Age discrimination is an issue – but you can prevail by not making it a bigger one.
By Kevin Fogarty
"I've never personally been confronted with my age, but I know they figure it out, and they just don't call."
The AARP said it regularly tests companies and has seen it in action when companies tend to prefer to call younger candidates than those aged 50 and older, even when all other factors are equal.
So how do you get through the filter that seems to screen out older job candidates?
The best way to keep age from being a factor in your job search is not to make it an issue early, said Dan Kohrman, a senior attorney at AARP who oversees age-discrimination cases. "What we say is, ‘Don't invite consideration of your age' because it's going to happen in the ordinary course in many instances anyway."
Age and your resume
One way to keep from getting screened out early is by tuning your resume, Kohrman said. Eliminate the year from any degrees and early jobs and focus on more recent experience.
Don't be deceptive or dishonest, but "don't offer very old experience on your resume, even if it's impressive," Kohrman said. "At some point, the very length of your resume may count against you."
You may want to narrow the scope of your resume down to show specific expertise and focus on jobs that match what makes you unique.
"It wasn't until toward the end of the process that I started to recognize the value of my uniqueness and started ignoring the other things that were out there," said Chuck Jordan, a job seeker who had retired from his job as a technology salesman but decided to re-enter the workforce just six months later. He started focusing on jobs that played to his strengths as an expert in selling to the federal government and landed a position soon after.
Age and the interview
Even with a focused resume that plays down dates, you can't hide your age at the interview, and there's nothing that precludes a potential employer from asking your age. "If an employer is really digging into those age issues," Kohrman said, "try some gentle way of fending off that line of questioning.
"Give something from your background that demonstrates that (you) have attributes consistent with vigor and energy and creativity and initiative and insight -- all those things that some employers think only younger workers have -- that counters the stereotypes."
Kevin Fogarty is a general assignment reporter for TheLadders.