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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can they ASK me how old I am?

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You’re in the middle of a job interview and the recruiter or prospective employer asks, “So, how old are you?”

What do you think when you read this scenario? Let me guess that you are probably caught off guard and thoughts are racing through your head. “Can they really ask me that?” you wonder.

If you are like the majority of age 50+ job seekers, I’ll wager you answered yourself with a resounding, “No.”

And asserting that, you would be wrong.

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

You should know before an interview how you’ll react and what you’ll say when asked about your age. Much of what we believe we know about age discrimination is vague and ambiguous. That’s bad news for age 50+ workers. Our opinions about age bias can influence our behavior during a job search and after we become employed. While it’s important to understand the principles of age-discrimination law, it is more important to figure out how to deal with it out in the world.

Age bias in hiring and employment may be the last socially acceptable form of discrimination. While the ADEA makes age-based discrimination in hiring, pay, benefits, training, advancement, and termination illegal, many people over the age of 50, and increasingly older than 40, believe that age bias still exists and affects them.

Research from two recent studies conducted by RetirementJobs.com and AARP confirms that between 80 and 95 percent of people over age 50 believe that “age bias is a fact of life.” The published statistics about actual age-discrimination claims, however, don’t support common perceptions about the extent and power of age bias. All this is not to minimize concerns about age bias. I want you to think about what you can and cannot do about the reality, or self-fulfilling perceptions, of perceived age bias.

Here are five things you can’t do about discriminatory employer behavior or decisions:

1. You can’t compel employers to communicate: If you don’t hear back from an employer you applied to or interviewed with, stop thinking it’s you or something you did or didn’t do. Contemporary recruiting practices seldom provide information to applicants. There is often no acknowledgement other than an auto-reply message, long delays or no invitation to interview, no feedback following interviews, and no explanation or notice of rejection. Employers are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applicants and have little choice but to acknowledge resumes via auto-reply e-mail, if at all. Employers have become extremely cautious about what they say to candidates and to employees. Stop expecting promptness and responsiveness; it’s up to you to be persistent.

2. You can’t dictate a company’s hiring decisions or behaviors: Managers and executives will generally make decisions about hiring and firing based on the organization’s financial condition. Staff reductions do not differ in motivation. This may not seem fair, but here’s the deal: Older and long-service employees often receive better pay than younger coworkers, and health care and retirement-income costs tend to be higher for older workers. Employers may decide to lay off more costly employees. This is permissible as long as age is not the basis for the decision.

Click here to read part 2 of this article

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      1. I think that Weight discrimmation (did I spell that correctly?) is the last acceptable behavior before age discrimmation. It is like a secret that is never discussed when the interview someone. When was the last time anyone remember a new person begin in your office who was really over weight?

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      4. Just because there are few claims for age discrimination doesn't mean it doesn't happen 80%-90% of the time. Almost impossible to prove.

      5. Routine and universally widespread age discrimination exists. This is a known fact regardless of the statistics. Many years ago employers became aware of how to avoid the things that will support an age discrimination complaint which has resulted in an unspoken, almost invisible standard operating procedure(s) that accepts, tolerates, and rewards age discrimination with no fear of reprisal.

      6. What about racial discrimination? Hm? It's hard enough for anyone of different race to find a job especially in small little states.

      7. Are you stating your own opinion, or fact?

        If you are stating fact, please provide references in support of your assertion.

        I have been gainfully employed for 20+ years, at several companies, and I have interviewed many candidates. At all the companies where I worked, we were specifically and emphatically trained *NOT* to ask candidates any question about their age, and we were clearly told by the respective Human Resources departments that this question is, plain and simple discriminatory and illegal.

      8. great article! could you also talk about racial discrimination also?

      9. I agree that age is the last bastion of discrimination allowed in this country and should be fought with the vigor that sexism and racism to change public perception.

        Studies have shown that an over 50 worker is more loyal, not looking to job hop every couple of years as a career move. Their work ethic is stronger, basic education is broader and experience deeper that a younger work force.

        It is sad that in this country we relegate older workers to the trash heap of industry. Leaving a vast underutilized and under appreciated resource untapped.

      10. I feel that another prevalent form of discrimination exists as well. That of being against older poor intelligent white males with families and/or children. They see us as an economic burden because we have a family and/or kids, as incapable of being able to compete with people who are younger, and finally as being biased in our viewpoints because we are firm and direct. All of these strengths are seen as weaknesses by modern employers, and they will stop and nothing to prevent people such as this from ever acquiring real jobs in the workforce. Why, you might ask? I believe it is because perhaps they fear that we will usurp or undermine their power as our boss. This is why almost everywhere you go anymore, you see young minority kids and young adults running things. It's a backward world we find ourselves living in and there should be a balance to it versus one extreme or the other. Thank you.

