How to Combat Age Discrimination as a Job Seeker

super-heroApparently it’s not just Hollywood that has a love affair with youth. Many employers seem to as well. I’m reminded of the problems older job seekers face every time I talk with them at a workshop or interview them for a resume or LinkedIn makeover.

So, these tips are especially for you if you were born before 1965.

If you are unemployed because you were laid off, resist the temptation to take a vacation. Don’t act retired. Instead, dive into the job hunt! Doing so demonstrates your strong work ethic and youthful enthusiasm. Employers love a positive attitude and a passion for work.

Face it: some industries are going to be more receptive to boomers than other industries. Therefore, be practical about where you look for jobs. Smaller, more traditional organizations, including nonprofits, trade associations and niche educational programs, usually have smaller staffs, and are more likely to value experience and expertise.

Customize Your Job Search

Network whenever, wherever with whomever. Stay connected with people of all ages and from different professional fields. Having someone personally vouch for you is an ideal way to short-circuit the age question so you can get your foot in the door.

Include temporary agencies in your job search. Temporary jobs can supplement your income, fill employment gaps, and teach you new skills.

Show that you are comfortable with today’s technology. Use LinkedIn to the max. Make sure your profile there is strong and complete. Claim your LinkedIn vanity URL and include it on your resume. Publish leadership posts on LinkedIn Plus and insert links on your resume to what you publish.

If you are an expert in your field, or you have a consuming passion in another field, or if you are an experienced writer, maintain your own blog. Keep it up to date and put its URL on your resume.

Carry a smart phone and know how to use it.

Join Facebook Groups to connect with others in your profession. If your work is graphic, create Pinterest boards. Make sure your Twitter feed demonstrates you know what you’re doing, and use it to stay up-to-date.

Build Your Confidence

Remain positive. Constantly remind yourself that despite the bias against older workers, there are real reasons for companies to employ people your age. Here are some:

  • An older worker tends to be more loyal and reliable. Unlike many younger candidates, he can possess an emotional and mental balance and a long-range outlook that’s valuable to his boss.
  • An older worker adds experience, knowledge and talent to any work force. I suggest you go see the movie “The Intern” for a confidence boost. Be like Robert DeNiro.
  • An older worker can help employers relate to a major demographic that has money to spend – people your age.
  • An older worker can learn new skills. Younger workers can’t “learn” emotional stability and a knowledgeable perspective. Remember that.
  • An older worker gives a company a multi-generational profile that impresses clients, customers, new hires, investors, and even the government. Let’s not forget that age discrimination is illegal.
  • An older worker can bring flexibility to the job that younger candidates may not have. You may be available for relocation, job redesign, part-time work, a flexible schedule, job sharing, or other possibilities that parents with young children or younger jobseekers with rigid demands can’t match. Be the guy who will show up early and stay late when a deadline demands it.

Re-define Aging

Your LinkedIn photo should be professionally done so it flatters you, as long as it is not misleading. No Photoshopped glamour shots, please.

Educate yourself for the future by taking forward-thinking classes. Sharpen your skills in fields like information technology and green businesses. Most importantly, stay current in your field and hip to the newest terminology and jargon. Obsolete vocabulary will make you look out of the loop, so read trade publications and online professional newsletters.

Put yourself in positions that will showcase your skills. If you belong to associations or clubs, step up to be an officer or take on a project to help you brand yourself as a can-do person. Doing so will dilute the image of “just another old person.”

If your chosen career path has veered down a dead end, consider getting some coaching to choose a different field that you could enter – one that uses your present skills in a new way or one that you could train for.

Craft a Better Resume

When I work with people over 50, my aim is always to emphasize the attributes that recruiters and hiring people look for. We want to brand you as someone who can either make money or save money for a future employer.

One way to do this is to detail relevant skills toward the top of the resume. Also, we’ll downplay your overly impressive titles so as not to appear overqualified. And we usually omit graduation dates and older certifications on these resumes.

Employment gaps are a problem for candidates of any age. People between jobs sometimes list themselves as consultants on a resume, but recruiters and HR people aren’t fooled by this title. Instead, any freelance projects that showcase your marketable skills can be listed, even if you have to volunteer your services free to a charity or potential client.

If you have hobbies like kayaking or tennis or if you coach Little League, listing activities like these on your resume shows you’re physically active. That helps employers see you in a positive light.

Interview Well

It’s a delicate balance you need to strike when interviewing between bragging and appearing so qualified that it’s intimidating to the interviewer.

During the interview, be prepared to explain why you don’t see yourself as overqualified. Hiring managers are often reluctant to hire people with more education or more experience than the job calls for. They fear you could bolt when a better offer comes along, that you’ll be bored, or that you will foster discontent within the company.

If the person interviewing you is going to be your supervisor, sometimes it’s helpful to make a point that you don’t aspire to his job.

Never mention your age, either specifically or with phrases such as “back in the day,” or “when I was younger.”

Don’t in any way call attention to the age of the interviewer or the people you’ll work with. It will only distance you and it can raise concerns that you won’t fit the company culture.

Make sure your wardrobe is current. You want to look polished and professional. You’ll look better and feel more confident, too. Accessories like your tie, or your purse, or your jewelry are a good way to update your wardrobe. You don’t have to be fashionably trendy, but you do need to look stylish and dressed to match the work culture.

Treat yourself to a good haircut. Whether you are male or female, have your hair styled to keep up with the times, including possibly coloring it.

Eyeglasses can date a person, so consider wearing contacts. Or buy some frames that look a little fun and youthful.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for honest feedback when you aren’t invited back for a follow up interview. Ask what you could have done better. If age bias is the reason you weren’t hired, your interviewer won’t admit that because it’s illegal. Still, you might glean some advice that will help your ongoing job hunt.

Being denied a job which you know you could handle is disappointing. Being denied the job because of something you have no control over – getting older – is even more frustrating. I hope you’ll use these tips to take control of the situation and get hired. And if you need help creating a fresh, on-trend resume or a LinkedIn makeover, we should talk.

Author: Mir Garvy

I’ve written resumes for 2,000+ job seekers just like you—and helped my clients land jobs with companies like Amazon, SAS, Google, Duke University, Travelocity, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Expedia, and IBM.