How To Combat Ageism During A Job Search

As of 2020, workers age 50 and older made up over 30% of the US workforce. While experienced workers make up a significant portion of the labor market, they also face significant challenges in finding a job, including age discrimination. For example, in a survey by WerkLabs, 60% of respondents say they have faced age discrimination in their professional lives. Of these people, a whopping 75% experienced it while looking for a job. As it turns out, hiring managers even admit to age bias. ResumeBuilder recently published a survey in which nearly 40% of hiring managers confirm that they screen the resumes of age-biased applicants. Additionally, more than 80% of these managers say they have concerns about hiring people over 60 and under 25.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat age discrimination when looking for a job. Here are some tips to help you take matters into your own hands and set yourself up for success.

Revise your resume

If you’ve been working for 25 years or more, try to resist the urge to list every bit of experience you have on your resume. Employers are only interested in the most up-to-date and relevant information for the specific position you are applying for. In general, it is only necessary to go back about ten to fifteen years. Also, when updating your resume, stick to a few basic standards:

  • As a general rule, make sure it doesn’t exceed two pages
  • Don’t include your full address—just the city and state will do
  • Remove graduation dates from education section and move this section down
  • Use an up-to-date email domain like Gmail instead of other outdated domains like Hotmail

Prepare for inappropriate interview questions

It’s not uncommon for mature job seekers to be asked inappropriate questions during an interview, so it’s best to be prepared. An example is the question “How long do you plan to work?” At this point, try to redirect the conversation instead of giving a specific schedule. A sample response might be something like, “I think this position is a great fit for my skills and experience and would give me the opportunity to grow professionally. I hope to be here for as long as I can contribute.” This shows enthusiasm for the position and willingness to continue developing your skills.

Stay up to date on trends and technologies

Some recruiters stereotype professionals over 40 because they assume older workers don’t keep up with the latest industry trends and technology. If you’re in this age group, it’s important to keep learning and developing your skills. Make sure you know the latest industry jargon and buzzwords. This approach makes you more competitive in the job market and more valuable in the workplace. Consider what additional training, courses, or certifications you can acquire to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

Benefit from your network

As an experienced employee, you probably have an extensive network of contacts. Check with friends, family, and former colleagues to see who’s hiring. If you are applying for a job and know someone at the company, mention this in your cover letter and during the interview. Also, don’t forget to use online networking sites like LinkedIn. First, make sure your online profile is up to date. Then connect with recruiters and hiring managers by joining groups, sharing content, and messaging. Actively participating in the site will help you grow your network and eventually achieve your career goals.

Look for age-friendly employers

The Age-Friendly Institute’s Certified Age Friendly Employer (CAFE) program is the only certification program in the United States that recognizes organizations that are committed to being the best places to work for employees age 50 and older. According to the organization, an age-friendly employer has the following characteristics:

  • Estimates employees based on skills, qualifications and contributions
  • Maintains policies, practices and programs to support people over the age of 50
  • Appreciates the knowledge, maturity, reliability and productivity of employees
  • Committed to meaningful employment, development opportunities and competitive pay and benefits for employees over 50

A comprehensive list of companies that have received the Certified Age Friendly Employer™ designation is available on their website.

Job hunting is never easy no matter your age, so stay positive throughout your job search. The energy you radiate during the process is just as important as the experience you bring with you. Although ageism is real, not every company is guilty of ageism. It’s all about finding the right employer who understands the value of a mature worker with strong work ethic, life experience and invaluable skills.


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