      11. Make no mistake - age discrimination is alive and well, especially in this current economy - it's rampant. Why would/should an employer hire someone in their 50's, 60's at the top of their game and expecting to be paid thusly, when they can easily hire someone a third the age and pay them accordingly. Trust me - even in a good economy, it's the law of the jungle.

      12. I agree that it is sad to see older workers pushed aside. This is a shame in many areas where young, inexperienced workers are put in charge. Their first action - ask the "old" workers what to do.

      13. Which means that experience does not have a real value in the job market. Maybe we should pretending like the present system really favor the best but instead it prefers hardworking ...but mediocre.

      14. What about if an interviewer, a VP in this case for a US firm, asks about graduation dates? Is not this a thinly veiled attempt at getting at age? I had 10 years of experience on my resume and he kept up this "guessing game" over the phone screen of when I graduated college. I did NOT answer the question and found it a tad uncomfortable and rude.

      15. Why should anyone be ashamed of their age or seek to hide it? Experience can not be gained in a timeless vacuum.

        If a company wants seasoned well experienced experts, they should expect the candidate to be older than a recent college grad.

        I'm almost 60 and have stayed in the marine design build field most of my career. Meanwhile, HR looks for 30 year olds with 15 years of relevant experience, a degree and PE certification. Good luck with that. Eventually they recognize their fallacy and accept that experience, education, and a lengthy seasoning process is only inherent in older candidates. I said older, not dottering or cancer ridden geriatrics off the hospital ward. Who do you think they need to mentor all the newbies?

      16. Discrimination and bigotry will always exist, even by the most well meaning against anyone whom the interviewer may decide is not up to their personal qualitative standards.

        Agism? Whatever your age, apologize for being so young.
        Even in your 70's, identify the new technologies and practices you have learned in the past decade as well as your performance achievements. Point out how your diverse background makes you the best candidate for being well grounded in past business practices and most prepared to facilitate progress in the growth of their business in the years ahead.

      17. Ummm, it IS illegal to ask someone their age in an interview. I was pretty sure before reading this and just looked it up - you should do the same.

      18. Re age discrimination: This came up indirectly in my last interview and I found a way to turn my age (59 at the time) to my advantage.

        I simply pointed out to the interviewer that at my stage in life, I wasn't trying to fast-track anywhere and could reliably be counted on to not immediately start looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

        And yes, I did get the job.

      19. Couldn't agree more with most of the people here that this is a question that should not be asked in an interview. Employment is mutual. Do you want to work for a company that asks illegal interview questions?

        For more illegal interview questions - and how to handle them - check out:
        "5 illegal Interview Questions Companies Should Avoid," by @Blogging4Jobs

      20. Though it is illegal to ask for your age and deny employment on those grounds, it is not illegal for a foreign company to ask the same question and also turn you down. I feel that most companies know that older workers make the most dependable employees, but again they are afraid we'll demand the higher wage. I feel the job should be offered, and let the worker decide if it's adequate.

      21. When you apply for a job dont you send a cv in response to the vacancy with all the relevant details about you too, including your age.At least we do so in Holland, maybe different in the US i do not know.
        What is the big deal if someone asks your age? Are you ashamed of how old you are?
        My point is that putting so much negative) focus on this issue, you might cause youreslve to tilt and maybe not present youself in the best light.
        So be proud of what you can do, who you are and that includes how old you are. Just shine infront of your interviewer and show all your strenghts and qualities.

        1. Hello Anonymous. In the US we do not put a picture or our age on our resume and asking someone what their age is, is in fact illegal despite what this article say.

      22. It is in fact illegal to ask what a person's age is. You can ask are you of legal age to work but other than that, it is irrelevant and illegal. If you are that off on your initial premise, it makes me wonder how off you are in your other "facts". I've been asked that in interviews and it screams volumes to me that this is a company that either doesn't train their employees or wants to see if they can hire lemmings that won't object when they violate other seemingly harmless laws.

        I agree with other comments made here that weight is a huge (no pun intended) form of discrimination.

      23. I spent some time thinking whether I would hire an over 50 employee, and I said to myself NO, because they are too slow, inefficient, and I'm not a charitable organization.

      24. What?! Over 50 slow and inefficient!
        I am a 53 year old woman. I have consistently been given performance evaluations and bonuses well above the mean. I recently won a full scholarship for a PhD in Cyber Security at a prestigious university, will start winter 2012. I downhill and cross-country Ski, dance Tango better than some women at my club half my age. Slow and inefficient – I don’t think so.

      25. "What is the big deal if someone asks your age? Are you ashamed of how old you are?"

        In a word, YES! It is worse than death to be over 30 in the USA. Maybe not so much in Europe, but in the FASCIST States of America, there is a lot to lie about.

