) and/or retaliation for protesting illegal discrimination related to one of these categories or for reporting patient abuse in tax supported institutions.
See: http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Publications_FEHADescr.htm

The Federal government also prohibits age discrimination, GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 2925-12928

While I wouldn't propose jumping up during the interview and yelling that is an illegal question I would answer the question, calmly something to the effect of "I'm a mature worker and my skills match the job description, smile and then give an example.

If however a person felt they were discriminated against them Complaints of discrimination must be filed with the Department within one year from the date of the alleged discriminatory act. For victims who are under the age of 18, complaints of discrimination must be filed no later than one year of that person’s18th birthday. Please contact us immediately if there is any likelihood that this one-year period is about to expire.

It truly puzzles me how the author could publish this article and state that it is legal to discriminate.

Venkys said...

While the article in itself does not encourage/discourage age discrimination per se, it offers no pragmatic solutions that can really help an experienced person (in whatever field h/she had been) to pursue, or even venture to try a different arena (assuming h/she has the knowledge...). I found Mr. David Rosen's response the best in that he deals with the problem with more equanimity than the author of this article is, and I am leaning very much to agree with him in this regard. Ms. Meryl's outburst while comforting to note legally, is a very, very far cry from reality! One would hardly spend valuable time fighting legal battles when the hearth at home is cold and uncared for...

At first, I did not comprehend the euphemism the would-be employers tend to use, but with the results (more than one) I somehow got to understand the subliminal message within... You pass the 3 (or n) levels of interviews and yet at the final stage if you hear 'Sir/Madam, you are "over-qualified" for this job', you should understand that there is no way you can get into the organization come what may! You have but to look for other doors to knock at...

Secondly, the fact that an 'aged' person costs a lot more insurance-wise (as one of the responders pointed out correctly...) is another deterrent in itself (even if you are the healthiest person, goes to the gym 5 days a week!).

I work for a start-up (who luckily respected my experience and knowledge but I do NOT have any kind of health insurance - a must in our country!) but have to sacrifice lots of benefits in the name of a job! So goes reality!

While the younger generation has to be fostered by the elders, it also behooves on the system to understand that many of the employees have children who are going to attend college/are in some course etc., that drives the equation differently.

As part of non-discrimination, I would prefer that an employee should be solely adjudged on the output/productivity that h/she delivers towards the work allotted. If not, the employer has every right to fire the person in question - that would certainly keep America working, shining AND productive! God bless America!

Tracy said...

Why would you provide a birth certificate for a job interview? This question makes no sense to me. Of course if they had the applicant's birth certificate or birth year they wouldn't ask.

Anonymous said...

This article is wrong. You cannot ask what someone's age is during an interview. You can only ask what someone's date of birth is AFTER they are hired.

Unknown said...

David: You point out a lot of the prevailing perception and misperceptions from the employer's point of view. I see more creativity on the comment section here than the rote behavior exhibited by the HR staffs who hide behind keyword screening and software screening. When online forms require date of high school and college graduation. The age request is moot in person. I can say to the interviewer that I have three kids age 12 to 17 in school, missed zero sick days out of 22 years at one employer, suggesting loyalty and reliability, and guess what? It does not matter!

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