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Monday, January 18, 2010

How to Handle Age Bias as an Older Job Hunter

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Older Americans in search of work may find something they weren't looking for: Age bias.

Despite laws prohibiting it, age discrimination in hiring appears to be alive and well in the U.S.

But there are ways to mitigate its effects. Consider the following tips.

Go chip-free
No matter how many times you've seen a negative reaction to your 30-plus years of experience or your gray hair, try to stay positive as you walk in the door.

"Don't carry a chip on your shoulder when you go into the interview," said Renee Ward, founder of Seniors4Hire.org.

"Even when you see that face go blank when they finally do see you and get a sense of how old you are, show some enthusiasm and vibrancy and stress how you would contribute to that company's bottom line," she said.

"It always comes back to a passion for what you do. Communicate that passion to the hiring manager and try to get that manager off the stupid old paradigm that says that an older person can't do this job," Ward said.

Screen your own interview
Make sure your first on-site interview is with executives at the company, or the person likely to be making the hiring decision, rather than human-resource personnel who may not fully understand what your experience can bring to the job. Let the human-resources department screen you by telephone first.

"You want to get in front of the people that are going to understand your value," said John Buskirk, a 59-year-old executive with more than 25 years' experience in health-care technology.
Resume as marketing tool?

Some suggest creating a date-free résumé, one that focuses on your experience rather than when you held particular jobs or graduated from college.

"Once they ask for a complete history, obviously you have to comply with their request," Buskirk said, but the initial résumé mailed to the company, "that's your marketing piece, and the point of the marketing piece is to open the door."

But some say that strategy doesn't always work.

Those résumé formats "have turned into something of a red flag that someone's trying to cover their trail, like soft focus on an aging actress," said Chris Klos, a 52-year-old finance executive on the job hunt in Charlotte, N.C. "Just be who you are," he said.

Related "How to" Tools:Would you like to Create Brilliantly Crafted Resume Letters?(click here)

Click here to read part 2 of this article


  1. Andrea makes some good points. Ultimately, though, I think it comes down to a candidate being clear about what they have that a company is willing to pay to get. A compelling marketable value proposition that is clearly articulated (in both the resume and the interview) can mitigate almost any negative (i.e., age issues). Companies hire because they have some kind of pain that they need/want resolved. Pain positioning is the true connector in rising above the competition.

    That said, if a company truly doesn't want a more experienced senior person, in all likelihood that isn't a place the candidate would be able to thrive in long term anyway.

  2. Yes it has become very evident that if I send a full resume showing my 37 years in the computer industry, I will not get an invite to the interview table. If I post a 15 year resume, I receive an invite to an interview then get comments like, your are to experienced, not enough experience in a specific area (not in the job posting), or you will leave as soon as the economy gets better. I am 55 and if I go back to college and get a degree in four years, will I get the opportunities or then be almost 60 and be laughed at along with a bill to pay back for the education? I have multiple, industry required certifications that do not seem to mean anything to the interviewers, which are for the most part non technical people interviewing me for a technical position.

  3. To Boomer--take a hard look at what all those places are saying you are short on. If more than 3 employers gave you the same answer, you don't need to go to 4 years of college. Just get online & get the skills that are missing. If you were good at programming cobol, you'll be just as good at something more up to date, like php (HTML? try Joomla). Get online & find the tutorials you need, find used books online or pdf techbook sites & since you are unemployed anyway, get experience in these newer areas by either voluteering online or bidding on the various freelanceing websites. You won't make much money, but you will get exerience instead of a tuition bill, as well as up to date referrences who will ref you on sites like LinkedIN. There again, you don't have to list every job you every had, or use a photo, yet.


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