Age discrimination remains a persistent challenge, according to the 2019 Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Study. By 2024, workers ages 55 and older will represent 25% of the workforce in America. Americans are working for more years than ever before, with 67% of today’s workers aged 40-65 planning to continue working after they turn 66. Yet, workplace age discrimination is growing. Consider:
- 62% of middle managers or higher say age may prevent them from getting a new job.
- 43% of workers left a company due to age discrimination, experienced or witnessed.
- 36% of workers feel their age has prevented them from getting a job since turning 40.
- 26% of workers feel there is some risk they could lose their current job because of age.
In the United States’ youth-centric culture, there are ill-founded stereotypes at the root of age discrimination in the workplace. These include myths that older workers are resistant to change and technology, are complacent or unmotivated, or are too highly compensated to retain. These perceptions are without merit, but they do exist and can impact a job search. The key word here is “can,” because there are preventative and proactive measures you can take to minimize the effect of ageism in your job search. Here are four that we recommend:
- Demonstrate that you are committed to lifelong learning
Overcome the negative perception that your age is a liability, especially in terms of training. You can learn new tricks, and, in fact, you thrive on picking up new skills! Talk about how you have been an early adopter of key technologies in the past two decades, and that your life experience has given you the insights to recognize transformative technologies when they are introduced. Discuss software programs and technology-related skills that you may have taken it upon yourself to learn, and relevant books that have made recent impacts on your career. Finally, talk about how much longer you hope to work, in order to overcome the potential objection that you may not be worth investing resources in. Your end goal is to show that not only are you not resistant to change, but you have decades of experience in helping your organizations benefit from change!
- Trim Your Resume and Remove References to Your Age
Though you may be tempted to demonstrate success dating back decades, hiring managers can be tipped off by a longer resume, or one that has expanded margins and smaller type. Ideally, your resume should be one page if you are going for management-level or specialist positions, and two if you are interviewing for executive-level positions.
Consider changing your resume format from reverse chronological to listing accomplishments or jobs under “experience highlights.” Focus on roles and achievements that you have had during the past two years, and move older accomplishments to the bottom of the list.
In addition, if you have graduation dates, dates when you received an award or special training, or any other indications of your age, remove them so as not to draw attention to your age.
- Identify the Right Culture Fit
There are companies that simply have a younger culture and a concentration of workers in their 20s. Video game companies, for instance, are notorious for cultures that can be very difficult for older workers to assimilate into, even when they have up-to-date skills. Once you are into your 40s and beyond, do some extra research on the age diversity within prospective organizations, and the departments to which you will apply. Use LinkedIn and social platforms to find visual cues that a company is diverse with regard to age.
- Avoid Answering Illegal Questions, Tactfully
There are laws prohibiting interviewers from directly asking your age or how long you plan to stay in the workforce. Yet it isn’t uncommon for violations to occur. If you find yourself in this awkward predicament, redirect by saying something forward-looking to the effect that “I’m committed to achieving goals I have been steadily working toward.” Though this may seem forward, you might also consider asking for clarification as to how the question and your answer would be relevant to your capabilities.
Though you can’t control your age, there are a lot of hiring-related factors within your control. Understand them and adapt your job search to the reality that ageism happens, but it doesn’t necessarily have to impact you.