      26. Hi Everyone,
        Actually it is a fact and we shall face it: Our fear! Think positively & you will turn upside down the question. I was lately interviewed & asked same question. My answer was again in form of a question: I think you're asking me how many years I've spent in my career? OK,...
        This way I took the initiative from my interviewer & showed him where to concentrate more & ethically drove him away from the path he had chosen. I don't deny the fact of some HR being racially oriented. But it is all about you, your positiveness and readiness for worst scenarios.
        Be always prepared for such embarrassing situations and you will get through.
        It is just another way of approach to your job hunt.
        Happy hunting.

      27. I just put my dob in my CV and that filters out the arseholes that care more about my age than my work. Then I do not waste my time being interviewed by them.

      28. Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!

      29. We actually like older employees! They tend to be much more reliable as they understand that to have a good job is something to be appreciated. However, in order to be able to hire older employess in this technology driven world these applicants must be computer saavvy and not too far behind the social networking times!

      30. I would further like to add rather rhetorically in logic that the seasoned professional assures business of experience and knowledge acumen (gained either during business upswing or turmoil). This is an added advantage to any job position during the interview.
        However the recruiters these days are young HR management graduates!! conclude that a seasoned professional in 40's or 50's need to be a senior executive position, say a GM/Dir/VP at the least.
        This outlook towards any non rising seasoned professional by most recruiters these days has added much woes to the current economic crisis.
        Instead the young HR, recruit, just passed out top 'B' school graduates at phenomenal pay packages just because these very impressive kids are trained to talk 'SHOP' as Top Business personalities, promising to deliver huge ROI.
        I am sure most stakeholders and the Business committee who have survived this folly although at the cost of huge losses in ROI and are now reverting back towards the seasoned professionals, regardless.

      31. Uh, yes it is illegal to ask "how old are you." That doesn't mean that an employer can't guess at how old a candidate is. One can simply look at a resume and get a rough estimate, although this isn't always a good gauge of age.


      32. If an interviewer ask you such question, you have either one of the following options to exercise:
        1. tell them that you refer not to answer it and you do not think there is a match between you and the company.
        2. answer the question and try to get hire if you need a job very badly. When there is a problem at work and a younger worker comes to you for technical advice, tell them you are old and your technical knowledge is either limited or old, and advise them to go ask someone who is younger.
        3. work as a consultant and you will not bother with such question.

      33. Where statistics are used to deny the extent of age discrimination consider this, corporate America is the master of illusion. As a corporate manager at Fortune corporation I can say with confidence the concept that perception is reality was sired by big business. Discrimination is economically based for workers, especially female, as it does not to senior executives that honor seniority among the boys network. Discrimination is capitalists culture.

      34. Patricia Henry, ABDJune 15, 2013 at 2:52 PM

        Asking someone's age during an interview is illegal. If asked the question during an interview, simply reply "I don't feel comfortable answering that question."

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      36. Although in some cases age discrimination may still exist the majority of the time it is mind over matter. If you go in to an interview expecting to get discriminated because of your age your attitude and answers to your questions plus your body language will all be slightly on the defense.

        The sad fact of life today is that many people fail to prepare for interviews, they fail to 'sell' themselves and fail to connect with the person interviewing.

        If you are struggling to get to interview stage, your resume isn't matching job descriptions and isn't laid correctly and selling you and your ability to carry out the role you are applying for.

        Sharon Hibble - Write CV Ltd

      37. Sharon,
        Thanks for your comment. You are right on the mark. The key is preparation. We live in a world of all types of biases and discrimination. So selling yourself is critical. Thanks . Bobby Founder Interns Over 40.

      38. I'm a 58 year old software engineer with 30 years of experience and unemployed for 7 months, the longest of my career. Interviewers easily figure out how old I am when they ask what year I graduated from college. Never hear back from them after that.

      39. SI. I think that you need to follow some basis steps. Have you focused your resume on the last 10 year only? Are you looking for a job that matches your current skills!.. There is many other issues that could help you with age discrimination. My suggestion is attend our next free webinar on age discriminiation in hiring. You can be updated of you optin to our newsletter. Hope that helps. http://internsoverforty.com/2012/12/13/49-benefits-to-hiring-an-older-skilled-worker/

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      41. Active claims about age discrimination do not reflect the number of legitimate claims that exist but are not presented by the victim to authorities for investigation and prosecution. To say "evidence" does not support the general feeling about discrimination is a specious argument unless qualified by specifics and due diligence via interviews of the population of victims who view submission of complaint documents to be pointless and non-productive. A study of sufficient boundaries to include the vast nonvocal population must precede any presentation of statistics in order to sustain any credibility among educated readers with sense to see the difference and the dodge.


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