Is Ageism Alive or Dead?

AgeismBy Frances Chaves

Discriminating against a person in employment is illegal in this country. The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older. That does not mean it isn’t happening.  In FY 2012, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 22,857 charges of age discrimination, primarily from people who are employed. Age discrimination in the hiring process is more subtle and harder to prove. So the reality is that the job market is skewed to hiring younger employees. What can you do about it?

  1. Show you are affordable. According to Kevin Fogarty, age discrimination is really about money — older employees are more expensive. Thus, to transition successfully, you need to satisfy interviewers that your qualifications fit the profile and that you don’t have age or health problems.  Be prepared to overcome objections. Answer those “break the ice” questions like how you spent the weekend with an answer that shows you to be an active, young-at-heart type.  Convince the interviewer not just that you can do the same job as a younger person, but that you can bring added value they can’t.

  2. Demonstrate passion for the job. A study by MetLife Mature Market Institute found that older workers felt financial pressure to work into their 60s, but few really wanted to work. This translated into employers fearing that older employees are less passionate about their work and won’t go the extra mile.  Find a way to show in your cover letter and/or interview to show how passionate you are about the company’s mission.

  3. Be trainable. Older workers are perceived to be harder to train. Ergo, having recent training on your resume shows you are able and willing to train.

  4. Project your need for the job. Check out six things you should never wear to a job interview. Who would have thought that wearing an expensive watch or a big diamond engagement ring is interpreted as not needing to work!

  5. Project a younger image.  But how? Stephen Viscusi recommends teeth whitening, getting on Facebook with a youthful photograph, watching Family Guy (!), not talking about your favorite coffee shop because it makes you look like a loser who spends his or her life there, texting, talking sports knowledgeably, not talking about grandchildren, going to the gym, not wearing perfume or cologne … The list goes on. Ultimately, you have to decide what you are comfortable with — and if you will feel comfortable working in an environment where these things are important!

  6. Look for jobs with companies that value older employees. These tend to be companies with older clients, according to a Smart Money article.  While technology tends to be unfriendly, healthcare, education and finance are the friendliest industries to “mature workers.” ranks companies by how friendly they are to hiring older workers. has a job search feature which allows you to search by 50-plus friendly employers.

Leave a Reply