Do you believe your age is preventing you from getting hired? Ageism can impact anyone, regardless of their age. How do you break the cycle when this happens? The focus of this article is what you can do during an interview to address the interviewer’s underlying concerns.
Several months ago, I watched an episode of the television show, “What Would You Do?” The series, similar to the old “Candid Camera” television series from the 1960s, conducts sociological experiments with actors and concealed cameras, but on a more serious note, it captures the live reactions of people when they witness a situation requiring a response or intervention. Do they step in and get involved, do they stick their head in the sand, or do they walk away? What would you do if you witnessed the same scenario?
This episode was about age discrimination. The scenes portrayed genuine job interviews in which ageism was used as a transparent pretext to dismiss people during the interview process for a bartending position. It is perfectly legal to ask employment-related questions like “Are you over the age of 18?” or “Are you legally eligible to work in the United States?” to comply with federal labor laws. However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees and job applicants from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age.
What drew my attention further was how overt the discrimination was, and although the job seekers were actors, what solutions are available to an interviewee who is facing this?
A hiring manager may have reservations about how the applicant will execute the job, and the applicant must determine whether they want to work for this boss. If the applicant does not report management’s actions – lesson learned – and proceed to the next interview. If they truly want to work there, they should address their issues at that time. Here are five key strategies for dealing with ageism in an interview.
- Make a change to your résumé. When an employer looks at your resume, they should not be able to determine your age—it should be age-neutral. Allow your qualifications and skills to speak for themselves for that specific job post. Avoid the need to make a long and tiresome list of all you’ve done and accomplished in your work. In most cases, the hiring manager is only interested in the most recent and relevant experience you have for the job you are applying for. Your employment experience on your resume should span no more than 10-15 years. Read the job posting carefully. After that, you should modify and focus your resume on it.
- Overcome common misconceptions about technology. There may be a hint of this somewhere in the discussion. If the recruiting manager asks about your technical knowledge, be specific about your capabilities. Mention how you intend to use current software, not only older software. Mention your professional platforms if they are looking for digital marketing. If you do not already have a digital marketing platform, now is a fantastic time to start researching and building one for your job search.
- Consider becoming a Subject Matter Expert to maintain control over your professional identity. You can never be too old or too young to learn something new. Join professional conversations on social media sites to develop an authoritative profile. Technology provides job seekers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to control their professional image while networking.
- Choose an employer and a workplace culture that are a good fit for you. Do some research on the organization that is interviewing you. Job fit is vital regardless of age. When looking for a new job, think about what is essential to you. What factors contribute to a pleasant working environment? Do you agree with the company’s policies, corporate culture, or industry? Apart from the role you want, knowing the type of company environment you want to work in might help you focus on the best-fitting employment for you.
- Recognize red flag interview questions and address the underlying worry without delivering a straight response. One of these inquiries, for example, could be used to determine your age and be a symptom of ageism in the job search:
- “What year did you come into this world?”
- “How old were you when you graduated from high school?”
- “Are you married?” I inquire.
- “Do you have any children?”
- “Have you been working for a long time?”
- “Will you be bothered by the age gap between you and your coworkers?”
Instead of focusing on the question, concentrate on the “why”—the motivation behind it. The interviewer may be curious about your technical knowledge, whether you have the necessary experience, or whether you have the time to devote to the position. Return the favor by responding with a statement emphasizing your knowledge and talents to demonstrate your suitability for the job without exposing your age.
- What year were you born?—“If you are concerned about my ability to lift 100 lbs., consider that I lifted twice that in my previous, worked 8 to 10-hour shifts. I never missed a day of work and was frequently recognized for excellent safety performance.”
- What year did you graduate high school? (answer same as above) or “I think my age will not be an obstacle in my performance on this job because you are looking for someone who can do XYZ, I cannot only do XYZ but in my prior position (explain how well and how often you completed the required task.)”
- Are you married? If you are worried about whether I will spend enough time on task or travel, I can work whatever hours are required.
- Do you have kids? If you are worried about my capacity to commit time to the job or travel, I am available to work whatever hours are required.
- How long have you been in the workforce? Long enough to be a perfect fit for this job. (Or say something vague like “over 15 years” that does not reveal your age but is not a lie.)
- Will the age gap between you and your coworkers bother you? I believe in the advantages of having a diverse age group. Having a diverse age group can help a company reach out to a wider range of customers.
Ageism affects both younger and older job seekers, and it can range from rewriting your résumé to recognizing red flags. If you need assistance with your job hunt, come to one of our career centers. Ageism affects both younger and older job seekers, and it can range from rewriting your résumé to recognizing red flags. If you need assistance with your job hunt, contact your nearest Workforce Solutions career center. If you need assistance with job search skills, attend one of our virtual workshops: Job Search Skills Workshop Calendar
Ireina Reeves is a Regional Facilitator for Workforce Solutions, which serves 13 counties of the Houston/Galveston region. Ireina brings over 10 years of experiences to the team in public speaking, curriculum development, staff training, career consulting, resume writing, and recruiting. She has presented and advised professionals across several industries such as legal, government, collegiate, corporate and nonprofit organizations. She has a zeal for helping job seekers reach their full potential by removing obstacles and tailoring strategies in today’s labor market.